Niddah 30b: The Innate Ability to See All

Niddah 30b: Rabbi Simlai expounded: What does a fetus in his mother’s womb look like? Like a folded writing tablet, his hands on his temples, his elbows on his knees, his two heels on his two buttocks, and his head between his knees. His mouth is closed and his navel is open, and he eats from what his mother eats, drinks from what his mother drinks, and does not eliminate waste, lest he kill his mother. And once he emerges into the air of the world, that which was closed opens and that which was open closes, for if not, he would not be able to live even for a short time. And there is a candle burning above his head, and he gazes and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it is written (Iyov 29:3), “When He lit His candle over my head; by His light I would go through the darkness.” And do not be surprised, for a person can sleep here and dream about Spain.   

נדה ל ע”ב: דרש רבי שמלאי: למה הולד דומה במעי אמו ־ לפנקס שמקופל ומונח. ידיו על שתי צדעיו, שתי אציליו על ב׳ ארכובותיו, וב׳ עקביו על ב׳ עגבותיו, וראשו מונח לו בין ברכיו, ופיו סתום וטבורו פתוח, ואוכל ממה שאמו אוכלת, ושותה ממה שאמו שותה, ואינו מוציא רעי שמא יהרוג את אמו. וכיון שיצא לאויר העולם ־ נפתח הסתום ונסתם הפתוח, שאלמלא כן אינו יכול לחיות אפילו שעה אחת. ונר דלוק לו על ראשו וצופה ומביט מסוף העולם ועד סופו, שנאמר (איוב כ״ט) בהלו נרו עלי ראשי לאורו אלך חשך. ואל תתמה, שהרי אדם ישן כאן ורואה חלום באספמיא.

Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman said that the Chofetz Chaim possessed miraculous spiritual intuition, to the extent that he knew the next person’s thoughts and general situation. He added, in explanation, that the human personality was created with the capacity of seeing and knowing everything. And so we find in Niddah that a child in its mother’s womb looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, for such is the nature of the soul which the Holy One, blessed is He, has molded, and every Jew has such a soul. The trouble is the soul resides within a corporeal body, which acts as a barrier and blocks our vision. The body of a person whose every action is performed for the sake of Heaven, however, becomes so purified as no longer to constitute a barrier. Everything becomes transparent to him.

Rabbi Aharon Kotler was with the Chofetz Chaim at the Warsaw conference in Shevat 5690 (1930). Before leaving to return home, Reb Aharon went to take leave of the Chofetz Chaim, who took him by the hand and talked about the problems discussed at the conference. In the course of the conversation, he remarked: “It should also be known that once a masechta is begun, it should be completed.” And then he reverted once more to the topic of their conversation. Reb Ahraon was shocked, since just at that time of year he often had begun the study of an additional masechta besides the one he taught to his yeshiva in Kletzk, but did not complete it. He himself had not mentioned the subject to anyone else. The Chofetz Chaim could only have known this because “G-d reveals His secrets to those that fear Him.”

When Reb Aharon related the incident to Reb Elchonon, the latter revealed that this had happened to him as well. Once, the Chofetz Chaim had said to him, quite unexpectedly: “We consider ourselves lomdim. How is it possible to think so, if we omit a single masechta, like Nazir or such-and-such?” Until then, for some reason or other, Reb Elchonon had neglected studying in depth Nazir and the other tractates mentioned by the Chofetz Chaim.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan related that whenever Reb Elchonon would return to Baranovich from a visit in Radun with his Rebbe, he would be in a festive spirit and would hardly stop speaking about what he had seen and heard on his visit to the Chofetz Chaim. But on one occasion, he hardly spoke. Instead, he remarked with deep emotion, “The Chofetz Chaim looks and sees from one end of the world to the other… I heard terrible things from him… and were I permitted to divulge to you what he said, you yourselves would certainly be convinced that he observes and literally sees from one end of the world to the other.” Reb Mendel later conjectured that the Chofetz Chaim had spoken about the impending Holocaust, to which he had alluded beforehand on several occasions.

A remarkable personal anecdote was related by Rabbi Yechezkel Abramsky: “In August 1930 I was sent to prison by the Russian Bolsheviks for engaging in religious activities. I was tried and sentenced to five years of hard labor in exile in Siberia. For almost 14 months I was kept in prison and persecuted. On Erev Yom Kippur 1931, they suddenly came to me and informed me that I was to be freed, and was to leave Russia within one month… When I escaped and traveled by train from Moscow to Riga, the first person to greet me in the railroad car was Reb Elchonon of Baranovich, who fell on my neck with tears of joy. And after I had settled in London, I was privileged once again to meet Reb Elchonon, who was there in the interests of his yeshiva. This time I met him on the platform of the railway station. And while we were standing there, we talked Torah and spoke of the Chofetz Chaim. Then Reb Elchonon told me: “On Erev Yom Kippur of that year, I was staying in the Chofetz Chaim’s home. We were studying together. Suddenly he interrupted the subject of our discussion, and without any connection with what we had been talking of beforehand, he announced again and again, triumphantly, raising his hands: ‘The Bolsheviks didn’t accomplish anything; the Bolsheviks didn’t accomplish anything. They were forced against their will to release the Slutzker Rav.’ Then he resumed his studies. Reb Elchonon looked at his watch and noted the time. Years later, he learned that this was the very moment when I was given my liberty.”  His son, Rabbi Mordechai Ezra Abramsky, added that during the entire period of his imprisonment, the Chofetz Chaim would recite eight chapters of Tehillim each day after Shacharis to pray for his release. On the day of the release itself, however, he did not.

Source: Reb Elchonon (Artscroll), pp. 52-54


Niddah 70b: He Came Back to Life, Must He Remarry His Wife?

Niddah 70b: The men of Alexandria asked twelve questions to Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya… three of them were foolish. 1) Does Lot’s wife make someone tamei? He replied: A dead person can make someone tamei, but a pillar of salt cannot. 2) Does the Ben Hashunamis brought back to life by Elisha make someone tamei? He replied: A dead person can make someone tamei, but a live person cannot. 3) Will the dead who are resurrected in the future require sprinkling of the red heifer? He replied: When they are resurrected we will come up with the answer. Some say he replied: When Moshe Rabbeinu comes with them, we will ask him.

נדה ע ע”ב: שלשה דברי בורותֹ: אשתו של לוט מהו שתטמא? אמר להם: מת מטמא, ואין נציב מלח מטמא. בן שונמית מהו שיטמא? אמר להן: מת מטמא, ואין חי מטמא. מתים לעתיד לבא, צריכין הזאה שלישי ושביעי, או אין צריכין? אמר להן: לכשיחיו ־ נחכם להן. איכא דאמרי: לכשיבא משה רבינו עמהם.

Rabbi Yechezkel Roth, the Karlsburger Rov, suffered a heart attack in 2016 and was hospitalized at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, where he was placed on a respirator.

Upon his release from the hospital, Harav Roth asked his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Rechel, if she wanted to stay with him. When she of course replied in the affirmative, he performed a kiddushin before two witnesses. He explained that he was being machmir for the opinion of the Terumas Hadeshen.


[The Terumas Hadeshen, Psakim Uksavim 102, is responding to the question of whether Eliyahu Hanavi’s wife or Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi’s wife could remarry. He adds, “This would have an implication for the future too, if someone else was zocheh to be like them. “

He quotes our Gemara in Niddah and then comments:

אע”פ שודאי אשתו של לוט מתה אלא שנהפכה לגוף אחר ובן השונמית היה מת אלא חזר ויחי אעפ”כ אמר שאין מטמאין ה”נ י”ל אשת רעהו אסורה ולא אשת מלאך שכולן רוחני ולא גופני.

 “Although certainly Lot’s wife died, only that she turned into another substance; and the Ben Hashunamis was dead, only that he came back to life, still the Gemara says that they do not transmit tumah. Here too, the wife of one’s fellow man is forbidden and not the wife of an angel, for the angels are completely spiritual, not physical.”

What is his comparison between a live person who was once dead and Eliyahu Hanavi, who is still alive? (Or, if Eliyahu Hanavi is considered dead, then what is the need for a proof from this Gemara?) It seems he means to argue as follows: why isn’t the Ben Hashunamis still tamei now, since he was dead and had tumah then? True, he is alive now and cannot generate new tumah. But where did the old tumah go? His answer is that Rabbi Yehoshua was teaching the Alexandrians that it’s possible for a person to be transformed so completely that nothing of his previous state remains. Here too, Eliyahu Hanavi turned into an angel and an angel cannot have a wife, but one might have argued that his ties to his wife from the time when he was human still remained. From the Gemara we see that no, he was completely transformed and nothing remained.

Now, in theory, the story of the Ben Hashunamis could be understood in four ways: 1) Even after Elisha revived him, he was actually still dead, only he appeared to be alive. 2) He was really revived at the end, yet he maintained the tumah acquired when dead. 3) The fact that Elisha revived him shows that he was never actually dead at any point. 4) He was truly dead, yet Elisha revived him and he became truly alive and completed transformed so that no tumah remained.

The Alexandrians’ question showed that they entertained possibilities 1 and/or 2. Rabbi Yehoshua’s reply can be understood as either 3 or 4. The Terumas Hadeshen is interpreting it as 4.

R’ Chatzkel Roth evidently extended this concept to the technological advances of modern medicine. It is possible nowadays for a person to exhibit signs of death – heart and breathing stopped – and yet be revived with machines. Position 3 would say that this shows the person was never dead. But position 4 – the Terumas Hadeshen – would say, yes he was dead, but he was revived and completely transformed. He was tamei while his heart was stopped, but now he is tahor. His wife was unmarried while his heart was stopped, and now he needs to remarry her.   

The Chida disagrees with the Terumas Hadeshen. In Birkei Yosef Even Hoezer 17:1, the Chida brings the Gemara in Megillah 7b where Rabbah slaughtered Rabbi Zeira and then brought him back to life the next day, and poses the question of whether Rabbi Zeira had to make a new kiddushin on his wife. Do we say that the old kiddushin disappeared when he died, and when he came back to life it was a fresh start, or do we say that the techiyas hameisim reveals that his death was not a real death?

He brings proof to the latter position from the Yerushalmi Gittin 40b, which discusses a man who, before leaving on a trip, gives his wife a get on condition that he will not return after 12 months, and then dies before the 12 months are up. Rabbi Chaggai says she is permitted immediately, but Rabbi Yossi says she is forbidden, for perhaps a miracle happened and the husband came back to life. The Bavli (Gittin 76b) asks the same question and leaves it unanswered. The Chida argues we see from Rabbi Yossi that if the man did come back to life, she would still be married to him. And even Rabbi Chaggai, as well as the other position in the Bavli, only disagree with him because they are not afraid of such a rare occurrence. But if it did happen, all would agree that she remains married to him.

However, the Chida says he wrote all of this quickly (אני אמרתי בחפזי) and this is only the way it seems superficially (לפום ריהטא). Actually, there is a tremendous problem with this reading of the Yerushalmi. If Rabbi Yossi holds that we are afraid of people coming back to life, what does he do with all the chapters of Yevamos and sugyos throughout Shas that discuss giving testimony that a husband died in order to permit his wife? How will it ever help? Even if it is proven that he died, perhaps he will come back to life. How can his wife ever remarry? Now, the Chida does say that he admits in the case when the husband was buried and then came back, that his wife is no longer married. He is only speaking about Rabbi Zeira, who was not buried. But if so, all who testify on a husband being dead would have to testify that he was buried too, and we don’t find this. Rather, it seems clear that Rabbi Yossi never meant to say that the wife is still married after the techiyas hameisim. He meant only that there would be no get and the wife would need chalitzah. This is because the husband gave her the get only on condition that he would not return from his trip by 12 months. He then died during the trip. Rabbi Yossi is afraid that he may come back to life and return before 12 months, rendering the get null and void. True, she would no longer be married to him due to his death, but since there was no get, she would need chalitzah and would be forbidden to remarry without chalitzah.]