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I Found an Open Opening

Probably anyone who has studied the first chapter of Tractate Ketubot in the Talmud is familiar with the phrase “I found an open opening” (“פתח פתוח מצאתי”). For those interested in exploring this question from the perspective of Talmudic literature, I recommend my friend Josh Kulp’s article “‘Go Enjoy Your Acquisition': Virginity Claims in Rabbinic Literature Reexamined,” HUCA 77 (2006), pp. 33-64. Josh’s translation and commentary of the first chapter of Mishnah Ketubot can be found here (.doc).

The blog Wonders & Marvels has a post titled “On Faking Virginity.” It addresses “faking virginity” in an early modern context.

On what basis, I thought, do we continue to assume that Marie remained a virgin until her wedding night? Was it possible that young women of her time knew how to convincingly fake it? A little more research led me to Ambroise Paré, whose 1573 treatise on “monsters and marvels” includes the description of popular techniques, known since the time of Galen, for creating false evidence of virginity by inserting a fish bladder filled with blood into the vagina, so that the sheets on the wedding bed would be stained with the necessary proof. Paré further argues that the very existence of the hymen in the female anatomy is at best questionable, and possibly simply a myth.

For additional discussion about virginity in a Jewish context see this article and the literature cited at the end.

3 Responses to “I Found an Open Opening”

  1. 1
    Jeff:

    Of course, I can never think of this sugya without thinking of the yeshivishe joke:
    A guy learns in kollel while his wife operates a store to support them. One day she has to go to another city to buy merchandise and she asks her husband to watch the store. He protests that he doesn’t know how to run a business, but she tells him just to sit there and take the money when people check out.
    Business is slow, so he pulls out a sefer. Before long, he comes up with a gevaldige hiddush, and he runs out of the store to tell his rebbe, leaving the store unlocked.
    The wife comes back shortly, finds the store open and unwatched. She figures her idiot husband must have run off to the beis midrash. She finds him sitting and learning and begins beating him with her walking stick.
    Eventually the guys in yeshiva get them separated, and they go to the rebbe for adjudication.
    “This idiot left the store unguarded! Anyone could have walked off with our merchandise!”
    “That’s true,” he responds, “But she was way out of line beating me like that.”
    “Hmmm.” says the rosh yeshiva. “This is the first time I ever heard the WIFE tayna pesach posu’ach motztasi, and the HUSBAND claim muketz etz ani.”

  2. 2
    Jeremy:

    Did you mean to link to josh’s article.
    The link is only to the two page pdf of the contents of the journal.
    If you have the article I would love to see it.
    J

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel (Michael P.):

    Jeremy,

    Send me an email and I’ll send you Josh’s article: michael-at-pitkowsky.net.

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