Rabbi Zera under attack
Haaretz has an article describing a number of recent articles which have been published in HaTzofeh discussing the laws of niddah. Dr. Daniel Rosenak started the discussion by writing an article calling for a possible rethinking of some of the laws of Niddah. I couldn’t find the interview with him on the website of HaTzofeh but it can be found here, a critique by R. Benny and Noa Lau can be found here, and Dr. Rozenak’s response. His discussion of the topic, all of which I haven’t yet read, sounds similar to what has been said already by others, among them Prof. Judith Hauptman in her book Rereading the Rabbis: A Woman’s Voice. Probably the key text in the discussion is the following:
Said R. Zera: The daughters of Israel assumed a stringency upon themselves, that even if they see a blood spot the size of a mustard seed they sit for seven clean days. (Niddah 66a) [trans. Hauptman, p. 157]
Hauptman stresses that we have to read R. Zera’s statement in the context of both the preceding and following statements, and then we can understand that he is not talking about niddah but rather zivah (“a menstrual-type flow outside the usual time period or for longer than seven days”-definition from here). In her book Hauptman analyzes how this stringency from the laws of zivah was eventually instituted for the laws of niddah. It will be interesting to see if anything develops from this. I know that a responsum was accepted by the CJLS a number of months ago which I think took a similar approach as to the one that Dr. Rosenak and Prof. Hauptman have advocated.