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orion-list guilty corpses
This post considers issues related to blood from a corpse,
first raised by Russell on 11/29/00.
1) How much is a revi'it (1/4 log)? Halakhic opinions vary
from 75-86-150 cc; we might use a rule of thumb of 3.3 oz.
Regardless, a revi'it of blood was halakhically considered
the smallest quantity of blood within a person on which life
can be supported [taluy] (Shab 31b and Rashi s.v. revi'it
dam; cf. Soteh 5a and Rashi s.v. adam she-ein bo. Rashi
calls this 'halakhah le-Moshe mi-Sinai' -- i.e., it has no
Scriptural basis, but is equally authoritative. Cf. Shab 129a
and Rashi s.v. moqi leh).
2) Our primary source is not Ohol 3:5, IMO, but San 4a.
(Underlying this sugya is a Tannaitic controversy over
whether exegesis may be based on the vocalized text --
yesh em le-mikra -- or the consonantal text -- yesh em
lamasoret. For our purposes, what matters is the further
controversy in re: tumat met.):
R. Akiva, as we learned (in a baraita): 'R.Akiva
says: How do you know that a revi'it of blood
from two corpses imparts tent impurity? As it
says (Lev 21:11), "neither shall he go in to
any dead body". (Nafshot met is spelled without
a vav, but pronounced as a plural.) Two nafshot,
but one measure (of blood).' And the Rabbis (who
learned the verse differently): it is written nafshat
Halakhah follows the Rabbis: a revi'it of blood from only one
corpse imparts tent impurity (Rambam,MT, Sefer Taharah,
Laws of Tumat Met 4:1). But, as Tosafot note (s.v. minayin
la-revi'it dam), R. Akiva's ruling derived from the word
"nafshot" is the only explicit source teaching that a revi'it of
blood from even one corpse is metamei. Moreover, the
halakhah is itself the subject of a Tannaitic controversy:
explicitly at San 4a (R. Akiva vs. the Rabbis), and as noted
by the Rishonim at Nazir 38a (b'plugta lo ka-mairi).
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