1) DOES THE BIRTH OF A "TEREIFAH" CAUSE "TUM'AS LEIDAH"?
QUESTION: The Beraisa (23b) teaches that if a woman miscarries a "Guf Atum," she does not become Tamei with Tum'as Leidah. Rebbi explains that a Guf Atum is a body that is missing parts that are vital to its existence. The Tana'im disagree about which missing parts are considered vital. Rebbi Zakai rules that a body without the lower legs, below the knees, is considered a Guf Atum. Rebbi Yanai rules that only when the body is missing the entire length of the legs, from the groin area and down, is it considered a Guf Atum. Rebbi Yosi ben Yehoshua maintains that only when the body is missing the lower torso, below the navel, is it considered a Guf Atum.
The Gemara explains that this dispute is based on the general question of whether or not a Tereifah can live. Rebbi Zakai maintains that a Tereifah cannot live. The other Tana'im maintain that a Tereifah can live, and therefore they maintain that a body that is missing only its lower legs below the knees is considered a viable offspring and the mother is Tamei with Tum'as Leidah, even though the offspring is a Tereifah.
The RAMBAM rules that a Tereifah cannot live (see Hilchos Shechitah 5:1, Hilchos Ma'achalos Asuros 4:9, Hilchos Gerushin 13:16). Accordingly, he should rule that a torso without legs above the knees should not be Metamei Tum'as Leidah, since it is a Guf Atum. However, the Rambam (Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 10:11) rules, "If the torso was missing the area from the navel and below it is Atum." The MAGID MISHNEH points out that according to the view of the Rambam that a Tereifah cannot live, the baby should not cause Tum'as Leidah even if it is missing its legs only from below the knees!
ANSWER: The RAMBAN, RASHBA, and RITVA all ask a basic question on the Gemara. Why should the ability of the fetus to live determine whether a woman has Tum'as Leidah? The Halachah is that Tum'as Leidah applies even when a woman gives birth to a stillborn! Moreover, Rava rules that a baby born with a hole in the esophagus renders the mother Tamei, even though it certainly is a Tereifah!
The Rishonim therefore explain that the Tana'im who disagree about what constitutes a Guf Atum maintain that Tum'as Leidah does not depend on whether the baby is a Tereifah. They merely suggest explanations for what Rebbi meant when he said that a Guf Atum is "a child missing enough of its body to cause its death." They explain Rebbi's statement based on the Halachah of whether a Tereifah can live or not; they do not mean that the fact that it will die causes the mother not to have Tum'as Leidah. The Rambam apparently understands the Sugya in this way as well. He therefore rules that Tum'as Leidah does not depend on whether the child can live.
2) A WOMAN WHO GIVES BIRTH TO THE FORM OF A SNAKE
QUESTION: Raban Gamliel rules that if a woman miscarries a snake-like mass, she does not become Tamei with Tum'as Leidah. Rebbi Yehoshua disagrees and rules that she does become Tamei. The Gemara earlier (23a) implies that their argument is based on the dispute between Rebbi Meir and the Chachamim (21a) about whether a woman becomes Tamei with Tum'as Leidah when she gives birth to a form that looks like an animal (21a).
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 10:8-9) rules in accordance with the view of the Chachamim, that if a woman miscarries an animal-like mass, but one that has a human face, she becomes Tamei with Tum'as Leidah. If the face lacks certain human features, then it is not Metamei the mother. However, in the very next ruling (10:10), the Rambam rules that "if a woman miscarries a snake-like mass, she becomes Tamei with Tum'as Leidah, because the eye socket of a snake looks like the eye socket of a human."
As the RA'AVAD there asks, Rebbi Yehoshua obviously rules like Rebbi Meir, that even one human feature (the eye socket) suffices to give the baby the status of a human so that it is Metamei the mother. Since the Rambam rules like the Chachamim, why does he rule that a baby with a snake-like face is Metamei?
ANSWER: An answer to this question may be suggested based on the words of TOSFOS (23b, DH she'Rebbi Meir), who explains that there are three categories of offspring: entirely human-like, entirely animal-like, and an offspring with mixed features. When the fetus has mixed features, even Rebbi Meir requires that at least many, if not all, of its features be human-like in order for it to cause Tum'as Leidah (see Chart #3). However, if all of its features are animal-like, then it will cause Tum'as Leidah as an animal according to Rebbi Meir, even though it does not resemble a human at all.
The Gemara here (and earlier, 23a) implies that the snake is unique among all of the creatures in the world in that both its eyeball and its eye socket are round, like a man's. Rebbi Yehoshua is saying that the Chachamim agree for this reason that the birth of a snake-like form causes Tum'as Leidah even though it is the form of an animal. Human-like features are necessary only when the child has a mixture of features. Accordingly, although the Rambam rules like the Chachamim who disagree with Rebbi Meir, he is justified in ruling like Rebbi Yehoshua who says that the birth of a snake-like form causes Tum'as Leidah.
3) AGADAH: WHEN I WAS AN UNDERTAKER, I RAN AFTER A GAZELLE
QUESTIONS: Aba Shaul (or Rebbi Yochanan) related, "Once, when I was working as an undertaker, I ran after a gazelle (Tzvi), and I entered the thighbone of a dead person. I continued running after the gazelle for three Parsa'os, and I did not reach the gazelle, and the thighbone did not come to an end. When I returned, they told me that it was the bone of Og, the king of Bashan."
This incident is perplexing. What did Aba Shaul mean when he said that Og's thighbone was longer than three Parsa'os (several miles)? Why did Aba Shaul mention that he was a caretaker when this bizarre incident occurred? What is the deeper meaning of this Agadah?
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that Aba Shaul is telling us about his drive to achieve Taharah (purity), which is represented by a gazelle, and his efforts to flee from Tum'ah (impurity), which is represented by dealing with the dead, the highest form of Tum'ah (Avi Avos ha'Tum'ah). Although he yearned to achieve Taharah, his efforts were in vain because he was inside the thighbone of a dead person, meaning that he was still involved in Tum'ah. This is why he did not reach the gazelle (Taharah) until he left the thighbone (Tum'ah).
The Maharsha explains that the thighbone of Og refers to the fact that Og was a descendant of the Bnei Elokim who descended to the world and became promiscuous (see Bereishis 6:2). (It seems that the Maharsha understands that Aba Shaul was trying to become Tahor from something related to this type of sin, though it might have been merely a form of conduct that was inappropriate on his level of righteousness.) The measurement of three Parsa'os represents the size of the mountain that Og picked up to throw on the Jewish people, as the Gemara relates in Berachos (54b). The simple understanding of Og's actions seems to be that Bnei Yisrael's camp in the Midbar was three square Parsa'os. However, the deeper meaning is that he picked up a mountain with the same degree of power of Tum'ah as the degree of power of Taharah of the camp of Bnei Yisrael (see Insights to Berachos 54b). Although Aba Shaul seemingly was very immersed in this Tum'ah, he retreated and achieved Taharah.
(b) After asking a number of questions on the Gemara here, the CHIDUSHEI HA'GE'ONIM (in the EIN YAKOV) quotes the Gemara that calls Aba Shaul, "Aruch b'Doro," meaning that he was a very tall man. He explains that although Aba Shaul was tall and handsome, he despised the deeds of the wicked who are referred to as "dead." When he said that he was a "burier of the dead," he meant that he despised the wicked. However, one time he became haughty about his tall, handsome appearance. This is what he meant when he said that he ran after a gazelle, or Tzvi. The word "Tzvi" in Aramaic means "will" or "desire." Aba Shaul related that he ran after his instincts to do what he wanted, and he ended up running into the thighbone of the dead, which refers to haughty thoughts of how great he was because of his handsomeness. Such thoughts are meaningless, because the body will eventually die and decompose. This is why such thoughts are referred to as the thighbone of the dead. (The Chidushei ha'Ge'onim seems to understand that the thighbone refers to thoughts of sinful relations that are a common temptation to those who do not control their physical ego (see Sotah 4b).)
When he came out of the thighbone, meaning that he repented and did Teshuvah, he was told that he had been in the thighbone of Og. This refers to the ego of Og, who was haughty about his impressive physical stature which led him to believe that he could defeat Bnei Yisrael in battle, even though Bnei Yisrael had the protection of Hash-m. Aba Shaul concluded by saying that even though he had let his ego go unchecked, he avoided the potential negative outcome that this could have had (he did not reach the gazelle), and he did not carry out all of his desires (the thighbone did not end). It seems that Aba Shaul was relating the principle that "Ein Adam Yotzei Min ha'Olam v'Chatzi Ta'avaso b'Yado" -- "a person does not leave the world with even half of his desires in his hand" (Midrash Koheles Rabah 1:13). Although one might continually pursue the desires of his heart because he thinks that this is the path to happiness and fulfillment, he will never be able to fulfill even half of them. (Y. MONTROSE)