כ׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ה (September 4, 2015)

Nazir 13a-b: When I Will Have a Son

The Mishna at the end of the last daf discusses the individual who makes his nezirut conditional on having a son. Obviously, if the man’s wife gives birth to a son he becomes a nazir. Should his wife give birth to a daughter, a tumtum or an androginos (hermaphrodite) he will not become a nazir. Any of these offspring will suffice to obligate him in nezirut if his original condition was that he would become a nazir when he had a child. Our Gemara suggests that although these rulings appear obvious, we may have thought that the term ben – a son – might be understood as a general term for a child. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi the obvious case in the Mishna is the case of a daughter – who is clearly not a son. The cases of tumtum and androginos, however, may have been seen as sons because of the element of maleness that each of them have – which is why the Mishna needs to rule in these cases.

When the Gemara discusses an androginos, it is talking about someone who appears to have both male and female sexual organs; a tumtum is someone who does not appear to be either male or female.

Medicine recognizes two types of androginos. True androgyny presents both male and female sexual glands, while a Pseudohermaphrodite has the appearance of both male and female sexual organs, although the individual actually has only one set of sexual glands.

The Gemara describes a tumtum as someone whose gender cannot be determined. Under certain circumstances, the physical covering that hid the sexual organ may be removed (in the language of the Gemara it is nikra, or “torn” off) and the individual can be identified as male or female. Nevertheless, the likelihood that a man whose testicles have developed within his body will be able to have children is slim at best. This is certainly the case in someone who was truly a tumtum, that is to say, that their sexual organs did not develop because of a low level of hormones. In such a case, even if the person’s physical situation improves, he will not be able to father children.

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