כ״ט באלול ה׳תשע״ז (September 20, 2017)

Sanhedrin 66a-b: One Who Curses Their Parents

According to the Torah (Vayikra 20:9) someone who curses his parents is liable to receive a death penalty. The Gemara on today’s daf teaches that the language of the pasukish, ish asher yekalel et aviv ve-et imo – that repeats the word ish (“a man”) twice teaches that the same rule applies to a daughter, a tumtum or an androgynus.

When the Gemara discusses an androgynus, 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 androgynus. A true androgynus has 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 if someone 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.

If we view a tumtum and an androgynusas people of doubtful sexual status, once the Gemara determines that both sons and daughters are included in the prohibition it would appear obvious that these cases should be included, as well. While the Ran argues that there is really no need for this teaching, some suggest that we should not view them as male or as female, but as a separate gender entirely, and we need a separate source to teach the law regarding their status.

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