In our last segment:

  1. We introduced the concept of an “עונה” – the duration of a יום הוסת.
  2. We saw seen that the עונה is defined as either a night or a day.
  • We noted that the גמרא says the עונה of the night ends (and the עונה of the day starts) at נץ החמה (sunrise) – despite the fact that generally speaking the halachic day starts at עלות השחר (dawn).
  1. We said that there are two opinions as to whether the length of an עונה, the generally accepted opinion that נץ החמה refers to whenever נץ החמה occurs on the given day, and that of the אביאסף – that the עונת הוסת is always 12 hours of 60 equal minutes regardless of the season.
  2. We also asserted[1] that the עונת הוסת goes until שקיעת החמה despite the fact that, generally speaking, the halachic day ends at צאת הכוכבים.

In this segment we will בעזרת ה’:

  1. Attempt to better define the term “עונה”.
  2. We will analyze the basis for our claim that an עונה starts at either נץ החמה or שקיעת החמה.
  3. We will introduce the basis for the עונת אביאסף.

Now let’s begin!

The גמרא in נדה דף סה says that בית הלל allows for an עונה during which a new husband can assume that any blood he encounters is דם בתולים:

תנו רבנן ראתה ועודה בבית אביה בית הלל אומרים כל הלילה שלה ונותנין לה עונה שלמה וכמה עונה שלמה פירש רבן שמעון בן גמליאל לילה וחצי יום ומי בעינן כולי האי ורמינהי הרי שהיו גתיו ובית בדיו טמאות ובקש לעשותן בטהרה כיצד הוא עושה הדפין והלולבין והעדשין מדיחן העקלים העקלים של נצרים ושל בצבוץ מנגבן של שיפא ושל גמי מיישנן וכמה מיישנן… רבי יוסי אומר הרוצה לטהר מיד מגעילן ברותחין או חולטן במי זיתים רשב”ג אומר משום ר’ יוסי מניחן תחת הצינור שמימיו מקלחין או במעיין שמימיו רודפין… וכמה עונה א”ר חייא בר אבא א”ר יוחנן או יום או לילה ר’ חנה שאונא ואמרי לה רבי חנה בר שאונא אמר רבה בר בר חנה א”ר יוחנן חצי יום וחצי לילה ואמר רב שמואל בר רב יצחק ולא פליגי הא בתקופ’ ניסן ותשרי הא בתקופת תמוז וטבת הכא נמי אימא גבי נדה חצי יום וחצי לילה והא לילה וחצי יום קאמר אלא אי לילה דניסן ותשרי אי חצי יום וחצי לילה דטבת ותמוז ואב”א שאני כתובה דמגבי בה טפי עד דחתמי רב ושמואל דאמרי תרוייהו הלכה בועל בעילת מצוה ופורש

“Our Rabbis have taught[2], if she has already seen while she was in her father’s house בית הלל says all of the night is hers (she is permitted) and she is given a full עונה. Rabban Gamliel explained – a night and half a day. (The גמרא then asks) does she really need so much? (Roughly translated: Is an עונה really that long?) This seems to contradict (what we have learnt in a תוספתא): If his wine presses and olive presses were impure and he would like to make them pure: the press; broom and basket can be rinsed off. The lattice work of wicker or hemp should be dried off, but if they are of shifa[3] or papyrus he must age them… Rebbe Yosse says: If someone would like to purify them immediately he should scald them with boiling water or soak(?) them in olive water. Rabban Gamliel says in the name of Rebbe Yosse: He should leave them under a running faucet or a flowing stream. For how long (should he leave them)? An עונה… and how much (long) is an עונה? Rebbe Hiya bar Abba says Rebbe Yochanan says: a day or a night. Rebbe Hanna Sheuna, and some say Rebbe Hanna bar Sheuna says Rabba bar bar Hanna said Rebbe Yochanan says: A half a day and a half a night. And Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yizhak says: They do not disagree – this one is referring to (a day or night in) the seasons of Nissan (spring) or Tishrei (fall), this one is referring to the seasons of Tammuz (summer) and Teves (winter). Here too – a half a night and a half a day he said (means). But he said a night and half a day!? Rather he means either a night in Nissan or Tishrei or half a night and half a day in Tammuz or Teves, alternatively, a ketuba is different since they revise it for a long time before signing it. Rav and Shmuel both say: He has his obligatory marital relations with her and then must separate (from her).”

From here we see that:

  1. An עונה is a measurement of time equal regardless of context – as we see have asked from an inconsistency from the definition of עונה in cleansing wooden vessels – to the laws of דם בתולים.
  2. While it is true that an עונה is a day or a night – this is only when the day and the night are equal – by the equinoxes – but not when the day or night are not equal.

It would seem to follow therefore that:

  1. An עונה for וסתות also consists of twelve equal hours – as the אביאסף asserts – and does not vary seasonally.
  2. Day and night are defined by נץ החמה and שקיעת החמה – unlike most halachic Days/Nights which are defined by צאת הכוכבים and עלות השחר.

For some, deduction one may be more apparent then deduction two, however, when one is aware that the equinoxes are defined by sunrise and sunset – and not by dawn or the appearance of stars – then it becomes obvious. Take for instance this year’s spring equinox – Adar II[4], 10, 5776 (April 20th 2016 למנינם), if you consult your trusty Zmanim Calendar and you live in Jerusalem – you will find that נץ החמה is at 5:42 and שקיעת החמה is at 5:55 – if you were to go based on the general halachic definition of a day עלות השחר – 4:13, even if we were to accept the earliest definition of when צאת הכוכבים is (that is not accepted) – about 13 minutes after שקיעת החמה – it would still say that the day ends at 6:08 – well over 12 hours. In fact, even at the winter solstice – on עשרה בטבת this year, the day and night are roughly equal if we are calculating a halachic day from עלות השחר to צאת הכוכבים.

We have already noted that the משנה in נדה defines the וסת as starting at נץ החמה, perhaps this is why.

This brings us to the אביאסף- brought in the הגהות מיימוניות on the רמב”ם in הלכות איסורי ביאה פ”ד הלכה י”ב in אות ט’, the רמב”ם tells us that an עונה is a night or a day, the הגהות מיימוניות comments:

“ובאביאסף כתב יום או לילה מימי ניסן ותשרי וחצי יום וחצי לילה בתמוז וטבת ותימה.”

“And the אביאסף writes: ‘a day or night from the days of Nissan or Tishrei, and half a day and half a night in Tammuz and Teves.’ ותימה[5]

In the next installment we will explore the opinions of those who disagree with the אביאסף and discuss their reasons for disagreeing as well as how the justify their interpretation of an עונה as something other than the definition given in the ברייתא cited above – through this investigation we will uncover new elements as to how the קדמונים understood female biology as well other interesting concepts in halacha. We shall also explore those who support the אביאסף and generally just have a good ol’ time.




[1] I say “asserted” because, as the astute reader may have realized, while we have demonstrated that the daytime עונת הוסת starts at נץ החמה we have claimed that the daytime עונת הוסת ends at שקיעת החמה, and that this is unlike the general rule that the halachic day ends at צאת הכוכבים, but have not yet offered any evidence that the עונת הוסת changes at שקיעת החמה.

[2] Caveat lector: All translations are the author’s unless otherwise stated.

[3] I don’t have a clear translation of this word, I have my own opinion as to what it is but I cannot back it up. If anyone has a translation I would appreciate it.

[4] The reason that the equinox is in Adar II and not Nissan is because this year is a leap year.

[5] I will not try to translate ותימה – it generally means that this statement is inexplicable or at least lacks a good explanation and generally implies that the author disagrees.

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