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Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Niddah, Prakim Bet and Gimel



The hand reaches in to explore –
A woman should do this much more
For she will not squeal
Unlike him, she can’t feel
And it’s worth it for her to be sure.


Do not urinate holding your hand
Yes, it’s messy, we do understand.
It could bring on a flood
Which would make you say “Crud,
Will we ever go back to dry land?”


Yehuda said, “Geez, I must pee.”
It was night on a rooftop, you see.
From on top of the shul
Shmuel told him: Stay cool
You can hold on and pee fearfully.”

Your evil side steers you astray.
It says”Do this, and do that today.”
Then tomorrow: “Go bow
To the gods you’v avowed
You would never go near.” You fall prey.

Do you ride on a donkey? Oh well.
We ought to say, “Don’t ass, don’t tell.”
It depends how you straddle
Or ride with a saddle
The point is that nothing should swell.

A husband comes home from a trip
He says to his wife, “Dear, let’s strip.”
But can he assume
He can go in her room?
It depends if her time’s come to drip.

A Kohen leans over a well
Where a miscarried fetus once fell
Is the Kohen impure?
But a rat came, for sure,

Thus the Kohen has not heard his knell.


The Pregnancy Angel, named Night
Takes a drop of their seed to the height
Of the one on Most High
And says, “God, will this guy
Be weak, strong, wise or dumb, tall or slight?”


Having sex? Don’t let anyone pounce
Thus your sex act should first be announced
Ring the bells on the bed
Wave the flies off instead
(Why not make sure the bed makes a bounce?)


In a graveyard a man should not lie
Nor eat garlic or onion peeled dry.
Nor cast fingernails
Over public handrails
Or have sex after bloodletting. Why?

Daytime sex can be good if your spouse

Spends a lot of time outside the house,
Is too tired at night
When you turn off the light—
(Just be quiet. But soft! Like a mouse.)


A baby has dough on its hands
Must all of the batter be banned?
All babies, I fear,
Like to touch what is near
Tell them “No,” but they don’t understand.


In Pumbedita, Ulla chanced to meet
An Arab dressed in black from head to feet.
“Eureka!” said he
“That’s the color we see
In her blood. For a swatch I entreat.”


Yannai said to his sons, “When I head
To the land of those already dead
Do not dress me in white,
Nor in black like the night,
Lest I stand out wherever I’m led.”


Elazar deemed a woman’s blood due
To her love for her spouse – it proved true!
When Rav Ami inquired

She said she desired
Her husband. So Elazar knew!


Ifra Hurmiz sent Rava a sample
Of blood. He ruled right. She sent ample
Selections. He tested.
The last was infested
From lice. “Comb your nits ‘til they’re trampled.”


Yalta gave of her blood to a sage.
When he ruled, Yalta said, “I’m outraged.”
I resist your dominion!
Need second opinion!
She got it, and then was assuaged.



If a woman miscarries and births
A clump made of flesh and of earth
If it’s bloody and red
Like a baby now dead
She’s impure. (And she’ll soon lose her girth.)


A woman miscarried red hair
A big ball of it. No baby there.
The sages said: Go
Ask the doctors. They’ll know.
They said: Drown it and see how it fares.


A miscarried babe with two backs
And two spines (there are parts that it lacks).
If it’s born to a beast
You can slice it and feast
So says Shmuel. Says Rav: You’re too lax!


A demon came out of my womb
Shaped like Lilith! A sure sign of doom!
It’s a baby, except
It has wings, which are kept
At its sides. It can fly through the room.


A woman miscarried a snake
Hanina said: “Impure.” “Mistake!”
Gamliel cried, enraged:
Summon to me that sage
‘Til they realized just what was at stake.


My job was to bury the dead
There was one time I stood at the head
Of a wide open cave
Which had nobody save
Avshalom. In his eye I had tread.


If a woman sheds seed ere her mate
She’ll give birth to a boy. If she’s late
Such that he sheds his first
It’s a girl (is that worse?).
Men can hold off, and thus affect fate.


A placenta was found in a house
‘Twas unearthed by a dog or a mouse.
The house is impure
We can say this for sure
Though no baby was found (and no spouse).


Rabbi Chiya had twins. Not together
They weren’t two birds of a feather
One decided to wait
He was born three months late.
Such a labor his wife had to weather!


An androgyne has an emission
We assume ‘twas not of his volition.
If he sets foot inside
The great Temple, don’t chide
Him. This isn’t a sin of commission.


A woman left home with a bump
Then came back, clearly over the hump.
She’s says, “Oops, I forgot
Did I give birth, or not?”
Said the sages: “I fear we are stumped.”


It’s a full forty days ‘til the seed
That’s implanted will get what it needs
To grow fingers and eyes
And attain enough size
That it’s human, the sages decreed.


Alexandria’s queen’s female slave
Was sentenced to death. Who would save
Her? Nobody! Instead
She was cut up once dead
‘Twas a baby that made her concave.


God is much greater than man.
There are things we can’t do but God can.
Like preserve something dropped
In a jar with no top
Like a fetus in mom. What a plan!


Two planned to set out in the morn,
To do business. One sat on a thorn.
He was forced to stay home
While his friend, free to roam,
Drowned at sea. Then he felt less forlorn.


A woman must bring sacrifice
When she gives birth because of this vice:
In the heat of her pain
She swears, “Never again!”
But does one child ever suffice?


Why must a woman endure
Seven days when her body’s impure?
So that on mikvah night
She can bring him delight
Like a bride – innocent and demure.


Why is it lads who must court
Lasses. Couldn’t instead she cavort?

It’s the person who lost
Who must find what was tossed
From his rib. Thus men do this for sport.

Rav Ketina said, “I’m great in bed,
For I say to my wife: Go ahead.
And since first she enjoys
All our children are boys
We’d have girls if I went first instead.

Ilana Kurshan

Ilana Kurshan is the author of If All the Seas Were Ink, published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. She has translated books of Jewish interest by Ruth Calderon, Benjamin Lau, and Micah Goodman, as well as novels, short stories, and children’s picture books. Her book Why Is This Night Different From Other Nights was published by Schocken in 2005. She is a regular contributor to Lilith Magazine, where she is the Book Reviews Editor, and her writing has appeared in The Forward, The World Jewish Digest, Hadassah, Nashim, Zeek, Kveller, and Tablet. Kurshan is a graduate of Harvard University (BA, summa cum laude, History of Science) and Cambridge University (M.Phil, English literature). She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children.
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