Mishnat Hashavua’: Keritot 1:7

What is the relationship between ritual practice and the marketplace?

If a woman has had five ambiguous cases of vaginal bleeding or miscarriages, she brings one [purification] sacrifice, may eat from sacrificial meat, and has no further liability. If she has had five certain cases of miscarriage or vaginal bleeding, she brings one sacrifice, may eat from the sacrificial meat, but is liable for the rest [i.e., four more offerings]. There was a case in which the cost of pigeons [used for these sacrifices] stood at a gold dinar. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, “By this Temple! I will not sleep tonight until their price is [reduced to] a silver dinar.” He entered the court and instructed: “A woman who has five certain miscarriages or five certain cases of vaginal bleeding shall bring one sacrifice, eat from the sacrificial meat, and have no further liability.” That very day the price of pigeons fell to a fourth of [a silver dinar].


This mishnah is a window into the complex interaction between ritual purity and physical conditions, especially various genital discharges. What is fascinating is the awareness shown by Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel (who lived in the late Second Temple period) of the impact of his court’s rulings on the economic situation of the people. A gold dinar was worth twenty-five silver dinarim; hence it seems that the rabbinic action caused a precipitous decline in the market price of pigeons. Rabban Shimon apparently considered the financial well-being of the people to be of greater concern than the quantity of sacrifices offered at the Temple.


What can we do to make living a full Jewish life more affordable today?