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BLOODLETTING, removal of blood in treating diseases. Bloodletting is frequently mentioned in the Talmud. It was performed not by a physician but by a skilled functionary called umman or gara, whose status was less than that of a physician. The bloodletter is mentioned in various passages in the Talmud, both favorably and unfavorably (e.g., Ta'an. 21b; Kid. 82a). Some of the directives about bloodletting in the Talmud relate to specific ailments (e.g., Git. 67b; Av. Zar. 29a), but most are in the realm of preventive medicine based on the belief that the regular removal of blood from the body was of hygienic value. Among the ten indispensable requirements of a town, in the absence of which "no scholar should reside there" (Sanh. 17b), is a bloodletter. According to the Talmud, bloodletting is one of the things which should be applied in moderation (Git. 70a), and, in practice, the amount of blood to be let varies with the subject's age. Maimonides (Yad, De'ot 4:18), though in general agreement, suggests, in addition, consideration of the subject's "blood richness" and physical vigor (Pirkei Moshe, 12). Many instructions are given in the Talmud with respect to diet and precautions to be taken both before and after bloodletting (e.g., Shab. 129a–b; Git. 70a; Ned. 54b; Av. Zar. 29a; et al.). Maimonides advises moderation in blood-letting: "A man should not accustom himself to let blood regularly, nor should he do so unless he is in great need of it" (Yad, loc. cit.). The views of the Talmud and of Maimonides provide a sharp contrast to those of the ancient and medieval world, where the practice of bloodletting was unrestricted. In late Hebrew literature (e.g., the Oẓar ha-Ḥayyim of Jacob *Ẓahalon and the Ma'aseh Tuviyyah of Tobias b. Moses *Cohn ) directions for bloodletting and cupping are also found.


J. Preuss, Biblisch-talmudische Medizin (19233), 36–39, 289–300; M. Perlmann, Midrash ha-Refu'ah, 2 (1929), 85–89.

[Joshua O. Leibowitz]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.