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History of Medicine |

Hemophilia in the Talmud and Rabbinic Writings

FRED ROSNER, M.D.
Ann Intern Med. 1969;70(4):833-837. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-70-4-833
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SUMMARY:

A familial bleeding disorder, probably hemophilia, is described in the Talmud. The decree of Rabbi Judah that the sibling of two brothers who died of bleeding after circumcision may not be circumcised is codified by Jewish sages of the last 10 centuries. Such rulings are found in the works of Alfasi (eleventh century); Maimonides (twelfth century); Jacob ben Asher and Asher ben Yechiel (fourteenth century); Karo and Isserles (sixteenth century); Azulay, Reischer, and Landau (eighteenth century); and Epstein (nineteenth century), among others. Modern Rabbinic authority extends this ruling to any child, even the firstborn, in whom a diagnosis of hemophilia can be established by coagulation studies.

This ruling was stated only in regard to siblings or maternal cousins as only the direct maternal transmission of the disease was recognized. Omitted from all the Jewish sources is a consideration of the child whose maternal uncles died of bleeding after circumcision.

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