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Meir ben Simeon ha-Meʿili on Protracted Pregnancy

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Since antiquity, many people have believed that the length of human gestation is variable, ranging from seven months to ten or even twelve months. The significance of this belief is not confined to the medical sphere, since it has important legal ramifications. If pregnancy could last for an extended period, a mother could claim that her offspring was legitimately conceived from her husband even if she had not had physical contact with her husband for more than nine months prior to the birth. After surveying the history of the belief in prolonged pregnancy in ancient Greek and Talmudic literature, this article presents a new rabbinic discussion of the topic from medieval Languedoc, a hitherto unknown passage from Rabbi Meir ben Simeon ha-Meʿili’s work Sefer ha-Meʾorot.

Affiliations: 1: Ben Gurion University of the Negev


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