The Shulchan Aruch OC (303:24) writes:

יוצאה באבן תקומה [פי' הערוך אבן ידועה שכשהיא על אשה לא תפיל] - women are allowed to walk outside on shabbos with an even tekuma used to prevent miscarriages.

The Mishna Berura (303:77) quotes the Taz identifying this stone as:

היינו מה שאנו קורין שטערי"ן שו"ס שנושאין נשים מעוברות

What is the identity of this stone?


R' Chaim Bochner, another Polish rabbi who was a contemporary of the Taz, uses the term שטערי"ן שו"ס to refer to shooting stars (Or Chadash, ברכות על חוש הראות , s'if #2):

זיקים והוא כוכב היורה כחץ באורך השמים ממקום למקום ונמשך אורו כשבט (בל"א שטערין שוס, מעדני מלך פ"ט סי' יג אות י בשם הרמב"ם) או כמו כוכבים שיש להם זנב ברוך עושה מעשה בראשית או שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם (רכ"ז א')

[Upon observing] zikim,1 which is a star that shoots like an arrow along the length of the sky from place to place, and its light is drawn out like a rod ("sternschuss" in the language of Ashkenaz; Ma'adanei Melech,2 [B'rachos] Chapter 9, 13:10 in the name of the Rambam)3 or like stars that have a tail, [recite] Baruch... 'Oseh Ma'asei V'reishis or SheKocho uGvuraso Malei 'Olam ([Orach Chayim] 227:1)

"Sternschuss" literally means "star shot", and in this context appears to refer to shooting stars (the modern German equivalent is "sternschnuppe"). Most likely, then, the stone mentioned by the Taz would be meteorite or tektite. Less likely, it could refer to some kind of unrelated gemstone that was named after shooting stars.


See the comments below. It is not entirely clear whether or not the general public at the time of the Taz fully understood the connection between meteors and meteorites (and whether the name for shooting stars would therefore have also entered common parlance as the name for meteorites). If not, it would be likely that "שטערי"ן שו"ס" would be a reference to some other kind of gemstone (or lodestone, as suggested in this comment from @interested). See also @Lowian's excellent answer more broadly discussing the identity of the even t'kuma.

1 See B'rachos 54a, "על הזיקין ועל הזועות ועל הרעמים ועל הרוחות ועל הברקים אומר ברוך שכחו וגבורתו מלא עולם"

2 I.e., Ma'adanei Yom Tov, a commentary on the Rosh by R' Yom Tov Lipmann Heller, "כוכבא דשביט פירש"י כוכב היורה כחץ וכו' וז"ל הרמב"ם פ"י מה"ב אור שבאויר שיראו כאלו הם כוכבים נופלים ורצים ממקום למקום או כמו כוכבים שיש להם זנב ע"כ ונ"ל דתליא במחלוקת שבין חכמי ישראל לחכמי או"ה בפ' מי שהיה טמא במסכת פסחים דחכמי ישראל אומרים מזלות חוזרים ונוכל לפרש כפירש"י ולחכמי או"ה דגלגל חוזר צריך דוקא לפרש כהרמב"ם"

3 Hil. B'rachos 10:14

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  • Was the association between a lump of rock found on the ground and a flash of light in the sky known until recently? – Loewian Feb 26 at 15:04
  • from Wikipedia: Although meteors have been known since ancient times, they were not known to be an astronomical phenomenon until early in the nineteenth century. Prior to that, they were seen in the West as an atmospheric phenomenon, like lightning, and were not connected with strange stories of rocks falling from the sky. In 1807, Yale University chemistry professor Benjamin Silliman investigated a meteorite that fell in Weston, Connecticut.[30] Silliman believed the meteor had a cosmic origin, but meteors did not attract much attention from astronomers until... – Loewian Feb 26 at 15:07
  • @Loewian Many scientists around the turn of the 19th century scoffed at the idea, but people had been observing meteorite impacts long before then (see the Ensisheim meteorite, for example). "Such cases had been reported often enough... [and] exhibited as sacred relics before many an altar. But scientific scepticism had questioned the evidence, and late in the 18th century a consensus of opinion in the French Academy had declined to admit that such stones had been 'conveyed to the earth....'" - A History of Science, Williams, pp. 168-169. – Fred Feb 26 at 18:00
  • Interesting. That may then be what the Taz meant. Though that is still well after the composition of the braita. Any idea where the Taz might have received his interpretation? I see nothing like that in the rishonim (yet). – Loewian Feb 26 at 19:17
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Rashi on the original braitta in Shabbat 66b appears to identify it with the Old French קוטאנ"א, קונטנ''ה or קונטיינ"א - "contiene", related to the English "contain"; see below citation of transcriber of Maharshal that the bell-like stone contains a second stone. (Alternatively, perhaps the reference is to what in French is currently called cornéenne or, in English, hornfels which, interestingly enough, has also been associated with bells due to its acoustic properties.)

Rav Shmuel Loew Machatzit HaShekel OC 303:12, after citing the Taz, cites a transcriber of the Maharshal who, apparently referring to the mythological "aetite" or "eagle stone" (hattip @interested) claims that the Even Tekuma is a stone that naturally contains another smaller stone (rattling) in a hollow inside of it like a clapper in a bell:

ודע דמ"ש בש"ע יוצא' באבן תקומה כתב הט"ז היינו מה שקורין שטערין שו"ס ובספר א"ר כתב בשם המעתיק ביאורי רש"ל לסמ"ג שהוא אבן שיש בו חלל ואבן קטן בתוכו כענבל בזוג וכן נברא עכ"ל

Know that [regarding] what is said in the Shulchan Aruch [that] "She may go out with a tequmah stone", the Turei Zahav wrote that this is what is called "shterin shus"*. And in the book Elya Rabba, he [Rav Eliyahu Spira] wrote in the name of the transcriber of the explanations of the Maharshal on the Sefer Mitzvoth Gadol that it is a stone in which there is a hollow in which there is a [second] small stone, like a clapper in a bell, and so it was created [i.e. naturally]. End Quote.

Presumably, the inner stone represents a fetus secure within its mother.

See also Rav Qafih (Commentary on Laws of Shabbath 19:14:34, cited here) who reports his personal awareness of the continued traditional use of such a rattling stone, presumably for this purpose, in his time in Yemen:

ופרש"י אבן תקומה אבן שנושאות אותה נשים עוברות שלא יפילו וקורין לה קונטאנא בלע"ז. ולעז זה איני יודע אבל מכיר אני את האבן שהיא אבן חלולה אטומה באופן טבעי, ובתוך חללה אבן קטנה המקשקשת כאשר מניעים אותה, וארבע כאלה בגודלים שונים היו למשפחות מוסלמיות בעיר צנעא שהיו משאילים אותם לכל דורש יהודי או ערבי ללא שום תשלום אלא גמילות חסד.

Rashi explained: tequmah stone - a stone that pregnant women carry so that they not miscarry and it is called "contene" in the foreign language (Old French).

This foreign word ["contene"] I do not know. But I recognize the [tequmah] stone. It is a hollow stone that rattles when moved. Four such [stones] of differing sizes were owned by Muslim families in the [capital] city of Sana'a. [The Muslim families] would loan out [the stones] to any one who sought them, whether Judaean or Arab without [requiring] payment, just as a kindness.

See also Rabbenu Chananel on Shabbath 66b whose general terminology may suggest that the specific mineral type of the stone was either unknown or irrelevant. See also Kaf Hachaim whose version of Rabbenu Chananel seems to suggest gravel or a pebble, though that may just be a comment on the size, rather than the composition.

Alternatively, assuming like the Taz that the stone is a שטערי"ן שו"ס (shooting star - hattip @fred) and that his meaning is a meteorite, it is possible that the reference may be to meteoric iron or natural stainless steel. (Notably, eagle stones have also been made of iron, at least more recently.) However, a close reading of his actual chosen words might suggest that he did not himself directly identify the stone with the celestial phenomenon:

ונרא' דהיינו מה שאנו קורין שטערי"ן שו"ס שנושאים נשים מעוברות

It would seem that this is what we call "Shooting Star" that pregnant women carry.

It's worth pointing out that the braitta is not necessarily endorsing the efficacy of the practice. Rather, it appears to be classifying it as an adornment instead of a burden, and therefore permits its wearing in the public domain on Shabbat. Nonetheless, if it floats your fancy, try for a (meteoric) iron bell;)

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  • this is an eagle stone – interested Mar 2 at 17:05

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