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According to Bava Metzia 42a, one may daven for things in the past if it's something that nobody knows yet.

Yet, when Berachos 60a asks how one may daven to change the gender of her fetus on the grounds that its gender is determined from the moment of fertilization, it answers that the fertilization took place in such a way that leaves its gender unresolved until morphogenesis begins after forty days.

Why does the Gemara in Berachos not answer that we're dealing with a regular fertilization, and one may daven to change the gender of the fetus because its gender isn't recognizable until after forty days?

  • This question (more or less) is asked in Daf Al Hadaf on the Gemara in Bava Metzia. – Alex Mar 15 at 2:06
  • How does one recognize the gender after forty days? – robev Mar 15 at 2:22
  • @Alex I'm not aware of that source – DonielF Mar 15 at 2:36
  • @robev I'm not entirely sure, but my understanding is as I presented it here, that morphogenesis, i.e. the beginning of forming the fetus into the shape of a human being begins around forty days. – DonielF Mar 15 at 2:37
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If the gender is unrecognizable, but determined within the first 40 days, then it does not matter what he davens for because it has been fixed. The gemara brachos 60a (ArtScroll 60a3) explains that once something has been determined, even if the person does not know it, one cannot daven for the change. Note also the example of the house on fire. In the example in Bava Metzia, the amount of grain is not necessarily fixed as Hashem can cause it to increase without an obvious miracle as one can assume that that was the amount of grain present from the first. That is why the gemara gives a different bracha before he begins to count it and in the middle of counting it. In the case of a infant, since the normal determination is even in the first 40 days, one cannot normally pray. Art Scroll on that daf note 24 points to Avudraham in his explanation of the weekday morning service. If a person is aware of the sign that specifies the future sex, then it is improper to pray for a neis.

Art Scroll Brachos 60a3 note 25:

[Since one cannot be certain who emitted seed first,] one can always pray for a particular gender within 40 days (Tur, Orach Chaim 230) for perhaps they emitted their seed at the same time (Pri Megadim to Magen Avraham 230:1; see also Sifsei Chachamim in explanation of Rashi).

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    "the amount of grain is not necessarily fixed as Hashem can cause it to increase without a miracle" What?? – Double AA Mar 15 at 2:30
  • @DoubleAA Without an obvious miracle as one can assume that that was the amount of grain present from the first. I will add this to the post. This is what we learned in the daf yomi shiur. – sabbahillel Mar 15 at 2:41
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    One can also assume that was the gender that was there originally – Double AA Mar 15 at 2:42
  • @DoubleAA That is why the note states that one can pray assuming that both had emitted seed together. The gemara is stating that if one knew which had emitted seed first, then one has already seen the sign as to which gender will occur. It would be like seeing that the amount of grain does not completely fill a bin of known capacity. In that case it gives a maximum possible volume. – sabbahillel Mar 15 at 2:46

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