The Tanya was first published in 1796.

In chapter nine of the Tanya (in the shi’ur for today, Teves 9), the Alter Rebbe writes:

The abode of the animal soul… is in the heart, in the left ventricle, as it is filled with blood… therefore all lusts and boasting and anger and similar [passions] are in the heart, and from the heart they spread throughout the entire body, rising also to the brain in the head, to think and meditate about them and to become cunning in them – just as the blood has its source in the heart, and from the heart it circulates into every organ, rising also to the brain in the head.

According to Wikipedia,

William Harvey (1 April 1578 – 3 June 1657) was an English physician who made influential contributions in anatomy and physiology. He was the first known physician to describe completely, and in detail, the systemic circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the brain and the rest of the body by the heart, though earlier writers, such as Realdo Colombo, Michael Servetus, and Jacques Dubois, had provided precursors of the theory.

I wonder:

Does the Tanya’s description of the heart’s role in the circulation of blood, and the distinction of the ventricles, show the influence of Harvey’s scientific work? Was the Tanya the first rabbinic work to include this imagery of the blood pumped by the left ventricle and circulating to the brain, or in some other way to exhibit the new way of thinking about the circulatory system?

  • Just for clarification. Are you asking this in a religious context or generally? (Religious being the Rabbi relates biology to a spiritual concept related to the soul or similar) - Or are you asking just purely about Rabbinical opinions on blood and circulation in general? The Rambam wrote extensively on various issues in medicine. He touched on blood vessels in his "Aphorisms" writing. (Specifically blood vessels, veins, and capillaries)
    – Michael
    Dec 24, 2020 at 6:19
  • As a starting point, the common Talmudic custom of letting blood reflects their (common) understanding of the blood as non-circulating.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 24, 2020 at 19:25
  • 2
    @Michael I'm wondering if we can see the influence of the new science. The human race always knew of blood vessels, but I don't think that the Rambam wrote about this specific idea, that the ventricles play special roles in pumping the blood to the brain and through the body. I'm not exactly sure what's out there in the sea of rabbinic writings. That's what I'm hoping to learn.
    – Chaim
    Dec 24, 2020 at 22:45
  • Slightly related, but interesting: Zohar 2:107b speaks about a more simplistic model of the heart and blood. sefaria.org/…
    – Binyomin
    Apr 28, 2023 at 12:58


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