There are numerous places where the Talmud discusses some very personal facts about certain rabbis. For example, Baba Metziah 84a has a discussion about the size of rabbis' sex organ. How did the rabbis know such personal matters, and why is the discussin of anyone's private affairs important to have been written in the Talmud for all to read?

  • Perhaps they aren't literally true? Then you don't need to know how they knew it.
    – Double AA
    Apr 25 '14 at 15:31
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    I believe Ben Ish Chai offers an understanding of the word their, (which literally just means 'limb'), as meaning arm.
    – Baby Seal
    Apr 25 '14 at 15:49
  • Presumably, just as today, Jewish men went to mikveh together.
    – Tatpurusha
    Apr 25 '14 at 16:43
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    Would appreciate broader answers. There are many other places where other personal matters are discussed.
    – DanF
    Apr 25 '14 at 16:45
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    @BabySeal In fact, that word is used in other contexts to specifically refer to an arm. In the context, this interpretation also makes sense, as the gemara is discussing that these rabbis were overweight.
    – Fred
    Apr 27 '14 at 5:01

Tosafos addresses the second half of your question regarding Bava Metzia 84a.

אמר רבי יוחנן איבריה דרבי ישמעאל כו' אלו דברים נכתבו שלא להוציא לעז על בני אדם שהם כך

These matters were written so people will not slander people who are [big] like this. (Kollel Iyun Hadaf translation)

  • +1. I will try to look at that page. The explanation seems somewhat counter-intuitive. I would think that revealing such information may cause people to mock and embarrass them.
    – DanF
    Feb 12 '18 at 19:46
  • @DanF It seems that Tosafos doesn't mean "slander" as in "mock and embarrass," but (as in the Gemara there, אמרה להו ההיא מטרוניתא בניכם אינם שלכם) to call their parentage of their children into question - i.e., "how could someone so fat be able to be intimate with his wife?"
    – Meir
    Sep 15 '20 at 0:44

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