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I've been reading recently about the practice of discarding of fingernails in a special way, usually by burning or burying. (Sources here)

Please discuss this practice. Any information would be welcome, including:

  • Nature of the law--what sort of law is it considered? D'oraisa, d'rabbanan, chumra, minhag, hiddur, what?

- What is the primary halachic and/or philosophical basis for this law? (Already answered in comments)

  • Extent of the practice today (which groups emphasize it, and how seriously people take it)
  • Evidence that we do, or do not, need to pay attention to it today

Related: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/15965/1516 and How should one dispose of cut finger nails? Is it dangerous for a pregnant woman to walk on them? and Rules for Cutting Nails

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    The source is the gemara in the answer you linked to.
    – Double AA
    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:30
  • @DoubleAA Apparently it is mentioned in canonical Jewish literature in many places; that is only one source. I'm not an idiot; I saw that a source was mentioned there. There's a lot more to my question.
    – SAH
    Mar 23, 2015 at 4:53
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    No one said you were an idiot... I pointed out the primary source. If you want a collection of places where that source is referenced in later literature, you should ask for it explicitly and limit it somehow. Such a list would IMO be prohibitively large
    – Double AA
    Mar 23, 2015 at 5:21
  • @DoubleAA got it. fixing
    – SAH
    Mar 25, 2015 at 20:31

3 Answers 3

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As was stated in the both the question and the comments, the gemara in Niddah .יז says that as it his a hanhaga (that is the nature of the law; it is not actually a dioraisa or dirabbanan, just a midas chasidus) of tzadikim/chasidim, and, as the mishna brura says, it still applies nowadays.

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  • I know that I didn't actually add anything, as the question was already answered, but I wanted to get this of of the unanswered section Feb 22, 2018 at 3:08
  • I know of a few hasidim in Lubavitch who still do it
    – SAH
    Feb 22, 2018 at 4:35
  • As far as I can tell, that is their official minhag. However, note that chassidim in the gemara have no connection whatsoever to chasidim nowadays Feb 22, 2018 at 4:36
  • Sorry for being so ignorant but who are the chasidim in gemara? I know some chasidim are mentioned in the Zohar who lived during the Second Temple
    – SAH
    Feb 22, 2018 at 4:39
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    In the context of the gemara, chasidim are people who go out of their way to do the best thing possible even if it hurts themselves - for example, in this gemara in Niddah, they burn their nails so as to remove any possibly of it hurting another, even though it hurts them to do so. The modern-day "chasidim", which are only several hundred years old, named themselves after them. Feb 22, 2018 at 4:43
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The reason given in the Talmud is that if a pregnant woman steps on nails she might miscarry.

To the best of my knowledge no one has ever shown a correlation between stepping on nails and miscarrying.

Therefore:

1) Those who scoff at Talmudic statements such as these and consider them old wive's tales, probably don't care about this.

2) Those who think that these kinds of Talmudic statements were based on a different reality back then might assume that this issue is no longer applicable.

3) Those who think that every Talmudic statement must be absolutely true in its literal sense probably think it is still very much applicable.

4) Those who subscribe to various mystical teachings probably believe that there is still a mystical problem, even if it can't be detected by any physical measure.

Note also, that the Ein Mishpat which always notes where each Talmudic statement is codified by Rambam, Semag, and Tur/Shulchan Aruch does not note anything for this.

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  • Though the mishna brura does mention it when he talks about cutting nails Feb 22, 2018 at 5:39
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This is a superstition adopted from Zorostrianism during the exile.

“ In Vi-daæv-dát 17 (laws/formulas against demons) 1-6, Zarathustra asks the Wise Lord, what is the act for which a certain demon, aôša (literally “scorching, destruction” is let loose in the world. The Wise Lord replies, when one arranges and cuts his hair and clips his nails, and then lets them fall into holes in the earth or into furrows without proper rites and formulas, demons come forth, and from these improprieties monsters come forth from the earth.

When you arrange and cut your hair and clip your nails, you should bear it ten steps from righteous men, twenty steps from the fire, thirty steps from the water, and fifty steps from the baresman (bundle of sacred twigs.)

Then you should dig a hole. To that hole you should bear the cuttings. Then you should pronounce these victorious words/formula Zarathustra: “Now for me may Mazda make the plants grow by means of ašá”(excellence, truth, radiant right.) You should then plow 3 or 6 or 9 furrows for xšathrá vairya (chosen dominion, kingship, power,) and you should recite the ahüna vairya formula 3 or 6 or 9 times.”

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    Welcome to MiYodeya Ouriel and thanks for this first answer. Great to have you learn with us! This would be a much stronger answer if you could demonstrate Judaism took this from Zorostrianism. Maybe it is the reverse? Or maybe it is a coincidence?
    – mbloch
    yesterday

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