When during the pregnancy does the soul enter into the embryo or fetus? At conception? At how many weeks or months after conception or before birth? Thank you

  • 2
    Note this time is not necessarily indicative of when it becomes prohibited to harm the fetus. That's a different issue.
    – Double AA
    Feb 17 '17 at 14:36
  • Good point Double. I was going to leave that as a comment after my answer but forgot to.
    – user6591
    Feb 17 '17 at 14:59
  • Why is this tagged halacha?
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 20 '17 at 21:36
  • @mevaqesh the fact that it was is either a proof to Double's suspicion, or the source of it.
    – user6591
    Feb 20 '17 at 23:38
  • @user6591 I suspected that it was the source. I was hoping that the OP might clarify, so that the distinction between the aggadic content of the answers, and the halakhic question of killing, could be further emphasised.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 20 '17 at 23:41

This was a discussion between Antoninus and Rabi Yehuda HaNasi, found in Sanhedrin 91b. The following is the quotation and translation from sefaria

וא"ל אנטונינוס לרבי נשמה מאימתי ניתנה באדם משעת פקידה או משעת יצירה א"ל  משעת יצירה א"ל אפשר חתיכה של בשר עומדת שלשה ימים בלא מלח ואינה מסרחת אלא משעת פקידה אמר רבי דבר זה למדני אנטונינוס ומקרא מסייעו שנאמר (איוב י, יב) ופקודתך שמרה רוחי

Antoninus said to Rebbe "At what point is the soul given to a human? Is it from the moment of decree [that such a child will exist], or from the moment of formation"? He responded "from the moment of formation." He replied, "is it possible that a piece of meat can last for three days without salt, and yet not become rotten? Rather it must be from the moment of decree." Rebbe said: This thing that I learned from Antoninus, and there is a supporting verse: [Job 10] Your Providence has guarded my soul".

Here is Rashi's explanation of the two points of time under question.

משעת יצירה - שנקרם כולו בבשר וגידין ועצמות:

פקידה - משעה שהמלאך פוקד הטיפה ומביאה לפני המקום מה תהא עליה כדאמרינן בפרק כל היד במסכת נדה (דף טז:) מיד נזרקה בו נשמה וחיות:

from the moment of formation — that it all is solidified with flesh, sinews, and bones

decree — from the moment that the messenger pays attention to the drop and brings it before God, "what will be with it?" (as we said in tractate Niddah, chapter Kol Hayad), immediately a soul and life are thrust into it


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