First read the related questions here (mitzvot-and-their-body-parts and here (613-organs).

The Mishnah in Ohalot (1:8) states that there are 248 organs and lists all of them:

"מָאתַיִם וְאַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנָה אֵבָרִים בָּאָדָם, שְׁלשִׁים בְּפִסַּת הָרֶגֶל, שִׁשָּׁה בְכָל אֶצְבַּע, עֲשָׂרָה בַקֻּרְסָל, שְׁנַיִם בַּשּׁוֹק, חֲמִשָּׁה בָאַרְכֻּבָּה, אֶחָד בַּיָּרֵךְ, שְׁלשָׁה בַקַּטְלִית, אַחַת עֶשְׂרֵה צְלָעוֹת, שְׁלשִׁים בְּפִסַּת הַיָּד, שִׁשָּׁה בְכָל אֶצְבַּע, שְׁנַיִם בַּקָּנֶה, וּשְׁנַיִם בַּמַּרְפֵּק, אֶחָד בַּזְּרוֹעַ, וְאַרְבָּעָה בַכָּתֵף. מֵאָה וְאֶחָד מִזֶּה וּמֵאָה וְאֶחָד מִזֶּה. וּשְׁמֹנֶה עֶשְׂרֵה חֻלְיוֹת בַּשִּׁדְרָה, תִּשְׁעָה בָרֹאשׁ, שְׁמֹנָה בַצַּוָּאר, שִׁשָּׁה בַמַּפְתֵּחַ שֶׁל לֵב, וַחֲמִשָּׁה בִנְקָבָיו. :

There are two hundred and forty-eight limbs in the body. Thirty in the foot - six in each toe, ten in the ankle, two in the shin, five in the knee, one in the thigh, three in the hip, eleven ribs, thirty in the palm - six in each finger, two in the forearm, two in the elbow, one in the upper arm, and four in the shoulder. One hundred and one of this [side of the body], and one hundred and one of that. And eighteen vertebrates in the spinal chord: nine in the head, eight in the neck, six in the openings of the heart, and five around its cavities.

However it elaborates the purpose of this counting as:

כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מְטַמֵּא בְמַגָּע וּבְמַשָּׂא וּבְאֹהֶל. אֵימָתַי, בִּזְמַן שֶׁיֵּשׁ עֲלֵיהֶן בָּשָׂר כָּרָאוּי. אֲבָל אִם אֵין עֲלֵיהֶן בָּשָׂר כָּרָאוּי, מְטַמְּאִין בְּמַגָּע וּבְמַשָּׂא, וְאֵין מְטַמְּאִין בְּאֹהֶל

Each of these impurifies through touching, carrying, or sharing quarters. When is this true? When the limbs still have an appropriate amount of flesh on them. But if they do not have an appropriate amount of flesh on them, they will impurify through touching and through carrying, but not through sharing quarters.

It is clear that only the bones are counted, hence the original "אברים" is translated as "limbs" and not organs. We don't see the soft tissues, like skin, muscles, eyes, tongue, brain, lungs etc.

Rambam in Hilchot Tumat Met 2,3 adds that the soft tissues are considered אברים also:

מה אדם בשר וגידים ועצמות אף אבר מן החי עד שיהיה כברייתו בשר וגידים ועצמות אבל הכוליא והלשון וכיוצא בהן אף על פי שהן אבר בפני עצמן הואיל ואין בהן עצם הרי הן כשאר הבשר

Implied is that the bone must be like a man, i.e., a human corpse. Just as a human corpse has flesh, sinews, and bones, so too, a limb from a living person must be intact as it was when it came into being and have flesh, sinews, and bones. In contrast, a kidney and a tongue, and the like, even though they are considered as complete ORGANS, since they do not contain bones, they are considered as the remainder of a person's flesh.

Combining the Mishna with Rambam we can count more than 248 organs, as it includes 248 bones plus the soft organs. Another slightly contradicting source is the Mishna in Negayim 6:

"עֶשְׂרִים וְאַרְבָּעָה רָאשֵׁי אֵבָרִין בָּאָדָם שֶׁאֵינָן מִטַּמְּאִין מִשּׁוּם מִחְיָה, רָאשֵׁי אֶצְבְּעוֹת יָדַיִם וְרַגְלַיִם, וְרָאשֵׁי אָזְנַיִם, וְרֹאשׁ הַחֹטֶם, וְרֹאשׁ הַגְּוִיָּה, וְרָאשֵׁי הַדַּדִּים שֶׁבָּאִשָּׁה."

There are twenty-four tips of limbs on man that do not become impure due to a healthy patch [seen in a Nega]: The tips of the fingers of the hands and feet [i.e. toes], the tips of the ears, the tip of the nose, the tip of the male organ, the tips of the breasts on a woman.

As we see it lists organs not listed in the Mishna in Ohalot.

I am confused - Is this a different counting of the 248 body organs, or is this the only one:

  • If it is different - where are the others?
  • If that's the only one, where are the soft organs counted?
  • Why do you think there are 248 organs? Your whole question is predicated on it but without any basis
    – Double AA
    Aug 26, 2018 at 1:11
  • I have never heard the word אבר ever used in the sense of “organs” - always “limbs.” Where do you find it being used otherwise?
    – DonielF
    Aug 26, 2018 at 2:39
  • @donielf עבד יוצא בראשי אברים - עין ודן וכדו. This is calledאברים same as in our Mishnah. Also for Double Aa
    – Al Berko
    Aug 26, 2018 at 6:29
  • . אֲבָל הַכֻּלְיָא וְהַלָּשׁוֹן וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן אֵיבָר בִּפְנֵי עַצְמָן הוֹאִיל וְאֵין בָּהֶן עֶצֶם הֲרֵי הֵן כִּשְׁאָר הַבָּשָׂר. טומאת מת, ב,ג
    – Al Berko
    Aug 26, 2018 at 6:46
  • Maybe there are different lists for different things? There are 248 that are מטמא באהל, there are 24 that can’t contract צרעת, etc. Why must these lists be combined?
    – DonielF
    Aug 26, 2018 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


The first Volume of Encyclopedia Talmudit in the articles titled אברים ב דף נד: there appears a discussion regarding the scientific validity of the Torah concept of 248 אברים in the human body. Quoted as one of the opinions, is that of a Dr Katzanelson in התלמוד וחכמת הרפואה which concludes with the phrase ובאחדים מהאברים דרך אחרת לו קצת ממפרשי המשנה. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer found this paragraph inappropriate and sent a letter to Rabbi Meir Bar-Illan requesting that it be removed. All subsequent editions have this section removed, and the footnotes rearranged to eliminate a trail. The letter of Rav Meltzer appears in his correspondence which was published by his grandson.

From http://central.gutenberg.org/articles/talmudic_encyclopedia#Controversial_content_in_first_edition_of_first_volume.5B3.5Denter image description hereenter image description here

  • This looks like interesting information, but can you clarify how it answers the question?
    – Alex
    Sep 12, 2018 at 15:55
  • 1
    I also edited the post to format the quote and include the doctor's name (since otherwise it is a direct quote). If for some reason you don't want the name in the post, you can make further edits to remove it and note that you have redacted the quote.
    – Alex
    Sep 12, 2018 at 15:57
  • AS the OP I'm a bit confused by an answer that states a fact but doesn't have a conclusion. Can you rephrase it in your words, please, so I can see the connection to the question? What does this citation prove?
    – Al Berko
    Sep 12, 2018 at 22:22

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