This question is a follow-up to "Different-counts-of-the-248-organs-".

As we see from the Mishnah in Ohalot 1,8, only the bones are counted as organs, namely a bone that has sinew and some flesh.

The Gemmorah in Bekhorot 45a states that women have 252 organs (there are different opinions, however, based on different Torah verses that range from 251-253):

מעשה בתלמידיו של ר' ישמעאל ... שבדקו ומצאו בה מאתים וחמשים ושנים:
אמר להם שמא באשה בדקתם
שהוסיף לה הכתוב שני צירים ושני דלתות

(With regard to the number of limbs or bones in the human body) Rabbi Yehuda says that Shmuel says: There was an incident involving the students of Rabbi Yishmael, who boiled the corpse of a prostitute who was sentenced by the king to death by burning, in order to separate her flesh from her bones. They examined and found she had 252 [bones/organs. They were puzzled by their finding, as the Sages say that the human body has only 248 limbs]. Shmuel said to them: Perhaps you examined the corpse of a woman, as the verse added to her two hinges and two doors [for a total of 252 organs].

(As the whole discussion is within the topic of impurity I imply that the count in Bekhorot applies to the bones also as in Ohalot.)

I couldn't find any empirical support for this claim, as anatomically, the two skeletons are identical (with 206 bones, not 248-252). Also, this seems to be a very easy anatomical test - counting bones - there shouldn't be any dispute at all.

Interestingly, if women had 4 additional bones, R"I's students could easily identify the female skeleton just by those 4 bones (2 axles and 2 doors?), not by the total number of 252! (thanks to DonielF)

So what is going on here with counting the female skeleton differently?

  • The skeletons aren’t actually identical. They’re different enough that if an archaeologist comes across a complete human skeleton he can tell if it was a man or a woman just by looking at it. Most of the difference comes in proportions between different parts of the body, but the Gemara’s statement that women have extra bones along the birthing canal I believe is indeed accurate.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 15:25
  • @DonielF What is the name of the extra bone women have in the birth canal? There's no need for us to speculate. If it exists it has a name. Maybe a Wikipedia page? A picture?
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 14:46
  • @DonielF Nope. Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 9:56
  • In the opposite direction (though maybe environment can impact this), see about fusion of pelvic bones, with a difference in age of fusion between male and female humans: carta.anthropogeny.org/moca/topics/…. Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 7:12
  • The doors and hinges of the female anatomy referenced above are speaking about the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Their relationship to bones seems to be due to the fact that they effect bone generation and decay. Ovaries secrete estrogen and fallopian tubes are a rich source of mesenchymal stromal cells (htMSCs). Commented Jun 30, 2021 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


I'm not going to argue with non-believers who aren't looking for answers.

Those who are looking for answers should see the Encyclopedia Talmudis and Dr. Katzelson's book about Gemorah and medical science on this topic.

Two points however are indisputable

(1)there are differences between male and female skeletons particularly in the pelvic area

(2)People have different amounts of bones at different stages of life. As they get older bones fuse and diminish.

This question only starts after you are clear as to which stage of life the Mishna considers a bone to be a separate bone for halachic purposes. Presumably it is when a person has the amount of bones listed in Gemorah. The Gemorah is bringing a posuk to prove that this is the case.

  • 1
    Are there differences in number or just in shape in the pelvic area? (Point 2 is correct of course, that the number changes over time, but that wasn't the main point of the question.)
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 14:47
  • 1
    Without a summary of "Encyclopedia Talmudis and Dr. Katzelson's book" I don't see how this answers the question.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 6, 2019 at 14:56
  • Please move the two points to a comment, this does not address the question on the count of bones. See the related question, that the Mishnah defines a אבר as a BONE with flesh.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 18:20

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