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Title Author Date
the nitz of the lice Zeligman, Naftali Apr 28, 2008
Dear Yoav,

I do not know the meaning of the Old French term given by Rashi in his commentary to the Babylonian Talmud, Avoda Zara 3b, nor even how it would be spelt in the Latin alphabet (if I knew that, I would be able to find it in some online dictionary of Old French). What I do know is that in the same comment, Rashi equates the Hebrew collocation beitzei kinnim with the Aramaic term inba, which does mean "nit." But on the other hand, in that same comment, Rashi notes explicitly that the discussion in the Talmud refers to a separate kind (mina) of living creatures, called beitzei kinnim or inba.
As for the mention of the views of the Rishonim on this issue in my Letter, just search for "eggs" in the text (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/letter1.cfm).
Regarding Hazalís perception of lice nits, it should be noted that in the Babylonian Talmud, Nazir 39a, there is a discussion of a live vs. dead inba, where it is assumed that a live inba moves from the upper part of a hair toward the root thereof (you can see an English translation of the discussion, recorded in Aramaic, at http://www.come-and-hear.com/nazir/nazir_39.html). This may be another indication that Hazal considered lice nits a separate kind of creature, capable of moving on its own. (I mentioned this discussion in my Letter, but more briefly than it deserves.) Both the discussion in Nazir 39a and the one in Shabbat 107b indicate that Hazal knew about lice nits but considered them a distinct species, and they appear to have missed the fact that nits are the immediate product of lice's sexual reproduction.

Regards,

N.Z.
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