Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 53b
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תלמוד בבלי שבת נג:
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מעשה באחד שמתה אשתו והניחה בן לינק, ולא היה לו שכר מניקה ליתן, ונעשה לו נס ונפתחו לו דדין כשני דדי אשה והניק את בנו. אמר רב יוסף: בא וראה כמה גדול אדם זה, שנעשה לו נס כזה! אמר לו אביי: אדרבה, כמה גרוע אדם זה שנשתנו לו סדרי בראשית!
There once was a man whose wife died and left him with an infant to suckle, and he could not afford to pay a wet nurse. A miracle occurred, and he grew breasts like a woman’s two breasts, and he nursed his child. R. Joseph said: Come and see just how great this man must be that such a miracle was performed for him! Abbaye said: On the contrary. How bad this man must be that the order of nature was changed for him. [Translation by Rabbi Steve Greenberg]
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. The two rabbis, Rabbi Joseph and Abbaye are reacting to the story in very different ways. Both acknowledge the fact that the infant was saved, but for R. Joseph the gender-bending was a necessary piece of the saving gesture; for Abbaye it was a corrupting and unnatural transformation that turned a man into a freak. For Abbaye, this can only be how God helps a bad man save his child. For a good man, heaven would have found a better solution. Setting aside whether divine intervention in the world works in this way for us, do you find Rabbi Joseph or Abbaye closer to truth? Is a man with breasts a wonder (R. Joseph) or a monster (Abbaye)?

2. What makes any bodily difference wonderful or monstrous?

3. Even if you might like R. Joseph's position better, can you explain Abbaye' position in a thoughtful manner?

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Time Period: Rabbinic (Maccabees through the Talmud)