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Nail Clippings and Pregnant Women

Nail Clippings and Pregnant Women



I have been told that one must never let his nail clipping lying around as they pose danger to fetuses. How does that work?


The Talmud1 tells us that "the righteous bury their nails, the pious burn them, and the wicked carelessly discard them." The Talmud explains that nail clippings must be carefully disposed of lest a pregnant woman pass over them and miscarry.

Rabbi Yosef ibn Habib2 offers the following two reasons:

1) Due to the emotional strain of pregnancy, a woman is likely to be overly repulsed by the sight of the nails, and this, in turn, might cause her to miscarry. (To be honest, I find them pretty gross myself.)

2) In ancient times, nail clippings were used as implements for witchcraft. As such, the possibility existed that these clippings would be used to harm her.

Others3 quote the Midrash which tells us that before Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, their bodies were covered with a nail-like covering. After they sinned, this was taken away. Another consequence of the sin was that womankind would begin to experience long and painful gestation and birth. Hence, when a woman passes over a nail clipping (reminiscent of the nail-like scales of Adam and Eve), there is a concern that the prosecuting angels would find reason to cause her grief and pain.

Happy clipping!

Rabbi Baruch Davidson


Moed Katan 18a; Niddah 17a.


Nimukei Yosef [RaN], Moed Katan ad loc.


Baer Heitev, OC 260.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Brandon Chicago December 2, 2017

Nailed it!

P.S. "Happy Clipping" is a very strange way to end such a grave (albeit ridiculous and absurdly superstitious) tradition, or law. Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for May 6, 2015

To Anonymous in LA A partial nail clipping has the same status a full one. Reply

Anonymous LA May 4, 2015

What if she stepped on part of a nail? Like only half of the nail was clipped and she stepped on it and then realized. And She is sure it hadn't moved from the place it fell. Reply

Anonymous September 4, 2013

No sense I agree that this makes no sense. The Rabbi's argument is that the repulsiveness of an object might cause a woman to miscarry. His argument is therefore, "anything repulsive might cause a woman to miscarry." Scientific evidence will prove that this is factually incorrect. As for the witchcraft stuff----Please, give us all logical thinking human beings a break! Reply

J Malpass Lexington, SC November 6, 2012

Thank you Rabbi Davidson, thank you for the clarification. I apologize for bringing this to your attention with public comments. I knew of no other way to let you know. Nor would my conscience allow me to say nothing. Now I can confidently explain this to my son. Reply

Baruch Davidson NYC November 6, 2012

Re: J Malpass Thanks for pointing that out. Just a swapped y and n, but that was a grave typo. I have corrected it. Reply

J Malpass Lexington, SC November 5, 2012

Moed Katan 18a; Niddah 17a I really appreciate everything everybody involved with does to advance the education of fellow Jews and the world at large. I was attempting to relay the teachings regarding nails to my son and became confused. Every reference I have seen to these folia states "‘Three things were said in reference to nails: One who buries them is righteous; one who burns them is pious and one who throws them away is a villain’!" Moed Katan 18a, "Our Rabbis taught: Three things have been said about the disposal of nails: He who burns them is a pious man, he who buries them is a righteous man, and he who throws them away is a wicked man." Niddah 17a This contradicts your quote which claims the righteous burn them and the pious bury them. I am a novice scholar and do not have physical copies of these folia to study with my son. Please, would you confirm the accuracy of these quotes. Thank you in advance. Reply

sue australia April 21, 2012

no sense Torah and our real talmudic scholars are always right. it might not nake sense now but it will eventually. Scientists, Doctors, etc. will catch up to Torah sooner or later! Reply

Anonymous March, IL May 9, 2011

Makes no sense This makes absolutely no sense! What about other things that might gross out a woman? Such as a cockroach? Or some moldy bread? Or a cheeseburger? Reply

Yehoshua (Harvey) Plaut Englewood June 21, 2009

Re: I beg to differ Interesting topic of discussion: Does every Talmudic ruling have to have scientific rationalization in order for it to be justified?

For the record, nail clippings are repulsive until this very day. Reply

Anonymous June 20, 2009

I beg to differ I have a hard time wrapping my mind around this. Does this have any scientific merit? Or should it be relegated to the category of other archaic beliefs such as stepping on cracks, evil eyes or breaking mirrors? We are living in the 21st century, no longer in some 19th century shtetl. Reply

cookie man May 14, 2009

careful - yes. concerned - no. be well and have an easy delivery and healthy baby. Reply

to expecting mel, australia May 14, 2009

to expecting yes we definitely DO need to be careful with not stepping over nail whilst pregnant. please take care and all the best. Reply

expecting May 12, 2009

so is it real? do we need to be concerned today about stepping on a nail while pregnant? Reply

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