The se'ah or seah (Hebrew: סאה) is a unit of dry measure of ancient origin used in Halakha (Jewish law), which equals one third of an ephah, or bath. Its size in modern units varies widely according to the criteria used for defining it.
According to Herbert G. May, chief editor of two Bible-related reference books, the bath may be archaeologically determined to have been about 5.75 U.S. gallons (22 liters) from a study of jar remains marked 'bath' and 'royal bath' from Tell Beit Mirsim. Since the bath unit has been established to be 22 liters, 1 se'ah would equal about 7.3 litres or 7.3dm3.
The Jewish Study Bible estimates the biblical seah at 7.7 liters (2.0 U.S. gal).
Seah in Orthodox Judaism
In the context of a mikveh, a se'ah can be about twice as much in order to accommodate even the most stringent rabbinical ruling on immersion. A mikveh must, according to the classical regulations, contain enough water to cover the entire body of an average-sized person; based on a mikveh with the dimensions of 3 cubits deep, 1 cubit wide, and 1 cubit long, the necessary volume of water was estimated as being 40 se'ah of water. The exact volume referred to by a seah is debated, and classical rabbinical literature specifies only that it is enough to fit 144 eggs; most[quantify] Orthodox Jews use the stringent ruling of the Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, according to which one seah is 14.3 litres, and therefore a mikveh must contain approximately 575 litres.[note 1] This volume of water could be topped up with water from any source, but if there were less than 40 seahs of water in the mikveh, then the addition of 3 or more pints of water from an unnatural source would render the mikveh unfit for use, regardless of whether water from a natural source was then added to make up 40 seahs from a natural source; a mikveh rendered unfit for use in this way would need to be completely drained away and refilled from scratch.
- The Interpreter's Bible, Buttrick ed., Abingden Press, Nashville, 1956, volume VI, p. 317 (p155 in the Internet Archive copy of the text)
- Adele Berlin; Marc Zvi Brettler (2004). The Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. Oxford University Press. p. 2105. ISBN 978-0-19-529751-5.
- Eruvin 4b
- Yoma 31a
- Numbers Rabbah, 18:17
- Mikvaot 3.
- "Weights and Measures". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
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