Keri is a Hebrew term which literally means ‘happenstance,’ ‘frivolity’ or ‘contrariness’ and has come to mean ‘seminal emission.’ The term is generally used in Jewish law to refer specifically to the regulations and rituals concerning the emission of semen. The biblical regulations of the Priestly Code specify that a man who had experienced an emission of semen would become ritually impure, until the evening came and the man had washed himself in water.

The Talmud adds prohibitions designed to avoid keri in cases that don’t involve sexual intercourse. It was forbidden for a man to investigate himself to determine whether an emission of semen had occurred. The Talmud goes on to address the concern that preventing any contact with the penis would make urination more awkward for males, with some Talmudic rabbis arguing that men should urinate from a high place or above dirt so that they don’t have to touch the penis to avoid making a mess. Deliberate erections were considered by some of the Talmudic writers to be an excommunicable offense, and Talmudic sources even prohibit men from witnessing sexually arousing scenes.

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