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A comprehensive guide to the Jewish Laws of Family Purity

A comprehensive guide to the Jewish Laws of Family Purity

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Foundation of the Family Document Transcript

  • 1. ¯ Foundation of the Family The Laws of Family Purity Yoel Spotts
  • 2. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
  • 3. Table of Contents Foreword: About this book................................................................................................................................ ii Introduction: Why Keep the Laws of Niddah?............................................................................................. iv 1. A Quick Overview of the Laws of Niddah ...................................................................................................1 2. Becoming a Niddah.........................................................................................................................................2 3. Process to Become Ritually Pure ..................................................................................................................4 4. Activities Prohibited during Niddah...........................................................................................................7 5. Preparation for Going to the Mikvah ..........................................................................................................9 6. Separations .....................................................................................................................................................11 7. Immersing in the Mikvah ............................................................................................................................12 8. Caution Days...................................................................................................................................................13 9. Hymenal Bleeding .........................................................................................................................................16 10. Pregnancy and Childbirth .........................................................................................................................17 11. Caution Days Worksheet............................................................................................................................18 Appendix: Jewish Attitudes toward Intimacy .............................................................................................23 i
  • 4. Foreword: About this book Several years ago I offered to teach a newly engaged young man the laws he would need to know as a married man. As his native language was English and I felt he would retain the information if the laws were presented in his native tongue, I searched for a suitable English primer to the laws of niddah. While many of the books I discovered were quite good, I found that most were either too comprehensive or too brief, leaving open gaps. I therefore began to compile my own notes on the laws of niddah; this book is the result of those efforts. By and large, the content presented herein represents the basic laws of niddah as they are taught to engaged young men in Yeshivas Ner Yisrael. Interspersed are items I heard on tape from a series of lectures presented by HaRav Yitchak Isbee ì"öæ a number of years ago (the tapes are preserved in the Ner Yisrael Tape Library). Certainly some other material I have heard or read has crept in as well. Of course, any errors or mistakes are my own. I am deeply grateful to Rabbi Doniel Pransky who originally taught me the laws for a married man when I was engaged. In addition, he has reviewed the material presented in this book numerous times, adding valuable insights and suggestions. I am also greatly indebted to HaRav Yaakov Hopfer, Rabbi of the Glen Avenue Shul in Baltimore. I was privileged to be part of a small group that met with Rav Hopfer for a year and a half, devoted to serious study of the laws of niddah in a real and practical fashion. In that time, Rav Hopfer shared with us his tremendous wealth of knowledge about the laws of niddah and many other areas of Halacha, allowing us a window into the world of Halachic decisions. Rav Hopfer's influence can be felt, directly or indirectly, as an undercurrent throughout this work. Finally, I would like to express appreciation to that aforementioned young man, for I certainly would not have undertaken such an endeavor had he not become engaged. Two important points: It should go without saying that the laws as they are presented in this book are not the final word. There are many differences of opinion and many stringencies that some people adhere to while others do not. I have tried to ii
  • 5. present the most widely accepted practices while presenting some of the more common stringent practices. Of course, where there is any question or doubt, a Rabbi should be consulted. Secondly, this book is intended to be studied together with a teacher. The laws of niddah do not lend themselves to self teaching and many misunderstandings may arise if one attempts to go it alone. While this booklet will hopefully aid in the teaching process and facilitate quick reviews of the laws, finding a mentor familiar with the laws of niddah is essential. My primary goal is the dissemination of Torah and increased observance of the laws of niddah. As such, I hope and pray the reader finds this work helpful. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions, comments or corrections; please feel free to contact me for any reason. Yoel Spotts yoel@cyspotts.com iii
  • 6. Introduction: Why Keep the Laws of Niddah? Ultimately, the most important reason for keeping the laws of niddah is simply this: God has commanded us to. Explanations can be sought and explored, but we must be careful not to attach too much importance to any one explanation or even the sum total of them all. At the end of the day, no matter how difficult the laws may seem, or how understandable they may seem to us, we follow the laws of niddah because they are prescribed by the Torah, God’s book of instruction for life. Having said that, searching for reasons and understandings of the laws of niddah can make the laws more palatable, especially when the laws seem difficult to observe. As human beings, we are more likely to abide by an injunction we understand and can identify with. Even more importantly, by delving into the rationale for niddah, we can appreciate the ways in which niddah enhances and deepens the bonds of marriage. The strictures of niddah can become something we cherish and value, instead of merely a burden we tolerate. Provide a sense of renewal As with most anything, the sensation of physical touch, and intimacy itself can become stale and uninteresting. If left on its own, the ability to touch and be intimate with one’s spouse can be taken for granted; the excitement of physical connection wanes. The break of niddah affords each spouse the opportunity to reflect on that which they cannot have at that time -- the sense of closeness that comes with physical connection and the gift that is marital intimacy. The separation of niddah infuses a sense of freshness into the relationship. The couple looks forward to being together in an intimate way, instead of growing complacent in their physical relationship. As one young man commented to me: “It's like having a honeymoon every few weeks.” The excitement of intimacy is fueled by the absence forced upon both spouses by the strictures of niddah. As the old adage goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt, while absence makes the heart grow fonder.” iv
  • 7. Finding other ways to relate Without the separation imposed by niddah, it can become easy, especially for the husband, to place undue emphasis on the physical facet of the relationship while ignoring other crucial aspects. The physical separation forces husband and wife to find other ways to relate to each other and to deepen their emotional and mental bonds. Without the safety net of a hug or kiss, or even holding a hand, husband and wife must learn to trust each other and themselves through verbal, emotional and other means of communication. The physical separation imposed by niddah forces the couple to investigate methods of relating they might otherwise have ignored, thus strengthening and deepening their connection to each other. Spouse becomes more than an object Whether conscience or not, a spouse in a physical relationship can begin to view the other as merely an object of fulfillment of physical satisfaction. The husband is especially prone to this type of mindset. It must be mentioned that fulfillment of physical needs is an important aspect of marital intimacy, but it cannot be the sole or even dominant motivation. Niddah allows each spouse to step back and recognize the partner as a real person to relate to; the other is not merely an object. Each spouse comes to the realization that although they are married, restrictions still exist. As such, each partner exists on their own accord, and not merely to serve the other’s fulfillment of needs and desires, whether physical or otherwise. Each spouse has an independent existence Every married person experiences a tension: On the one hand they are a union, part of an entity called a “married couple,” and exist as a part of this combined state. On the other hand, each spouse exists independent of the other one; each one has a life and a mind independent of the other. This tension exists for good reason: both realities are true and correct. A spouse exists at once as part of a union of the two, while at the same time also exists as an independent person. The goal is to achieve a balance between the two, but that can be a lifetime of effort. A person tends to vacillate from one extreme to the other. At times, a person places undue emphasis on one’s v
  • 8. independence, forgetting about one’s role as a member of the “couple.” At other times, a person may lose oneself in the marriage and ignore the reality of one's status as an individual. Each extreme is fraught with danger and can undermine a marriage. Niddah helps each spouse recalibrate and regain a proper balance. The forced separation allows spouses to individuate and discover themselves as an independent entity from the other. During the niddah time frame, each spouse learns to respect oneself as well the other as an individual, with all of one's strengths, weaknesses, abilities and challenges. This individuation process allows each spouse to re-energize and be better capable to exist as part of the “couple” entity. vi
  • 9. 1. A Quick Overview of the Laws of Niddah 1. When blood leaves a woman’s uterus, she is rendered a niddah (äãð). a) The most usual way is when she has her period. b) But she also becomes a niddah if she bleeds at any other time. c) However, blood from a wound in the vaginal area does not render a woman a niddah. 2. When a woman becomes a niddah, the procedure is as follows: a) She must first wait a minimum of 5 days. b) At that point she checks her vagina for blood with a cotton cloth. (i) Such a check is called a bedikah (ä÷éãá). (ii) This first bedikah is called a hefsek taharah (äøäè ÷ñôä). c) Assuming the hefsek taharah shows no blood, the woman then counts another seven clean (i.e. blood free) days, called zayin nekiyim (íéé÷ð 'æ). (i) During these seven clean days, she wears white underwear and uses white sheets. (ii) Every day, she performs two bedikahs, one in the morning and one right before sunset. (iii) Any bedikah which reveals any blood nullifies the seven clean days and she must begin the process anew with the hefsek taharah. (iv) From the time she begins bleeding, through the seven clean days until she goes to the mikvah, she and her husband are forbidden to each other. d) After the 7th day, after nightfall, the woman goes to the mikvah. Once she immerses, husband and wife are permitted to each other. e) The night that the woman goes to the mikvah, it is a mitzvah for husband and wife to engage in relations. 3. Even during the permitted time, when a woman anticipates she will soon have her period, there are certain days when relations are prohibited since it is more likely she will have her period at those times. 1
  • 10. 2. Becoming a Niddah 1. The most common way a woman becomes a niddah is when she has her period. 2. However if a woman bleeds at any other time (i.e. she bleeds not due to her period) she also becomes a niddah. a) Such bleeding outside of her normal period is called a kesem (meaning stain). 3. There are certain leniencies with regard to such stains: a) Staining only makes a woman a niddah if the blood appears on white material (i) Therefore, during the time a woman is “permitted,” she should wear colored underwear and use colored sheets and blankets. That way even if she stains, it will not render her a niddah. (ii) A woman should also avoid wearing a tampon when she is permitted (a Rabbi should be consulted regarding wearing a pad). b) Staining only makes a woman a niddah if the blood appears on a surface that can become ritually impure (àîè). (i) Therefore, if a woman wipes herself with a tissue or toilet paper (and she did not wipe immediately after urinating -- see below, section 4) and finds blood, she is not a niddah, because such substances cannot become ritually impure. c) Staining only makes a woman a niddah if the stain is at least the size of a U.S. penny (i) Any shape, not just circular (ii) This is also true if the stain appears on her body, not just on her clothing (iii) A striped garment presents some difficulties, so ask a Rabbi. d) If the woman has a wound on any part of her body, or if she has come in contact with some other bloody object (like washing up a child’s scrape), we might be able to assume the blood came from there -- a Rabbi should be consulted. 4. However, there are certain cases when we cannot utilize the above mentioned leniencies: a) That is, in the following cases, a woman becomes a niddah even if the bleeding is not due to her period. b) These cases are as follows: (i) A woman finds blood on the cotton cloth after performing a bedikah. (a) For example, during the seven clean days 2
  • 11. (ii) A woman goes to the bathroom and discovers blood: (a) If she finds blood on the toilet paper after wiping herself, then it poses a problem only if she wipes herself immediately after urinating (i.e. within about three seconds). (b) If she finds blood in the toilet bowl, that is a very complicated matter; ask a Rabbi. (c) Very important - a woman has no obligation to check the toilet paper or toilet bowl for blood. Therefore, the best advice would be not to look, so as to avoid any problems. (iii) A woman discovers blood on her body or on the bed sheets immediately following marital relations -- again a complicated matter and a Rabbi should be consulted. 5. If the opening of a woman’s uterus dilates, for any reason, we assume blood came out of the uterus and the woman becomes a niddah. This principle is most relevant in two situations: a) Certain medical procedures (i) Note that routine gynecological exams do not normally pose a problem. (ii) However, it is prudent to always ask procedures the doctor will employ, and ask a Rabbi before the appointment to ascertain if those procedures will cause the woman to become a niddah. b) When a women gives birth. (i) Meaning that a woman becomes a niddah when she gives birth even if she does not appear to bleed. 6. Regarding what colors make a women a niddah a) Note that a bedikah cloth and underwear may show many different colors and shades. b) We assume that red and any shade of red are blood. c) We assume black is dried up blood. d) Always ask a Rabbi (i) Different Rabbis have different guidelines (ii) What may appear red, may in fact not render her a niddah and vice versa. (iii) Often, the determination of the Rabbi tends to be more lenient that one’s own assessment. 3
  • 12. 3. Process to Become Ritually Pure 1. A woman who becomes a niddah, must wait a minimum of five days from the onset of the bleeding. a) This is true whether she becomes a niddah due to her period or as the result of a stain. b) The five day count includes the day she begins to bleed (even if she starts bleeding right before sunset) and the day she attempts the first bedikah, the hefsek taharah. So for example if the period began on Monday, the woman may attempt the hefsek taharah on Friday. c) When a woman has her period, this is usually not relevant, since she will usually bleed for at least five days. 2. When at least five days pass and the bleeding stops, the woman performs a bedikah. a) As mentioned, this first bedikah is known as a hefsek taharah. b) It is the strictest of all the bedikahs. c) Before performing the hefsek taharah, the woman should wash the vaginal area thoroughly in order to remove any residual blood. d) If the hefsek taharah shows no blood, this bedikah is “successful” and the woman may move on to the next stage in the process (counting the seven clean days). (i) If the hefsek taharah does show blood, the woman must wait until the next day to try again. (ii) However, a woman may try the hefsek taharah several times on the same day. e) The woman must perform the hefsek taharah before sunset. (i) If she performs the hefsek taharah after sunset, it is considered as if she performed it the next day (a) Which means she cannot begin counting the seven clean days until the following night. (ii) The optimal time for the hefsek taharah is about a half an hour or an hour before sunset. (a) That way, if the hefsek taharah was unsuccessful (i.e. the cloth showed blood) she can try again. (b) However, a woman should not try more than two or three times, as she risks irritating the vaginal area and causing it to bleed. (iii) If the woman will be busy before sunset and will not have time, she can perform the hefsek taharah earlier in the day, even in the 4
  • 13. morning if need be. (iv) In the summer months, on Friday afternoon, she should try to perform the hefsek taharah before the congregation has recited Kabbalas Shabbos in synagogue, but it is not imperative. f) The hefsek taharah, as well as the other bedikahs, must be very thorough, reaching every area of the vagina. g) If the vaginal area is a bit sore, a woman may use lubricating jelly. (i) She should wait about 10-15 minutes after inserting the jelly before performing the bedikah. (ii) Note that lubricating with jelly on Shabbos can be problematic; consult a Rabbi. 3. Once a woman performs the hefsek taharah and it is successful (i.e. the bedikah cloth showed no blood), if she can (i.e. it will not irritate her vagina), she should place a bedikah cloth in her vagina beginning at sunset for a period of 45 minutes (i.e. until night begins). a) This is known as a moch dachuk (÷åçã êåî). 4. Once a woman has successfully performed a hefsek taharah, that night begins the seven clean days. a) Each day of seven clean days the woman should perform two bedikahs: one in the morning and one before sunset. b) In addition, she should check her underwear every day to ensure her underwear is clean of any blood as well. c) If any of the bedikahs reveal blood, she must start the entire process again beginning with the hefsek taharah. (i) In such a case, the woman need not wait the 5 days mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. (ii) Rather, she may try a hefsek taharah immediately that same day. d) The most important bedikahs are one on the first day and one on the seventh day. (i) If she forgets to do at least one bedikah on the first day or at least one on the seventh day, ask a Rabbi as it may nullify the seven clean days causing her to begin the entire process over again. (ii) If she forgets any of the other bedikahs during the seven clean days, ex post facto it is not a problem and she may continue the seven clean days. e) During the seven clean days, she should wear white underwear. f) If possible, she should use white sheets. g) During seven clean days, she may take a shower or bath, but she should avoid washing the vaginal area in a thorough manner. 5. There will be circumstances when some of the above mentioned steps may be eliminated. For example: 5
  • 14. a) Immediately following marriage when the vaginal area is normally sore b) Following birth, again, when the vaginal area is often sore c) We will discuss these two cases in more detail later. 6. After the seven clean days have passed and no blood is seen, the woman is ready to go the mikvah. 6
  • 15. 4. Activities Prohibited during Niddah 1. Marital relations are prohibited by Torah injunction. 2. Kissing and hugging are prohibited. 3. Intimate conversation should be avoided. a) Discussing laws of niddah is permitted. b) “Intimate conversation” does not include expressions of love. 4. Husband and wife may not touch each other. a) This includes not touching the other spouse’s clothing (that the spouse is wearing) 5. Husband and wife may not hand or throw items to each other a) However, one spouse may take an object from the other’s lap, but may not place an object there. b) A baby may be passed from one spouse to the other once the baby is old enough to stretch out its hands toward its parents. 6. Husband and wife may not eat together on the same table unless they employ some sort of change from their normal routine. For example: a) Placing a table mat under one spouse’s plate. b) Placing some object (e.g. food not being used for the meal) between the two of them. c) Changing seats d) If there are other people around, there is no need for any deviation. 7. Husband and wife may not eat directly from the same plate. a) However, if one spouse places the food in his/her plate first before eating the food, that is permissible. b) This law is especially relevant when driving together in a car. So one spouse should make sure to place his/her food in a separate napkin. 8. The husband may not eat his wife’s leftovers. a) However, if he transfers the food or drink to his plate or cup, that is permissible. 9. Husband and wife must employ a change from their normal routine when serving each other food. For example: a) Not placing the food directly in front of the other spouse, but off to the side a bit b) Placing the food down using the weaker hand 10. The husband may not pass wine to his wife even via someone else. This restriction often poses difficulties at kiddush time. Some suggestions include: 7
  • 16. a) The husband may place the kiddush cup in front of him and his wife may then take the cup on her own. b) It is only prohibited for the husband to pass his wife wine if the cup of wine is meant specifically for her. Therefore, even if the wife is not sitting right next to the husband, the husband may pour wine into cups and pass them around the table having no specific intent as to who should receive each cup. 11. The husband may not look at the parts of his wife’s body that she normally keeps covered when in the confines of her own house. a) For example, the husband may see his wife’s hair uncovered if she normally doesn’t cover her hair in the house. 12. The husband may not sit on his wife’s bed even if she is not in the room at the time. a) The wife may sit on her husband’s bed as long as he is not in the room at the time. 13. Husband and wife may not sleep in the same bed. a) In addition, their beds may not touch one another. b) If possible, the beds should be placed an arm’s length apart. 14. Husband and wife may not make the other spouse’s bed while in the spouse’s presence. 15. Husband and wife may not sit together on anything that moves due of their weight, unless they are traveling for a specific need (i.e. not just taking a pleasure trip). a) They may not sit together on the same sofa cushion, but may sit on different cushions, even on the same sofa. b) They may sit together on the same seat if in a car. 16. If one spouse is sick and requires the other’s assistance, consult a Rabbi. 8
  • 17. 5. Preparation for Going to the Mikvah 1. Before going to the mikvah, a woman must remove any substance that might act as a separation between her body and the waters of the mikvah. In order to remove all such separations and prepare to enter the mikvah, a woman performs a preparatory process called hafifah (äôéôç) before going to the mikvah. This preparation process includes among other things: a) Carefully washing all the parts of a woman’s body while taking a long bath and shower. b) Thoroughly combing her hair c) Cutting her nails 2. This preparation may be done either at home or at the mivkah, wherever the woman is more comfortable. a) If she chooses to do the preparation at home, when she arrives at the mikvah, she should at least comb her hair before immersing in the mikvah. 3. Optimally, the woman should begin this preparation before sunset, and continue until after nightfall (about 45 minutes after sunset). a) Immediately thereafter, the woman immerses in the mikvah. b) If a woman cannot begin the preparation process before night, she may do the entire preparation at night. However she should make sure not to rush herself. 4. There are certain situations when this preparation cannot be done in the optimal way: a) If the mikvah night falls out on Friday night, the woman should do the preparation at home on Friday afternoon, light candles at the normal time, and then go to the mikvah after nightfall. b) If the mikvah night falls out on Saturday night, the woman should begin the process by taking a bath and cutting her nails on Friday afternoon. Then on Saturday night, before immersing in the mikvah, she should shower and comb her hair. (i) If a woman is unable to begin the preparation on Friday afternoon (e.g. she has no time) or if she forgot, she performs the entire preparation on Saturday night, but she should be careful not to rush herself. c) If the mikvah night falls out on Friday night, and Thursday and Friday are Yom Tov, she should do the preparation on Wednesday afternoon. (i) The entire Yom Tov, she should be careful not to get too dirty and not to get her hair tangled (since she won’t be able to take a 9
  • 18. shower before immersing in the mikvah). d) If the mikvah night falls out on Saturday night, and Thursday and Friday are Yom Tov, she should consult a Rabbi. 5. The entire day before a woman goes to the mikvah, she should try to avoid eating any chicken or meat. a) If the mikvah night falls out on Saturday night or the night after a Yom Tov, she may eat chicken and meat. b) In addition, if her refusal to eat meat will be conspicuous (e.g. she is eating at another person’s house), she may eat meat. 6. The entire day before she goes to the mikvah, a woman should try to avoid handling any sticky substances (for example: baking bread, unless it is Friday afternoon). 7. Preferably, a woman should not eat anything between the preparation and immersing in the mikvah. 10
  • 19. 6. Separations 1. As mentioned in chapter 5, any substance which might act as a separation between a woman’s body and the waters of the mikvah must be removed prior to immersing in the mikvah. 2. Most substances should be fairly simple to remove; however, some types of substances present more complex situations and a Rabbi should be consulted in such circumstances. 3. Some common situations include: a) Stitches are probably considered a separation (unless the stitches are of the kind that dissolves into the skin). b) Contact lenses should be removed. c) Splinters should be removed. d) A scab might present a problem, depending on how fresh the wound is. e) Corns and calluses are not a problem. f) A cast is definitely a separation. g) An ink stain is not a separation, but nonetheless an attempt should be made to try and remove it. h) A paint stain would present a problem. i) Nail polish and all makeup must be removed. 4. As mentioned, when in doubt, always consult a Rabbi. The above cases are mentioned only to give you an idea as to the types of things to be concerned about. 11
  • 20. 7. Immersing in the Mikvah 1. One should not postpone the mikvah night, except under unusual circumstances. Consult a Rabbi when in doubt. 2. Immersion in the mikvah, under almost all circumstances, must be done after nightfall. If this is not possible, consult a Rabbi. 3. The mikvah attendant will usually check the immersing woman’s body for any substance which might act as a separation immediately before she enters the mikvah. 4. When the woman immerses, the mikvah attendant checks to make sure that all her hair is submerged under water. 5. Under water, a woman need not open her eyes and mouth, but she should not shut them tightly either. 6. The blessing is made following the immersion while the woman is still standing in the water. It is customary to immerse a second time or third time following the blessing. 7. When a woman arrives home after immersing, she should inform her husband that she has gone to the mikvah. 8. If possible, one should not inform anyone, or make it obvious to anyone, that tonight is the mikvah night a) Unless a need arises; for example: one needs to ask a Rabbi a question, or a guest might need to inform her host. 12
  • 21. 8. Caution Days 1. Once a woman immerses in the mikvah, there are no restrictions with regard to the relationship between husband and wife. 2. However, near the time when a woman anticipates her period might soon arrive, there are certain days we are more concerned that she will get her period. a) We will call these days caution days. b) During these caution days (the next section will discuss how the caution days are determined), marital relations are forbidden. c) No additional prohibitions apply1. 3. The calculation of the caution days depends on a woman’s menstrual cycle. There are two types of menstrual cycles: a) A predictable cycle with a set schedule, meaning that the period always arrives at a predictable time (for example: the period always arrives on the 30th day following the previous period. We will examine more examples later). (i) For women who have such a predictable cycle, there is only one caution day she would need to be concerned about getting her period: the day on which the period should arrive based upon her pattern. (ii) On that day, husband and wife are forbidden in relations. b) A cycle with no predictable schedule. The period arrives at random times in the cycle. (i) Unless a woman has established a predictable menstrual cycle, she is considered to have an unpredictable cycle. (ii) For women with an unpredictable cycle there are a number of caution days when we are concerned she might have her period: (a) Day of the Month -- the day exactly one (Hebrew) month from when her previous period began (e.g. if her previous period began on the 14th day of Nissan, the next month, the 14th day of Iyar would be a caution day and husband and wife would be forbidden in relations). (b) Interval – Calculate the number of days between the beginnings of her last two periods. On the day that corresponds to that interval since her last period, husband and wife are forbidden from engaging in 1 As a stringency, some avoid hugging and kissing as well. 13
  • 22. relations. For example, if there were 25 days between her last two periods, the 25th day from when her last period began would be a caution day. (c) Day 30 -- The 30th day from when her last period began2. The day the last period began is the first day of the count. c) To summarize: (i) A woman with a predictable cycle has only one caution day. (ii) A woman with an unpredictable cycle would have at most three caution days (although in some months the Day of the Month and Day 30 will coincide, yielding only two caution days). d) Important: Most women today have an unpredictable menstrual cycle and thus would be governed by the three above mentioned caution days. 4. Although we have been referring to them as caution days, in truth, husband and wife are only forbidden in relations for a half-day not a full 24 hours on the caution days. a) This half day is either from: (i) sunset to sunrise or (ii) sunrise to sunset b) When the woman last had her period determines when husband and wife will be forbidden to each other on the caution days (i) If her last period began during the night (sometime from sunset to sunrise) husband and wife will be forbidden to each other on the caution days only from sunset to sunrise (ii) If her last period began during the day (sometime from sunrise to sunset) husband and wife will be forbidden to each other on the caution days only from sunrise to sunset3 5. All of the aforementioned days and intervals are calculated based upon counting from when the last period began, no matter how long that period lasted. 6. On the caution days, a woman must perform two bedikahs, one at the beginning of the half day shift and one at the end. a) If the half day shift occurs during the night hours, she may perform the second bedikah when she wakes up in the morning. b) If she did not even perform one bedikah during the half day shift, she need not do a bedikah when she remembers. The only exception is on the Day 30 caution day. If she does not perform even one bedikah on that 2 As stringency, some also observe the 31st day from the previous period as an additional caution day. 3 As stringency, some also observe the previous half day period in addition to the main half day shift mentioned in the text. So for example, if the half day shift falls out on the night of the 13th day of Adar, some also refrain from relations the half day prior to that which would mean the daylight hours of the 12th of Adar. 14
  • 23. day, she is forbidden to her husband until she does a bedikah even though the 30th day has already passed. 7. What is considered a predictable cycle? a) Once a woman has had her period in some pattern three times in a row we consider her to have a predictable cycle. b) There are numerous examples of predictable patterns. Here are a few: (i) Pattern in the day of month. For example: (a) Same day of (Hebrew) month three months in a row (e.g. 14th of Nissan, 14th of Iyar, and 14th of Sivan). (b) Ascending day of month three straight months (e.g. 14th of Nissan, 15th of Iyar, 16th of Sivan) or descending day of month three straight times. (ii) Pattern in interval of days between periods. For example: (a) Same interval between periods three consecutive times (e.g. period always arrives 28 days apart). (b) Ascending interval between periods (e.g. woman has period 28 days from her last period then has a 29 day interval and then a 30 day interval) or descending interval between periods (30, 29, 28). These cases can become complicated and a Rabbi should be consulted should they occur. (iii) Pattern in bodily signs. (a) She gets a distinct sign on her body in a consistent and predictable pattern, three times in row. (b) For example, she gets a pimple on her back exactly two days before her period begins. (c) P.M.S., or a general feeling of ache, pains and irritability some time before her period does not qualify as a consistent, predictable sign. c) Once a pattern has been established and she is considered to have a predictable cycle, the laws can become complicated and a Rabbi should be consulted. 8. Oral contraception affects the menstrual cycle. A Rabbi should be consulted with regard to how it might affect the caution days. 9. All the above should convince one of the importance of keeping a calendar dedicated to listing all the details of the woman’s periods a) Recording which day the period began, what time, etc. 15
  • 24. 9. Hymenal Bleeding 1. Note: this chapter applies only to women who are virgins at the time of marriage. 2. Bleeding caused by the rupturing of the hymen due to relations at the beginning of the marriage, although not true menstrual bleeding, nonetheless causes a woman to become a niddah. 3. However, there is one exception to this rule: when a woman becomes a niddah due to hymenal bleeding, she need wait only four days before doing the hefsek taharah as opposed to the normal five. 4. In fact, even if a woman doesn’t bleed at all, she nonetheless becomes a niddah when the couple first consummates their marriage. 5. Once a woman becomes a niddah due to hymenal bleeding, the couple need not check the sheets for blood subsequent times they have relations unless the woman feels a lot of pain due to the relations. a) If the woman does experience a lot of pain and they find blood, she becomes a niddah again. b) This would also be true if she saw blood on any subsequent time as well. 6. Immediately following marriage, a woman will probably find it difficult to do bedikahs. Here are a few suggestions: a) She may use jelly to lubricate the vaginal area so as to make the bedikahs less painful. She should wait 10-15 minutes after inserting the jelly before doing the bedikah. b) The moch dockuk (see chapter 3 section 3) should not be inserted following the hefsek taharah (she only risks irritating the vaginal area even more). Only later in the marriage, when a woman ceases to experience irritation from the bedikahs should she begin the moch dachuk practice. c) If the bedikahs are in fact causing the woman pain and irritation, a Rabbi should be consulted -- oftentimes some of the bedikahs during the seven clean days may be eliminated. 16
  • 25. 10. Pregnancy and Childbirth 1. Even if a pregnancy test returns a positive result, husband and wife must nonetheless observe all the caution days mentioned in chapter 8. 2. A woman can become a niddah during pregnancy if she bleeds. a) Generally, a woman should not bleed during pregnancy. b) However, if she does bleed, after consulting the doctor (as bleeding during pregnancy can be dangerous) consult a Rabbi. 3. When a woman is in labor and close to giving birth, she becomes a niddah. a) A woman usually continues bleeding after pregnancy for about 6-8 weeks. b) This entire time she is considered a niddah, and all the strictures of niddah apply. 4. At the end of the bleeding, the woman performs a hefsek taharah and goes through seven clean days like any other niddah. 5. Just as at the beginning of marriage, a woman following childbirth will probably experience irritation due to the bedikahs. She should follow the same procedure outlined above in chapter 9, section 6, for the beginning of marriage. 6. Upon the birth of a boy, both the mother and father recite the blessing of Hatov VeHametiv (áèéîä áåèä). 7. Upon the birth of a girl, both the mother and father recite the blessing of Shehechiyanu (åðééçäù). 8. After the birth of a child, the first time the mother can make it to synagogue, the father should get an aliyah. 17
  • 26. 11. Caution Days Worksheet Nissan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Period (Day) 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Iyar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 16 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Period(night) 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Sivan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 28 26 27 28 29 30 18
  • 27. According to the above calendar, a woman’s period began in the month of Nissan on the 14th day. The next month, in Iyar her period began at night after the 17th day (which means, in effect her period began on the 18th of the month as all days in the Jewish calendar begin at night). Questions 1) In Nissan, when may she first attempt the hefsek taharah? When is the earliest night she might go to the mikvah? 2) In Iyar, when may she first attempt the hefsek taharah? When is the earliest night she might go to the mikvah? 3) Assuming this woman has an unpredictable menstrual cycle, what days are the caution days in Sivan? Will she observe the caution days at night or during the day? 19
  • 28. Answers 1) She may first attempt a hefsek taharah in the month of Nissan on the 18th day of Nissan. According to chapter 3 section 1, she must wait a minimum of 5 days including the day the period began. Therefore, counting 5 days: 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, we arrive at the 18th of the month. The earliest she might be able to immerse in the mikvah is the night of the 26th day of Nissan (i.e. the night after the 25th day of Nissan). From the first part we determined that she may attempt the hefsek taharah on the 18th. Assuming the hefsek taharah was clean, she then begins counting the seven clean days. Assuming those seven days showed no blood, we arrive at the 25th day. After the 7th day of the seven clean days, she may go to the mikvah. This means that after the 25th day, which is the night of the 26th day of Nissan, she may go to the mikvah. 2) She may first attempt a hefsek taharah in the month of Iyar on the 22nd day of Iyar. According to chapter 3 section 1, she must wait a minimum of 5 days including the day the period began. Therefore, counting 5 days: 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, we arrive at the 22nd of the month. The earliest she might be able to immerse in the mikvah is the night of the 30th day of Iyar (i.e. the night after the 29th day of Iyar). From the first part we determined that she may attempt the hefsek taharah on the 22nd. Assuming the hefsek taharah was clean, she then begins counting the seven clean days. Assuming those seven days showed no blood, we arrive at the 29th day. After the 7th day of the seven clean days, she may go to the mikvah. This means that after the 29th day, which is the night of the 30th day of Iyar, she may go to the mikvah. 3) As described in chapter 8 section 3(b), a woman with an unpredictable cycle has three caution days. Let’s take a look at each one: 20
  • 29. Day of the Month: Since she last had her period on the 18th of Iyar, she must observe the 18th day of Sivan as a caution day. Thus, we have determined the first caution day. Interval: First we must determine the interval between her last two periods remembering to include in the count both days when the periods began. Starting at the 14th day of Nissan and continuing to the 18th of Iyar we arrive at a total of 35 days. Now, starting at the 18th of Iyar and counting 35 days forward (again including the 18th of Iyar in the count) we arrive at the 23rd day of Sivan. This is the second caution day. Day 30: Thirty days since the last period. Remembering that we include the day the period began as the first day and counting 30 days forward we arrive at the 18th day of Iyar, which happens to be the same as the Day of the Month. Thus, in this month, she will have only 2 caution days. Using the rule stated in chapter 8 section 4(b), since her last period began at night, all caution days for Sivan will be observed at night (i.e. from sunset to sunrise). Therefore, in our example, the husband and wife are forbidden in relations the night of the 18th of Sivan (i.e. right after the day of the 17th) and the night of the 23rd day of Sivan (i.e. right after the day of the 22nd). 21
  • 30. Use this blank calendar to practice another caution days calculation Nissan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Iyar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 16 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Sivan 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 28 26 27 28 29 30 22
  • 31. Appendix: Jewish Attitudes toward Intimacy General society tends to take one of two divergent approaches toward intimacy, both bordering on the extremes. Western society preaches a very open and free approach toward intimacy: anything goes. There are no rules, and if it feels good, then go for it; sexuality is not limited in any way. Examples abound as to this kind of attitude. Women's clothing, even clothing meant for girls, emphasizes exhibitionism and crude immodesty. Adultery is not a crime but merely grounds for divorce. For much of western society, there are no limits, and the revolution of the sixties has become the norm. All sexuality is viewed as inherently “good” and should therefore be pursued in any manner possible. On other hand, many religions take the exact opposite approach. Intimacy, by its very nature, is shameful and immoral. It can be tolerated within marriage, but merely as a necessary evil. On the contrary, the ideal spiritual state is to commit one's life to abstinence and avoid the filth of the original sin. Intimacy is viewed as inherently “bad” and should be avoided to whatever extent possible. In many ways, these two notions radicalize each other, pushing each further to the extreme. The more permissive society becomes, the more restrictive and limiting the religious attitude becomes, pushing back with an equal and opposite force. And the more insistent the religious attitude becomes, the more indulgent society becomes, equally forceful of their agenda of indecency and overexposure. For many reasons, the misconception has unfortunately developed that Judaism adopts the latter approach: that intimacy, in whatever context, is merely tolerated; the body is shameful, and the Rabbis frown on sexuality in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. In general, Judaism abhors extremes, preferring instead Maimonides' “golden mean.” The greatest danger of any extreme is the lack of balance; adopting an extreme makes one prone to vacillate to the other extreme. Indeed, we find many “religious” leaders who espouse and preach a life of “purity” -- free from any and all sexuality and intimacy -- are later caught ensconced in the most sordid sexual 23
  • 32. scandals. A lack of grounding and balance causes a person's inner pendulum to swing back and forth between extremes. Rather, Judaism teaches that intimacy and sexuality are neither inherently good nor bad. As with most everything in life, sexuality has the potential for good and bad. However, as intimacy is among the most potent forces that exist in the world, the potential is proportional to the strength. Context, as always, is key. When used in the wrong context, sexuality has the potential to wreak incredible spiritual destruction. Pornography, extra marital relations, the general permissiveness of western society all conspire to rob us of the gift of sexuality and use it to destroy the foundations of family, and the sanctity of the human soul. However, within the context of a loving marriage, and within the strictures of niddah, intimacy has the power to infuse holiness and Godliness into the union that no other force can. In such a context, sexuality becomes a tool of connection and sacred relationship, of bringing the marriage closer to God. Certainly, at the most basic level, the Torah desires intimacy for the sake of procreation and inhabiting God’s universe. But on a deeper level, intimacy provides a way to strengthen the bond between husband, wife and God Himself. Intimacy allows a husband and wife to connect in a most powerful way, thus creating the most intense and profound relationship possible. God attaches Himself to a union forged in such a manner. Indeed, the Talmud declares that when a husband and wife are intimate, in a loving and permitted fashion, the Divine Presence itself rests with them. Certainly, such a statement should disabuse any notion of Judaism frowning upon a healthy intimate relationship between husband and wife. 24