Mourning & harchakot
22 June, 2005
As much as it is challenging and frustrating, my wife and I are extremely careful with Hilchot Nidah and I understand that they are applicable under even extreme circumstances, barring situations involving life and death or danger to health.
However, I have been wondering – what were to happen, G-d forbid, if a spouse experiences the loss of a close loved one – will the harchakot then still require that a comforting hug be delayed until after mikvah?
Yes, if the wife is in niddah, the harchakot apply immediately after a loss, rachmana litzlan.
If the husband or wife is sitting shivah, even when she is not in niddah, they are not supposed to hug or kiss or sleep in the same bed. Here the idea is that mourning cannot be reconciled with sexual relations. The aforementioned harchakot are instituted to take relations off the table. Most important, the way the spouse gives comfort is by adopting all the practices and strictures of mourning in the mourning spouse's presence.
Having been in a situation where I lost a loved one while in niddah, I can empathize with the desire for a hug in that situation. However, my husband found many effective non-physical ways of expressing his love and solidarity at that time. Since I understood the halacha and appreciated his efforts, I found this to be a real source of comfort and support.
In the autobiography of Glueckel of Hameln (17th-18th c.), there is a moving account of her husband on his deathbed when she was in niddah. He tells her that they had observed the halacha all their married lives and shouldn't violate the harchakot now. They are united by their mutual commitment to halacha.
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