Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Physical contact before marriage

30 November, 2005

Question:

I am dating a Ba'al Teshuvah man. We are both in our 30s. Although I was not raised Orthodox, I am increasingly observant , particularly because of my current relationship. Neither of us are virgins but we have both decided to refrain from having sex until marriage (hopefully OUR marriage B'H!)

Anyway, my question refers to the Laws of Niddah.

Before we get married, do my boyfriend and I have to refrain from having any physical contact during my period? Obviously, not being married, I can't go to the mikveh afterwards – so I am really confused as to where that leaves us. We are intimate to a degree (we kiss, cuddle etc) but as we have only recently started dating, this is the first time this situation has arisen and we aren't sure what to do.

Please don't tell me that we can't have any physical contact at all until we are married, because (and I certainly don't wish to sound disrespectful here), I don't think we could handle that.

I really hope you can help!


Answer:

You have made a long and important journey to get to where you are today. We are pleased to hear of your efforts and achievements, and wish you all the best in your new relationship. We do understand that the prospect of refraining from all physical contact before marriage may seem like an overwhelming challenge. Nevertheless, the halacha states quite clearly that such contact is not permitted. The logic is as follows:

A  woman is considered niddah from the time she gets her period until she has counted seven clean days and immersed in a mikveh. A single woman is niddah not only when she actually has her period, but from the first time she menstruates until the eve of her wedding when she immerses in a mikveh. Since she is continuously niddah, affectionate physical contact with a man is prohibited at all times, no matter where she is in her cycle. There is an additional, independent, prohibition against intimate relations between a man and woman who are not married to each other, whether or not she is niddah.

What we are saying is hard. It can also be surprisingly rewarding. Many couples find that, when physical affection is suspended, they develop non-physical ways to express their love and ultimately deepen their emotional connection.

Bringing your relationship to a level of full observance will take willpower, patience, mutual support, and good communication. As you work towards this goal, any efforts you make, even for part of the month, are certainly commendable.

You can find more insights into this topic in the book The Magic Touch, by Gila Manolson. You might also find it helpful to discuss this further with a mentor in your community or with a yoetzet halacha through our telephone hotline.


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