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

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17 February, 2003

Question:

I am confused about certain stringencies regarding hilchot niddah. I understand that there are three parts of being a niddah–the days of bleeding–then the 7 clean days afterward–and the dipping in the Mikvah to become ritually pure again. I learned that there is a biblical prohibition against having sex during a woman's period, and that Rabbis added 7 clean days on to this to be extra safe. In addition, there are many restrictions added on to the "no sex" rule, to prevent sex, such as no touching at all, and even, no passing things. However, I don't understand why a couple can not pass things to one another, or even touch without having sex, during the 7 days after her bleeding stops. It seems that there are two levels of fences around this prohibited sex during unclean times–both with an extra week per cycle, and prohibitions from touching at all. It seems needlessly stressful for a couple to have to spend such a long period of time not touching, when the commandment is just not to have sex during a woman's bleeding. Thank you so much for helping me learn about this.


Answer:

You are correct that there are many levels of "fences" in this area of halacha. This may be because the desire for a couple to have physical contact is very real. While it is interesting to see how Jewish law has developed over time, it is important to realize that what is binding is the current status.

I think you would be less confused if you looked at niddah as a dichotomy. A woman has the status of niddah until she immerses in the mikveh, no matter how long after the cessation of bleeding that occurs. When she is a niddah, touching is forbidden. When she is not, it is permitted. As a woman cannot immerse in the mikveh until she has completed the seven days (and properly prepared herself for immersion), the couple is not permitted physical contact during this time. While this is challenging, it can be done. The couple can spend this time working on the non physical side of their relationship. Many couples find that avoidance of any touching makes the period of closeness even closer. 


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