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

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Rarity of hargashah

28 September, 2004

Question:

I am tremendously impressed with the range of issues handled on the web site. My question is simply this: I remember being taught that women today do not experience/notice the hargashot that are referred in halacha. Yet, there is frequent mention of them on your site. What are the kinds of sensations that are today associated with a halachic hargasha? What do you tell women who report that they are "not sure if they had a hargasha?"

Thank you and success in your continued good work for Jewish family life.


Answer:

Thank you for the compliment. Hargashah is not well defined in written halachic sources. A number of possibilities are described 1) she feels her uterus open, 2) she feels her whole body shake, and 3) she feels an internal flow. Based on discussion with women, there are very few women who experience the first two (but, at least for the first, they do exist). The third one is reported by a greater number, although often in the middle of a menstrual period rather than at the beginning.

Different authorities take different approaches to the apparent rarity of hargashah today. One approach is to state that hargashot no longer exist. Therefore, if a woman thinks she has one, she is probably mistaken. Another approach is the opposite; most women do have hargashot. Therefore, if a woman says she does not, she in fact probably does but is not aware of it. Our approach is a middle ground. We try to assure that the sensation the woman describes fits into the halachic category of hargashah and not veset haguf (see articles for more details). If she does report that she experienced a hargashah, we assume she is correct.

Due to the overall rarity of real hargashah, our tendency would be to say that if she is not sure, she probably did not experience one (except in cases where the halacha assumes she did, such as after bedikot, marital relations or urination).

The above is a general summary. Each situation has to be judged individually.


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