Learning to evaluate stains
28 February, 2006
I would like to understand why women are not taught how to determine which stain makes them a nidda. Why should whatever knowledge rabbis or yoatzot possess to make these judgments not be accessible to every woman? This way they will not have to be completely reliant on others to determine their behavior in such a private area of their lives. This is particularly germane because many woman make their own judgments anyway to avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of having to call a rabbi. (There are few yoatzot in most areas of the world.)
Someone who is familiar with an area of halacha can often practice that halacha without consulting a rabbi. We do so everyday by deciding what bracha to make on the food we eat, for instance. With bedikot, however, there is much debate about the different colors which are problematic, and there are different traditions concerning those colors. The rules that govern which stains and bedikot put a woman in niddah are not identical to the assumptions most women make when evaluating whether they have their period. The Torah itself distinguishes "between [niddah] blood and [non-niddah] blood" (Devarim, 17:8). A Rabbi spends years doing shimush (attending training sessions with his rabbi) in order to learn which colors are acceptable in the tradition he carries. For a woman to train in assessing stains, she has to find a rabbi to train her and set aside hours upon hours for training.
In any case, colors which do not present a question – white and yellow discharges – need not be shown to a rabbi. A bedikah that has a bright red stain doesn't usually have to be looked at either, because it is obviously a niddah color (except if it comes at an unexpected time or under special circumstances, such as after a medical procedure, which may not make you niddah). Any color which is unclear – brown, pink, etc.- should be evaluated by a halachic expert in this field. If the same 'unclear' color recurs, you may ask your rabbi if this is a color which you have to bring to him in the future or if you can extrapolate from his recent ruling. In this way, your rabbi can train you over time where possible.
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