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Difficulty with dam betulim

19 October, 2009

Question:

I am a man who has a question about dam betulim. Personally, I have a problem with the entire concept seeing how it is quite obvious that if the timing of the wedding is done right, the blood seen is non-uterine. Add in the fact that especially in this day and age where people get married much later than in the past and are bombarded with millions of sexual images over the course of their lifetimes, I feel like halacha expecting people to get a very small taste of what they have been waiting for and then abstain from it for at least 11 days is almost too much to ask.

The halachot of shomer negia and nidda are already in place. A couple has already platonically been developing their relationship for their entire courtship. They will continue to do so every time the wife is niddah. But to expect them to be forced to do so as soon as they get married while not being able to touch each other is simply impossible to understand.

To be shomer negia is truly the most difficult test there is in life for a single man. The main motivation that I have personally to not give in to the overwhelming drive is the idea that my patience will be worth it on my wedding night. That only as a virgin will I truly be able to connect for the first time with the woman I love and also that my first sexual experience being with her in kedusha instead of some random woman in tuma will be, much, much better.

However, if all I can look forward to is realistically thirty awkward seconds, followed by two weeks of not even being able to cuddle, this dream turns into a nightmare.

If abstinence right after marriage is so important, then why don't people need it when the wife is remarrying? Why not when the wife is a baalat tshuva? Why not when the couple gave in to their temptation during the dating?

On this website it is written (I think in regard to cases such as imperforate hymen): "Halachically, however, a hymenectomy is permissible if necessary. If a physician can state that the hymen was completely removed by surgery or due to injury, a woman does not have to keep the rules of dam betulim."

My question is whether women with no physical reason for a hymenectomy are allowed to get one to prevent the occurrence of dam betulim. Basically, can the couple decide that psychological stress that would result from abstention would make a hymenectomy "necessary"?

Thank you


Answer:

While the physical aspect of a relationship is indeed important, it is not the sole culmination and focus of the marriage. It is very important to be able to step back and develop your relationship beyond the sexual realm. For many couples, the first sexual experience can be extremely overwhelming, exhausting and stressful. The halachically mandated separation period afterwards gives the couple an opportunity to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally and work on those aspects of the relationship.

Although the separation for dam betulim has its benefits as well as its drawbacks, the halachic reasons for the separation are based on the possibility of hymenal bleeding. Therefore, the halachot do not apply in the examples you give, where hymenal bleeding will not occur.

There are several reasons brought by different rishonim (medieval authorities) for the halacha of dam betulim. The prominent ones are that, although dam betulim is a makkah (blood from an injury and not uterine bleeding), it is an enactment which is kept only once in a lifetime and therefore we are stringent, even though usually non-uterine blood does not make a woman niddah.  Another widely held explanation among the rishonim is that because of the pain or discomfort some uterine blood may be expelled and is indistinguishable from the dam betulim

Any surgical procedure can lead to irritation or scarring that can cause its own problems and thus medically we do not recommend the routine removal of the hymen prior to marriage.  Further, having surgery where there is no medical nor serious emotional need may be halachically forbidden by the prohibition of chabalah (cutting/wounding oneself). However, when we wrote that this procedure would be halachically permitted when necessary, emotional as well as physical considerations are relevant. Thus, if the woman feels that she would suffer serious psychological stress from separating due to dam betulim, it would be permissible to have a hymenectomy performed. Please note that the man should not pressure his future wife to have this procedure performed. The stress should be from her perspective, as she is the one undergoing the procedure.

Note that many woman who hormonally regulate their cycle in order to prevent chupat niddah arrange to get their period shortly after the wedding (taking care to continue the pills until the marriage is consummated) coinciding with the dam betulim separation period. Thus, the impact of this separation period is reduced, as it is incorporated into the regular niddah cycle.

For many couples the first experience is indeed awkward, uncomfortable and unsatisfying. It takes time for the couple to figure out what works, what feels good, etc.  But that does not mean that you should dread your wedding night. You should not rush through your first sexual experience. You should ease into it, spending time on hugging, kissing, touching each other, speaking affectionately to each other. If your wedding will end late at night, do not push yourself to complete relations that night – take another day to build up to it. We strongly recommend that you speak with your rabbi or chatan teacher who can give you practical guidance to prepare you for your wedding night.

While Hashem created us with strong sexual desires, He also gave us the will to overcome those desires. You have been able to overcome the physical tempatations so far, but those challenges do not end as soon as you get married. Taharat hamishpacha can often be a difficult challenge; however knowing that soon you will be reunited with your wife does ease that struggle.  We hope that you will be able to overcome this initial separation and view it as a temporary setback in the larger picture, and that you will have many many years together with your wife in which to elevate the sexual realm into one of kedusha. 

B'Hatzlacha!


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