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

  • Hebrew
  • English
  • Espnaol
  • Francais
  • donate

Purpose of harchakot

25 February, 2004


I understand that if I bleed during pregnancy I am considered a niddah. However, if sexual intercourse has been medically prohibited due to this condition, are the harchakot necessary? After all the only purpose of the harchakot is to avoid intercourse.


There are actually three levels of interaction which are restricted during niddah.

Intercourse is prohibited by Torah law.

Affectionate physical contact, such as hugging and kissing, is also not permitted. According to some authorities this is a Torah prohibition; according to others it is d'rabbanan.

The harchakot are rabbinic enactments that modify the day-to-day interactions of the couple. This enables them to "switch modes" so that they can more easily avoid both intercourse and affectionate physical contact. The harchakot are applicable whenever a woman is niddah, even if there is no possibility of intercourse.

Unfortunately, people do not become immune to temptation when intercourse is forbidden, whether for halachic or medical reasons. The harchakot are intended specifically to prevent couples from forgetting themselves at a time when intercourse is prohibited by Torah law. Therefore, they remain in effect even when intercourse is medically proscribed.

This internet service does not preclude, override or replace the psak of any rabbinical authority. It is the responsibility of the questioner to inform us of any previous consultation or ruling. As even slight variation in circumstances may have Halachic consequences, views expressed concerning one case may not be applied to other, seemingly similar cases. All health and health-related information contained within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is intended to be general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for consulting with your health care professional. The advice is intended to offer a basis for individuals to discuss their medical condition with their health care provider but not individual advice. Although every effort is made to ensure that the material within Nishmat's Women's Health & Halacha Web site is accurate and timely, it is provided for the convenience of the Web site user but should not be considered official. Advice for actual medical practice should be obtained from a licensed health care professional.

For further questions or comments: 

The Nishmat Women's Health and Halacha Site is a public service of Nishmat, The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women. This project and others like it are made possible by contributions from people like you. If you have benefited from the service, and wish to enable us to help others, click here to donate.

Users of Internet filtering services: This site discusses sensitive subjects that some services filter without visual indication. A page that appears 100% complete might actually be missing critical Jewish-law or medical information. To ensure that you view the pages accurately, ask the filtering service to whitelist all pages under

Accessibility Toolbar