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

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Why must women immerse but not men?

25 January, 2021

Question:

I recently learned that men used to have an obligation to immerse after experiencing a seminal emission, but that they don’t have to anymore. Can you please explain why men are excused from this obligation but women must continue to immerse after menstruating? It seems somewhat imbalanced and dare I say unfair.


Answer:

We understand why the different requirements for women and men may at first appear imbalanced and even unfair. We hope that providing a bit of context for these halachot helps to explain the difference.

In a measure intended to moderate sexual activity, Ezra decreed that men who had seminal emissions would require ritual immersion before praying or studying Torah. This decree was never universally accepted, however, and was annulled during the Talmudic period.

Most other laws related to tum’ah, ritual impurity, aren’t practiced today. In the absence of the Temple and the red heifer ritual, everyone is considered ritually impure.

Niddah is unique because it is more than just a matter of tum’ah. The Torah prohibits sexual relations during niddah, a Biblical prohibition that remains in full force. Therefore, to this day, a woman needs to immerse in order to resume a physical relationship with her husband, as a matter of Torah law.

Please write back to us with any further questions.


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