Why must women immerse but not men?
25 January, 2021
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.
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.
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 yoatzot.org.