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A Foundation of Love

by Rabbi Dov Aharoni Fisch

  

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The Jewish home is not just an accidental unit where a man, woman, and children live. It is a sacred unit, the quintessential core of Jewish existence, and the wellspring of Jewish values from which a child draws spiritual sustenance for a lifetime. The Jewish home is where the Sabbath is observed, the laws of Kashrut are brought to life, and the Torah is studied.

The Jewish community is founded on the Jewish home, and the Jewish home is founded on the husband and wife relationship.

The Talmud discusses in depth the importance of marriage and marital harmony, extolling the husband and wife relationship. The Rabbis teach that a man should "love his wife as himself and honor her more than himself." Maimonides1  interprets this passage by saying that a man is required to speak softly and kindly to his wife, never treating her with anger or causing her sorrow.

The Talmud2teaches that the husband-wife relationship is a union conceived in heaven, the highest form of interpersonal love. "Rabbi Tanchum stated in the name of Rabbi Chanilai, 'A Jew who has no wife lives without joy, without blessing, and without goodness', Rav bar Ulla added, 'And without peace.'"

A Jewish marriage is a sacred institution, and the love between a husband and wife is a pure and sanctified love. The laws of Taharat Hamishpachah (Family Purity) and Mikvah create the holiness of the marital relationship. These Halachot strengthen the home and the family.

It may be said that a husband and wife who observe Family Purity are the ultimate "romantics" - honeymooning some twelve times a year
A full study of Taharat Hamishpachah would be beyond the scope of this discussion. A husband and wife may engage in marital relations until the time of month when the woman menstruates. Seven days after the woman's menstrual flow ceases (but not before the twelfth day since the beginning of the period), she immerses in the mikvah. After she fulfills this Mitzvah, she and her husband may once again engage in physical relations. Taharat Hamishpachah rejuvenates the marriage monthly. The longing for physical expression gives way on the day of immersion to an experience which parallels the original "honeymoon" experience.

During the time that a couple may not be together physically, they relate to each other in non-physical ways, talking and sharing. The couple develops meaningful ways to express love, affection, and appreciation, transcending the physical.

A Young Jewish woman described her experience of going to mikvah and its effect on her marriage:
"Once at the mikvah, I found a very clean and modern facility. I also found complete and detailed instructions on how to prepare. I enjoyed the preparation immensely and still do.

Never in my daily life do I allow myself the luxury of more than half an hour in the [bath] and the complete attention to my physical self from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. How happy I was to rediscover myself! When I went into the mikvah, the water was warm, friendly and accepting. I said the brachah (blessing), submerged myself a second time,3  and came out feeling really renewed.

The ritual of going to the mikvah has had the hoped-for effect on our marriage. We have two weeks free from sexual pressures and demands. I find that during this time I feel closer to G-d, meditate more often, and study more easily. Our time together is really together, precious because it won't last forever, treasured by both of us. During that time, I feel closer to the material human world and seem to have more energy for all people - not only my husband."

It may be said that a husband and wife who observe Taharat Hamishpachah are the ultimate "romantics" - honeymooning some twelve times a year. The halachot of Taharat Hamishpachah uplift the sexual act to a sublime experience.

The Torah was given to the Jews to uplift them beyond the plane of human wisdom. Taharat Hamishpachah strengthens family life, engenders peace between the couple, and sanctifies the mundane. The fulfillment of this mitzvah has a profound influence on one's family and on all past and future generations.

Reprinted with permission from the author, Rabbi Dov Aharoni Fisch. Adapted from "Jews for nothing: on cults, inter-marriage, and assimilation" (pages 336-345), 1984, Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem.

Copied with permission from www.mikvah.org.

Footnotes

  • 1. Hilchot Ishut 15:19.
  • 2. Yevamot, 62b.
  • 3. The number of times one immerses depends on individual custom.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Purity » The Benefits

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Halachot
Laws governing the Jewish way of life.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Kashrut
Laws of Kosher (Jewish dietary laws).
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.