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What is Family Purity?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » Women & Judaism » Women's Mitzvot » Family Purity | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A. When it comes to the human psyche it is difficult to think of something more powerful than intimacy. What is the nature of that power; does it control us, or do we control it? In today’s world (and for all of history) that is a difficult question to answer. But why are we so vulnerable to its prowess? If G-d gave intimacy this extraordinary power, doesn’t it make sense that G-d would give us guidelines - a medium - to control it and use to its maximum potential? Indeed, He did. We call this medium: Family Purity.

B. The laws of Family Purity take a complex part of life with many emotional strings and bring it to a whole new level of meaning. It elevates the man, the woman, and their relationship. Observance of this Mitzvah introduces a Divine aspect to the marriage, which brings blessings to the entire family and added blessings for a healthy pregnancy, labor, and child. Plus, it can keep a relationship fresh and exciting:

C. Have you heard of the steamboat that ran out of steam, because the captain wasted it all sounding the foghorn? Sometimes our relationships get like that--we waste all our desire unnecessarily, not having enough or any when we need it. An added advantage of Family Purity is it helps us avoid this problem. It sets limits so we have the steam we need for when we need it. It gets you and your spouse into a certain rhythm: waxing and waning, drawing close and then drawing apart, so that you can draw close again: Judaism's idea of the Perpetual Honeymoon. Do anything all the time, and you are bound to get bored of it. Stop and start, stop and start, and it stays fresh.

The first requirement of Family Purity is adopting the perspective that marriage is more than the flesh.
D. The Laws of Family Purity set up the exact definitions of this rhythm: what you can do, when, and how. Basically, for about 12-14 days each month1 husband and wife avoid the base. They don’t physically touch--but they touch each other emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. At the end of each period of separation the wife. goes to the Mikvah, immersing herself in the waters of purity and life, as a spiritual prelude to the return of physical intimacy. (see What is a Mikvah?).

Footnotes

  • 1. Beginning with the onset of the woman's menstrual period and continuing for seven days after its conclusion.

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COMMENTS

Family purity laws

Posted by: Andrea Teitelbaum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Mar 21, 2005

What happens when a Jewish woman reaches menopause? Is a husband who has intercourse with his post-menopausal wife wasting his seed?

Editor's Comment

No, it is not considered wasted seed: a) sacred intimacy between husband and wife is hardly a waste. b) According to the teachings of kabbalah, every holy union between husband and wife creates holy souls. Some occupy physical bodies, and others remain in the spiritual realms. 

husband and wife

Posted by: Anonymous, Germany on Jan 27, 2007

what about the wife being pregnant? Are they allowed to be together then or do they have to keep the same laws on the days where she would have her period?

Editor's Comment

In general, the laws of separation apply only when a woman had her period or found a stain etc. There is an additional restriction prohibiting engaging in marital relations at the time when she would be expecting her period. The later restriction applies during the first three months of pregnancy. Ask you local rabbi for more details.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Purity » The Laws

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
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.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
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.