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Niddah: Why

Why is a couple prohibited from marital relations during the wife's menstruation? Doesn't this reduce the ability of a man and woman to connect through the deeper aspects of marriage? And isn't this whole thing discriminatory toward women?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Actually, the laws of family purity help increase intimacy between husband and wife, and it has nothing to do with "double standards," as we shall explain.

There is a spiritual concept called "tuma." Unfortunately mistranslated as "dirty," tuma is not a description of inferiority, impurity or uncleanliness. Rather, tuma is caused by the "loss of human life." For example, the dead body of a human being contains the greatest degree of tuma.

Similarly, after having marital relations, men are in a state of tuma, because of the loss of the "building blocks" of life within them (Leviticus 15:16). Women incur this state of tuma when they menstruate, because of the loss of potential life within them (Leviticus 15:19). The Talmud calls this a "whisper of death."

Intimacy in Judaism has a very specific meaning. When a man and woman express love for one another in a proper physical relationship, in which they view themselves as two halves of a whole, then a deep emotional-spiritual bond is formed. But if the physical relationship remains rooted primarily on the physical, that focus on self-gratification does not allow for the couple to become whole together.

The period of separation during menstruation enables the couple to achieve true love. This is because a strong yearning between the husband and wife begins to build. This separation also forces a verbal intimacy, since they are not allowed to touch each other. Real intimacy requires the mind and emotions. This painful longing for each other changes the relationship for the better, and when they resume the physical side it already includes the deep emotional-spiritual component.

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