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Niddah – Monthly Loss of Life

I was learning with a friend, and we were bothered why God created women in such a way that every month her potential to create life is lost. A man may not waste his seed and cause such potential life to be lost. Why did God seem to force this on women?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Thank you for raising the important issue. In fact, this is not the way God originally created women. The entire concept that women have and lose the potential to create life each month, and the spiritual impurity (tumah) associated with this loss, was one of the punishments Eve received for partaking of the Tree of Knowledge.

When Eve sinned, God decreed upon her (among other punishments) “I will greatly increase your sorrow” (Genesis 3:16). The Talmud sees in this an allusion to menstruation (see Eiruvin 100b).

In fact, menstruation is almost unique to human beings (and some of the other primates). Every month, as a woman ovulates, the lining of her uterus thickens, accompanied by many other physical and hormonal changes, in preparation for carrying and nurturing a new life. If there is no pregnancy, the entire process is undone. The body returns to its previous state, expelling the additional lining and its accompanying blood.

As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan observes, this is an extremely inefficient and harrowing cycle, creating the building blocks for life monthly only to tear them down if no pregnancy results. And beyond the primates, almost no other animal experiences this. The lining and the additional blood are simply reabsorbed into the body at the end of the reproductive cycle.

Yet this has become the fate of women after the Sin. Some of the most beautiful aspects of humanity, marital relations and bearing children, would now come only with great difficulty. With the sin, man’s physical side lost much of its sanctity. It was no longer a pure reflection of his spiritual side and had lost its eternality. Man’s body is now physical and finite. It is destined to decay and die, only to be recreated on a higher state after the Resurrection. Tumah, spiritual impurity, is the result of man’s coming in contact with death and man’s mortality, the effects of his fallen state.

Likewise man’s ability to create life has become much more difficult and inefficient. A woman has the potential to create life, but only for a short time and through a difficult and uncomfortable cycle of constantly building and destroying. And she too, when she comes face to face with her fallen state, experiences a state of impurity.

See the pamphlet Waters of Eden by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan for a much more thorough treatment of this important topic.

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