The laws of family purity.
1. The Torah sanctifies all the aspects of the life of a Jew – work, eating, dealing with other people. Indeed, the relationship between husband and wife is especially important according to the Torah. Only a married individual is called a person in a full sense of the word. Together, a married couple can do the most holy rectification – bringing a new soul into this world. It is for this reason, that the Torah especially protects the relations of husband and wife by the most exalted laws of family purity. These laws not only bring happiness to the couple observing them but they also protect our families from a number of diseases. Even children born to couples observing the laws of family purity are less susceptible to a number of child diseases. Most importantly, the keeping of these laws brings Divine presence in our midst.
2. According to the Torah law, the closeness of husband and wife is forbidden during the time the wife is Nidah. The woman is considered Nidah from the beginning of her period until she immerses in the Mikvah. Any physical contact is forbidden throughout this time.
3. Different women have different periods and the beginning of menstruation is expected on different days. Relations are forbidden on the day when the period is likely to start but other physical contact is not forbidden until menstruation actually begins.
4. There are many various laws regarding counting the days of the period, we will only describe some of the most basic rules. Usually, the women keep track of the days when their menstruation begins by marking these days in a calendar, to make the calculation simpler. If one is not sure about how to count her period, she can always ask a knowledgeable woman or consult a Rabbi. For most women, there are three days every month, when the next period is likely to begin:
- 30 days after the beginning of the previous period
- the same day of the Jewish month, as the day the previous period started
- when the same length of time passes after the last period as between the last two periods.
For example, if the period starts on the fifth of Tamuz, and the next one begins on the eighth of Av, the expected dates of the next period are the seventh, the eight and the tenth of Elul. The reason for this is that 30 days after the previous period is the seventh of Elul, the same day of the month is the eighth of Elul and at last the tenth of Elul is as many days after the eighth of Av, as the eighth of Av after the seventh of Tamuz.
5. If a certain period gets repeated three times, as for example if three times in a row her period starts 25 days after the previous one, it becomes a stable period. Now, even if this period does not get repeated once or twice, we still expect it to come back until it gets skipped three times in a row.
6. According to most opinions, the prohibition to have relations applies only to the night or the day when the period is expected to start. Thus, in our example, if the menstruation began on the night of the eight of Av, the relations are forbidden only on the nights of the seventh, the eighth and the tenth of Elul. Similarly, if the menstruation started during the day of the eight of Av, the relations are forbidden only during the days of the seventh, the eighth and the tenth of Elul.
7. In certain cases the calculations of the period are also dependant on certain physical symptoms, for those women who feel a certain way before the onset of the period, for example, they start yawning or feel pain in the stomach etc. Whenever she is not sure about the precise laws, a woman should consult a Rabbi.
8. If a woman felt that her menstruation is starting, she should check herself with a clean white cloth. If she found nothing, she should speak to a Rabbi. Similarly, if a woman finds stains on her underwear or if she went to a gynecologist who inserted instruments into her body, she should consult a Rabbi.
9. Once a woman becomes Nidah, the couple can not have any physical contact. Even passing objects from hand to hand is forbidden. They sleep on separate beds at a distance from each other. When they eat, they should put on the table some object that will remind them that they are forbidden to each other. They can’t eat from the same plate and the husband can not finish his wife’s leftovers unless she left the room. While the wife is Nidah, the husband should not look at those parts of her body that are normally covered. All these laws protect us from a desire to have relations while the wife is Nidah and also enhance tremendously the relations when the wife is not Nidah. Thus, every going to the Mikvah brings such an enjoyment to the couple’s relationship as if they were newlyweds during honeymoon.
The laws of counting seven clean days and immersion in the Mikvah.
1. According to the Torah law, a woman does not stop being Nidah until she counts seven clean days, when the menstruation is over, and immerses in the Mikvah. A woman is allowed to start the counting of seven clean days not earlier than five days after the onset of menstruation. However some Sephardi women start the counting four days after the beginning of menstruation. She has to check herself before sundown, to make sure the blood flow has stopped. Before this, she should take a shower or at least wash the places of her body where the blood stains may have remained. For checkups, a soft white cloth is used; such clothes are usually sold in any Mikvah. She has to check in all folds and cracks. If needed, she can wet the cloth with water.
2. After a successful check, she starts counting the seven clean days. She should try to check herself every morning after she gets up and every evening, before sundown. However, if she only checked herself on the first and the seventh day, it is sufficient. If she did not check herself on the first or on the seventh day, she should ask a Rabbi.
3. If she did not find any stains throughout her checkups, she goes to the Mikvah during the night after the seven days. If various stains were found during the checkups, she should consult a Rabbi.
4. Before going to the Mikvah, a woman washes herself, combs her hair and brushes her teeth. It is very important that nothing is left on the body that will prevent the contact with water. It is customary to cut the nails before going to the Mikvah. She should also go to the bathroom before immersing, if she feels need for it.
5. During the immersion, the entire body should be under water. Even if one hair is left on the surface, the immersion is invalid. For this reason, every kosher Mikvah has a lady that watches to make sure all immersions are performed correctly. The woman immersing should not close her hands or eyes too tightly, rather she should be in a relaxed slightly bended position. Most women have a custom to immerse more than once in case one of the immersions was not done correctly.