The Cycle of Women and The Niddah
By Network Minister
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Jewish Law - Niddah:
According the Jewish laws regarding Niddah, a woman is unclean for seven days during her cycle (from the first day it begins, then counting seven days) and then is unclean for up to an additional seven days afterwards.
The time of separation begins at the first sign of blood and ends in the evening of the woman's seventh "clean day." This separation lasts a minimum of 12 days (Ashkenazi Jews count 12 days total, Sephardic count a minimum of 11 days).
The rabbis noted that a two-week period of abstention every month forces a couple to build a non-sexual bond as well as a sexual one. It helps to build the couple's desire for one another, making intercourse in the remaining two weeks more special. It also gives both partners a chance to rest, without feeling sexually inadequate. They also emphasized the value of self-discipline in a drive as fundamental as the sexual drive.
Another tradition is the wearing of white underwear and use of white bedding during this period; conversely, the rest of the time, when not counting the "seven clean days", some women who suffer from spotting deliberately use colored underwear and colored toilet paper, since it is only when blood is seen on white material that it has any legal status in Jewish law. When not during their seven "clean" days, all women are advised to wear colored undergarments.
A woman who is having her cycle is not to touch any thing that belongs to her husband, is not permitted to sleep in the same bed and intimacy between the woman and her husband is forbidden.
The Torah prohibits only sexual intercourse, but the rabbis broadened this prohibition, maintaining that a man may not even touch his wife or sleep in the same bed as her during this time.
As with most of the Arayot (Biblically forbidden sexual relationships), all physical contact "Derech Chiba v'Taavah" (in an affectionate or lustful manner) is forbidden when a woman is niddah status. Such contact is forbidden whether or not the man and woman are husband and wife.
In the case of husband and wife, however, the Sages added on extra restrictions, including touch that is not Derech Chiba v'Taavah, passing of objects even without touching, and sleeping in the same bed; these restrictions are to avoid the risk of leading to sexual contact. These laws are termed harchakot, meaning spacers, and result in a need for relationships to be able to develop in non-physical ways, such as emotional and spiritual connections.
The classical regulations also forbid sexual relations on the day that a woman expects to
start menstruating; there are three days that fall under this regulation, known as the veset,
namely the same day of the month as her previous menstruation began; the day exactly 30 days
after the previous menstruation started; and the day that is the usual interval from the end
of her previous menstruation. If the woman is not actually menstruating during a veset day,
then there are certain circumstances wherein sexual activity is permitted according to most
authorities, for example, if a woman's husband is about to travel, and will return only after
menstruation has begun.
There were houses in Ancient Israel where the women could go during their cycles to separate themselves from others until their cycle was complete.
In ancient times a niddah was completely segregated, particularly in Erez Israel where the laws of purity were still in vogue from the time when the Temple existed. Excluded from her home, the niddah stayed in a special house known as "a house for uncleanness" (Nid. 7:4), she was called galmudah ("segregated," RH 26a), and was not allowed to adorn herself until R. Akiva permitted her to do so, that she might not be repulsive to her husband (Sifra, Me·†́ora, 9:12). No food was eaten with a niddah (Tosef., Shab. 1:14) nor did she attend to her household duties, until the stage was reached in which "during all the days of her menstruation she is to be segregated" (ARN A 1, 4). The origin of this segregation lies in the custom, prevalent in Erez Israel long after the destruction of the Second Temple, of eating ordinary meals prepared according to the levitical rules originally prescribed for sacred food. This custom did not obtain prevalence in Babylonia where there was neither any reason for, nor any halakhic possibility of, observing absolute purity, and where accordingly all these expressions of the niddah's segregation were not practiced. Thus, in Babylonia, she attended to all the needs of her household, with the exception of filling her husband's cup of wine, making his bed, and washing him (Ket. 61a). In the latter half of the geonic period the geonim of Babylonia, adopting an increasingly stricter view with regard to the ritual impurity of the niddah, accepted the restrictions of the earlier scholars of Erez Israel. Related to the spread of the Muslim religion which was particularly strict in matters associated with "cleanness and uncleanness," this process reflects the strong desire of the geonim not to be inferior in their practices to their neighbors. Nevertheless, Maimonides at a later stage maintained that the restriction imposed on the niddah to refrain from cooking, touching a garment, and so on, was devoid of any significance and might even savor of Karaism. These restrictions were generally not adopted in Europe where the two factors that led to their introduction in Erez Israel and Babylonia were lacking, as well as because of the high status enjoyed there by the Jewish woman in managing the affairs of her household.
Jewish law also "commands" that a woman bathe and wash her clothing after nightfall to be ritually clean.
At the end of the period of niddah, as soon as possible after nightfall after the seventh clean day, the woman must immerse herself in a kosher mikvah, a ritual pool. The mikvah was traditionally used to cleanse a person of various forms of ritual impurity.
It is important to note that the mikvah provides only ritual purification, not physical cleanliness; in fact, immersion in the mikvah is not valid unless the woman is thoroughly bathed before immersion. The mikvah is such an important part of traditional Jewish ritual life that traditionally a new community would build a mikvah before they would build a synagogue.
You can read more on Niddah through any Jewish source, but I am going to show you that Jewish
law concerning Niddah is not entirely Torah founded, nor does it recognize the spiritual lessons
that are supposed to be taught through it.
Leviticus 15:19-33 (KJV)
23 And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth , when he toucheth it, he
shall be unclean until the even.
26 Every bed whereon she lieth all the days of her issue shall be unto her as the bed of her
separation: and whatsoever she sitteth upon shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her separation.
A woman's cycle on average runs every 28 days (7x4) and lasts on the average of seven days. While not every woman runs a seven day cycle, (from the day the cycle begins and counting seven days), according to Torah, we would be unclean seven days no matter how long our cycle lasts. (Verse 19)
Yahweh, also, does not forbid a couple from touching each other, but says that the other person will be unclean until "even" if they touch, OR if they touch the bed or furniture that she sat on and/or laid on. (Verses 21 and 22)
Yahweh doesn't forbid intimacy during menstruation, but says that the husband will be unclean for seven days afterwards and will need to bathe and wash his clothes (Verse 24).
If a woman's cycle lasts longer than seven days, Yah has made provisions for that; the woman is considered unclean until it is finished. (Verse 25)
After the cycle is complete, she was commanded to bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest and offer them up as atonement. (Verses 29-30). Some may ask why Yahweh required a sin offering and burnt offering because of a woman's natural cycle, and the parallel here is basically to teach that Spiritual uncleanliness needs atonement - NOT that the woman has sinned for having her cycle! After all, there is nothing SELFISH involved.
Note: The woman is NOT required to bathe her flesh or wash her clothes after her cycle according to Yahweh. The blood itself is what cleansed her; therefore water is unnecessary.
The purpose of menstruation is to prepare a woman's body for pregnancy and childbirth (to receive the seed). Every month, the lining of the uterus thickens to receive and nourish a fertilized egg (if a woman becomes pregnant). If, however, the egg does not become fertilized, the uterus lining is shed. This process of shedding the lining is called menstruation. It is a [i]cleansing process/purification[/i], where the non-pregnant womb is cleansed to prepare for the next cycle. Women are most fertile during the "Clean" time of their cycle, and this ritual goes hand-in-hand with Yahweh's command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:22), which is itself a physical to Spiritual parallel.
Our bodies are a TEMPLE, both male and female. Solomon's Temple shows a womb (the porch) where
the High Priest both entered and exited. The womb itself is spiritually significant as the
parallel place of impregnation by the Holy Spirit and for bearing spiritually fruitful children.
The Red Heifer:
There is also the physical to Spiritual parallel involving the Red Heifer and the cleansing of the Tabernacle. The blood of the heifer was sprinkled at the door of the Tabernacle of Congregation seven times, then the heifer's carcass was burned with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet (reinforcing the color of red). This is the only time that a female animal was specifically required as a sacrifice. The ashes were kept for a "water of separation" and used as a purification for sin.
5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn : 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. 8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. 9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. 10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
This is the parallel of a woman's cycle: the cleansing of the Temple. Hallel Yah!!
Applying the Law:
The husband is going to be unclean during his wife's cycle - this is inevitable. At the end of his wife's cycle, the husband is the one that needs to bathe and wash his clothing, just as the High Priest did. If they are intimate during her cycle, he is unclean counting seven days afterwards according to the verses cited in Leviticus (NOTE: as of this writing, there is some support to say that intercourse during a woman's cycle is forbidden, but it is all about the Intent here). The number seven is symbolic of Shabbat and the Sabbath Millennium (which are, also, reoccurring CYCLES).
Bathing is symbolic of repentance and water represents the Holy Spirit. This means that where we were Spiritually unclean before, we can be made clean again through the Holy Spirit. Uncleanliness is shown as a temporary state, as long as repentance is included. THAT is the teaching we are to understand. Our TEMPLES are to be kept RIGHTEOUS.
To the unequally yoked: Your Spiritually Respectful unbelieving spouse is considered sanctified (made clean) because of YOUR belief and for YOUR sake (as Paul taught), and so are your children.
This DOES NOT mean that the unbelieving have received the Gift of Salvation.
Letter of the Law, or Intent of the Law?
Remember that no one has to keep the law as a law, but WE do so by INTENT for the sake of righteousness. Let us not make this into a legalistic issue - it is all about Intent (always). The believing men should bathe and wash their clothes after their wife completes their cycle (bathing is a pleasure!) bearing in mind what it means to do so spiritually and who you are emulating when you do so.
The believing woman should still bathe when she feels the need to, but not as a keeping of a commandment. At the end of your cycle, do something selfless (the parallel of a sacrifice) with all thankfulness - not as a ritual, but because you love Yahweh.