Family purity laws - what's that all about?
Let's start with an overview of the basics. It all starts from a biblical law that Hashem (God) commanded that Jews refrain from sex during niddah, a woman's menstrual period. These laws are called in Hebrew "taharat hamishpacha" - family purity laws. According to Jewish laws of family purity, a woman is rendered a niddah from when her menstrual cycle starts, and even after it stops through a period called "seven clean days", and she will only be deemed "clean" after immersion in the mikveh - a Jewish ritual bath.
The Talmud in tractate niddah explains the reason for this unusual ritual. The great sage Rabbi Shimon says the following: "Why did Hashem (God) say there should be no sex during niddah? So the woman should be loved on her husband like a bride entering her wedding." Wow. What a unique refreshment. It might be hard at times, but orthodox Jews explain that the laws of niddah - family purity laws, simply enhances their marriage. A new excitement every two weeks.
Laws of niddah
Let me explain the cycle and process of laws of niddah. As soon as the menstrual cycle of a woman started she is forbidden to have any physical contact with her husband. Although the bible restricts only from having sex during the niddah, there is a rabbinic law forbidding any physical contact. This is to add extra protection, so that the couple not getting to close, that might lead to transgressing the biblical commandment.
After the blood stops (by Ashkenazic Jews this must be five full days, even if the blood stops earlier, five days are considered as days of bleeding), the woman will start counting what is called "seven clean days". In those seven days the woman will check twice a day with a special cotton cloth to make sure all bleeding has stopped. During these days any contact between husband and wife is still prohibited.
After nightfall of the seventh day the woman will go to mikvah - a Jewish ritual bath. There are special laws on how this bath should be made. The water must be fresh and natural, and it will have rabbinical supervision when being built to insure all proper laws where implemented. Before the woman will enter the mikveh ritual bath, she will bath and shower in a private room, and make sure to remove anything extra she might have on her body. For example nail polish, hair spray etc. After that she will say a special mikvah blessing in Hebrew, and immerse in the water.
As soon as the woman immersed in the mikvah, the couple can continue physical and sexual relations. The night of immersion in the mikveh is a very special night. As explained above, it's like being married again.
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