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Why marital relations are forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Monthly Cycle, Women, Marital Relations

Jeffrey from Michigan wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Why are marital relations forbidden during a woman's monthly cycle? Is it not a natural phenomenon? Should we abandon loved ones during a period of time when they are "Undesirable" or have no reproductive function?


Dear Jeffrey,

The Torah writes: "Do not come close to a woman who is ritually impure due to her menstruation since this is a sexual offense."

The Torah does not say that one must abandon his wife during this period, it merely limits sexual contact. Rather than ignoring what is a natural phenomenon, there is a respect for the cycle of life that the woman experiences. Her body had biologically prepared a foundation for life, and had then eliminated it. Whenever we come in contact with a loss of life we feel the need to step back, to be alone. That is not to say that we don't need companionship. We do need companionship, but of a different sort; i.e., love and comfort that respects our need to be introspective. Stereotypically this is the state of a menstruant woman, and our reaction to it is one of respect and empathy for her.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch throughout his commentary on the Torah makes the point that ritual impurity is a state induced by some manner of contact with death. "Niddah", this period of separation, is just one of the many forms of impurity that call for a person to step-back from contact with others, and deal with the issue of their mortality and frailty.

Far from feeling a sense of harmful separation, couples generally find that the period of "Niddah" is a positive opportunity to relate to each other. And instead of breeding hurt and rejection, it generally refreshes and enhances the quality of their marriage.

Sources:

  • Leviticus, 18:19.
  • Rabbi S.R. Hirsch - Commentary on the Torah.


 
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