The harchakot are hard. I often meet with women– kallahs, newlyweds, and congregants who had been married for years– who struggle with keeping the harchakot. ‘Harchakot’ refers to the distance we keep during niddah, the physical separation between a husband and wife and the general way in which a husband and wife interact during menstruation and the seven clean days that follow it. This includes but is not limited to physical touch and any actions, such as sleeping in the same bed, that can lead to physical intimacy. .
What makes the harchakot so hard is that touch is a major– if not primary– form of expressing love and affection. Women ask: . ‘What if I’m having a bad day and I need a hug?’ ‘What if something wonderful happens, and we want to embrace? Even if it’s not going to lead to sexual activity?’ ‘I was shomer negiah until marriage, and now I have to do it again with my husband?’ ‘I had a miscarriage– can my husband and I really not touch?’
All of these questions are real and get at the heart of the struggle: How do we deal with the fact that our tradition limits how we show love, comfort, and support to the person we love most during niddah? [Read more…]