Women who are fortunate enough to receive their period naturally on a regular basis (anywhere between 28-35 days) have a clear visible sign that their bodies are “working normally”. They may not understand all the hormones involved nor all the biological terminology, but they usually feel confident and trust that their body is in-sync. Women who keep the laws of Family Purity (Taharat Hamishpacha) feel even more confident and connected to their body when they experience their cycle of bleeding, as they monitor, count and feel their way from month to month, from period to period. [Read more…]
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…]
As a swimming teacher, for over 45 years, I specialize in teaching people of all ages to swim, especially those who are afraid of the water.
It is astounding and sad how many women, from young kallahs to older mothers who already have several children, actually dread their mikveh night. That dread comes from their fear of water. Fear of water (or of anything else) is not necessarily related to a past traumatic event, nor is it as a result of not learning to swim as children. Fears are dependent on either lack of information or misinformation– and this is what I address. In the case of swimming, this lack of information is really “experiential” information. In other words, the theory of swimming may be well learned, but until a woman can actually get into the water and swim……
Here are 4 basic things that women want to know about becoming a swimmer:
So, do you know where your cervix is? Not the first question I expected to hear as I embarked on the journey of being fitted for a diaphragm.
I was actually shocked and somewhat embarrassed that I had no idea. Just turning 30 years old and being a year post-partum, I managed to have no idea where my cervix is. It was at this very minute that I realized that I have a long way to go before truly becoming intimate with my body and everything miraculous it can offer. [Read more…]
As a young girl learning about menstruation for the first time, my favorite book on the subject featured a double-page spread that displayed cartoon illustrations of different women and their bodies. Each woman was a different age, a different shape, each wearing a different facial expression. There must have been over two dozen, lined up right next to one another. I remember being in awe at how incredible it was that each of those people on that colorful page were so different.
Whenever I teach Hilchot Niddah to a couple or a class, I think about this diversity of life experience, and of what a book like that might be like if it were about Niddah. It would be easy to assume that a book about this subject would focus narrowly on one kind of experience or observance. But the truth is, if you opened this book, the Niddah practices depicted in the double-page spread would not just look one way; not even close! There would be dozens, hundreds, of iterations and traditions. [Read more…]