rosenakBack when I was learning Hilchot Niddah before my wedding, my kallah teacher taught me about counting the 7 “clean days”, checking twice daily, and everything that goes with it. It was overwhelming.

I had to wait nearly two weeks, at minimum, each month to touch my husband or even pass something hand to hand?!! It was hard for me to imagine living like that.

My Kallah teacher explained that Jewish women have been keeping these laws for centuries. She mentioned that the 7 days are a sort of chumrah, explaining that they really stem from the halakhot for a status called “Zava Gedolah” (blood that isn’t the normal menstrual flow and has lasted more than five days). Because today we can’t distinguish between Niddah (the normal menstrual cycle) and Zava blood, as a precaution against error Jewish women have accepted upon themselves the more stringent halakhot relating to Zava Gedolah for every monthly flow.

At the time, I just accepted the situation; it was what everyone else did. I followed everything according to the strict laws until after I already had a few kids. When I started getting my periods again after my last pregnancy, they were coming every 3 weeks. At first I assumed this was simply my hormones readjusting, but it continued for a long time. This was difficult for me physically, emotionally, and for my relationship with my husband. On top of that, I knew that it was making me “halakhically infertile”. There was no way I was ovulating after my mikveh night, and would not be able to conceive again as a result.

I googled around for solutions to halakhic infertility, but the main responses involved using hormones – with side effects – with no guarantee of it helping my situation. Then I found a book by Dr. Daniel Rosenak who proposed that women return to keeping the actual and original Hilchot Niddah. I quickly read that book.

Of course, my husband and I discussed the issue at length. It was hard for us to come to a decision, but in the end, we made the decision as a couple – with no rabbis or anyone else. I would stop following this chumrah. I would stop pretending that my menstrual blood was something irregular and illness related. I would stop incessantly checking for a week knowing I would be clean anyway.

Oftentimes, women are so worried about checking that they actually cut themselves, find blood, and return to this “Zava Gedolah” status when there is no reason. Or they risk infection by constantly checking themselves. It is completely unnecessary.

Women with shorter cycles have much more trouble getting pregnant, which causes unnecessary stress on the family, not to mention less Jewish babies being brought into the world simply because of a chumrah.

In many cases of halakchic infertility, women turn to all sorts of hormones and drugs that could cause them health issues, financial burden, and may end up unsuccessful anyway. There are many other reasons presented in the book and many personal stories, but for me the bottom line is: are we following halakha or are we following chumrot that only hurt our families? Are these chumrot so important?

Apparently they are, since rabbis have a very hard time being lenient with the 7 “clean days”. When it comes to my family, my husband and I have the final say. I will not let anyone decide my fate. I challenge everyone to educate themselves on the matter and not wait for others to make this decision for them.

This blog invites readers to submit their experience with mikveh and the laws of niddah in order to raise awareness to the range of feelings and experiences in the community. The Eden Center does not endorse positions stated in blogs, but allows authors’ voices to be heard on this platform. We invite your comments and welcome your contributions.