“Spotting, third time in a row.”  “Oh, how awful for you.”

 “Ugh, guess where I have to go the night of the big party?”  “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’d never kid about that, so annoying.”

I heard these phrases when I was a teenager. Heard people, well women, mothers of my religious friends, say these types of sentences and more. I never knew what they were talking about. Then one day I heard about the mikveh. What is this? I had asked a friend and she said it was a ritual bath. Well, to be honest, I had no idea what that meant but as a teen, you never let your friends think you’re ignorant about something. So, I kept this in the back of my mind and did what I always did then, I observed and listened to get a better glimpse of what all these adults were referring to.

Sometimes I heard a positive remark, things like how they enjoyed that they get at least one day a month, guaranteed, to pamper themselves and make themselves feel really good. I heard comments about the inconveniences too, how they had to find a babysitter and work it out that the babysitter doesn’t know where they are going. This one confused me a lot. Why not tell a babysitter where you’re going? What happens in case of an emergency and they have to find you?

To say it simply, I was naïve. I really had no idea what they were referring to. On a whim, I decided to ask my own mother. Not an observant person but somewhat knowledgeable, I assumed she’d know. However, when I asked, her response to me was, “It’s not something for me.”  Well, since she and I butted heads a lot about me becoming more religious, I assumed this was more of the same. It wasn’t until I was an adult, about to get married myself, that I knew what she meant. In my mid teens, my mom had a hysterectomy, and she was actually referring to the fact that she no longer had her period. But how was I to know, when she shut it down as fast as she shut down any other conversation we had about religion?

Then, some years later, I met my (future) husband. His mother introduced me to a rebbetzin who would teach me what I needed to know about being an observant, married woman. All of a sudden, all those whispers now made sense to me. I breathed a sigh of relief that I had never asked the mothers of my friends what they were referring to, because as a teen, you don’t want to picture adults in the bedroom, especially the ones you know.

At one of the first meetings with my kallah teacher, she told me that an observant woman is lucky because for almost two weeks out of every month, she gets to concentrate on herself. She showed me that during the time of being in niddah, a woman has her nights freer to do things she might not be able to do otherwise. Like going out with her friends, going to a shiur, working on a hobby or craft each evening. The possibilities are endless.

A woman and her husband are also being given a gift. A gift of time that many don’t take. Time to talk to each other, time to learn together, time to play games or meet up with friends. Those Shabbatot she is in niddah are great times to have company over on Friday night. Especially in the winter when the evenings are longer and there is more time to enjoy adult company.

She painted every aspect of taharat mishpacha as beautiful. As simply part of my life, and not something that should take over my life. She expressed how sometimes a husband and wife have a symbol to each other to inform each other that they are free to be together. Like wearing a specific hat, a pin or earring. Something, that when she comes home, in case there are others around, whether her own kids or guests, her husband will know all is good. Their private signal.

My rebbetzin taught me to see the beauty in making Shabbat as well. That every time we put our hearts into our preparations for Shabbat, Hashem sees this favorably. Imagine how much more so He would see us if we kept taharat mishpacha, she would ask.

 We talked about the halacha and all that had to be done. But she also spoke to me about how not to see this as a burden. She knew that as a baal teshuva, I might not be interested in taking on all the responsibility of the checking during the clean days. About how I may see all the preparations for mikvah night as a burden. She was the first woman I knew, first religious woman I should say, that didn’t give me an argument when I questioned her about why something needs to be done. We talked frankly, and that was my first real introduction to how one really learns about our heritage.

There is so much more than saying do this and don’t do that. So much more that can be incorporated into one’s daily life, it amazed me. Just learning about this one aspect of married life made me realize that there is so much more to look forward to with my chosen man. If we can do this one thing in perfect agreement, imagine what we can do with the rest?

I’ve been very lucky to have found a man to marry that understood all of this as well. To this day, thirty-five years later, we still learn together. We still make decisions together, especially if it is about what we want to do about a particular subject. My bracha to all that read this is that you’ve found that one person who understands that a lifetime of learning about life and each other, helps keep the fires burning.