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Dedication

Read This First

Part 1:
Perspectives

Part 2:
Secrets of the Married Soul

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

   Chapter 4:
Clothing of the Soul

Chapter 5:
Yeshus

Chapter 6:
Bitterness and Depression

Chapter 7:
Criticism The Acid that Eats Away Love

Chapter 8:
Judgment

Chapter 9:
The Mitzvos of Mikveh

Chapter 10:
Tzimtzum

Chapter 11:
Ahavas Yisroel But We Are Married

Epilogue

The Second Ladder Up
Secret Steps to a Happy Jewish Marriage

Part 3:
Secrets of Garments of the Soul

Chapter 9:
The Mitzvos of Mikveh

R. L. Kremnizer

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  Chapter 8:
Judgment
Chapter 10:
Tzimtzum
 

Action

One of the most fundamental differences between married Jewish life and the conjugal relations of the nations are the mitzvos (commands) and practices surrounding mikveh. In the unlikely event that anyone reading this book does not know what a mikveh is, a short summary of its requirements are as follows:

A mikveh is a pool of fresh rainwater untouched by containers prior to its gathering, containing a fixed measure of water, and by law is used for three separate purposes:

  1. The immersing of cooking and eating implements and dishes

  2. The conversion of non-Jews

  3. The sanctification of a wife for conjugal relations

There are also other uses of mikveh by men.

Since this is a book on marriage, we will concern ourselves only with the third purpose mentioned above. When a woman finishes her menstrual cycle, there is an obligation to wait seven days free of any bleeding before conjugal relations can be re-commenced by husband and wife. During the time of menstruation and the seven days thereafter, husband and wife separate physically. To ensure this there are various supporting laws underpinning the certainty of partition. Husband and wife do not pass directly to each other, do not share the same bed, sofa, and the like. They do not touch, and live fundamentally physically separated within the same house.

There are very great spiritual forces at work in relation to the whole concept of mikveh, most of which are far too esoteric for the scope of this book. Suffice it to say that the whole selection process of souls chosen for bodies depends on these energies. Indeed, the very spiritual DNA of a new life and its destiny is predicated on the observance or failure to observe the mitzvos of mikveh (otherwise known as taharas hamishpachah family purity). Stories are legion of barren women conceiving after the Rebbe's advice was followed in relation to mikveh; stories too of sick children becoming well, and women's needs for surgical procedures being reversed by changes in practice and observance of taharas hamishpachah.

Some idea of the importance of these mitzvos (commands), is evidenced by The Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe's words as translated in the English version of HaYom Yom on the entry for Nissan 10:

"On the subject of the campaign to popularize the observance of taharas hamishpachah in your community, ponder this deeply; let us imagine that G-d were to give you the opportunity to save the Jewish community from extinction (G-d forbid), you would certainly be willing to risk your life for this and you would thank and praise Him for His great kindness in offering you an opportunity of such enormous merit. The same then holds true to an even greater degree with regard to the campaign for taharas hamishpachah; it is an endeavor which literally saves lives."

Now, there are three kinds of mitzvahs:

Firstly, those that exist to regulate behavior which people would adopt as a matter of logic, such as not killing or stealing;

Secondly, those that have to do with the cycles of Jewish life: the six days of work followed by Shabbos, the new months, the religious festivals; all of which shine and renew cyclic lights of spirituality;

Thirdly, those laws known as chukim (decrees). These are laws which have no discernable logical reason and are kept out of obedience. Examples of these are the laws of kashrus and laws of not mixing certain fabrics.

The laws relating to taharas hamishpachah and mikveh all fall into the category of chukim (decrees).[31] Although there is no logic in the reason for the mitzvahs relating to mikveh, certain obvious effects can be readily observed.[32] Some are positive and are mentioned here for completeness. Some are negative and we will explore them together.

A great positive exists in relation to conjugal relations. Since a husband and wife are forced to be separated for at least 12 days a month, the couple experiences a virtual honeymoon every time the wife returns from the mikveh. It is anecdotally well known that couples who keep mikveh report a new zest in their relationship. This is so true that after pregnancy (during which the niddah cycle is interrupted) couples report to Rabbis that they eagerly anticipated the return to the separation periods and the monthly "honeymoon" which the niddah laws provide.

Equally there is the danger of negative behavioral effects. One of the aspects of the niddah laws which is not clear to everybody is the extreme emotional sensitivity of the wife during the period of separation. Because of ignorance, for many women there is a potential to feel degraded during her period of unavailability. It is an easy mistake to make a connection between the fact that one is forbidden and the fact that one is in some way unworthy during this period of time. Nothing can be further from the truth. The process of the niddah laws have to do with observing very deep spiritual concepts evolving from the cycle of life and death, and concepts of spiritual purity which are not understandable in modern society where no practical application for these laws exist. It is, however, all too common for women treated poorly by their husbands during this period of time, to make the assumption that either they are unworthy or that the husband is abandoning her needs at this time. Since physical contact is forbidden the reassurance of a hug and a cuddle is obviously unavailable. A husband needs to be particularly careful during this time that he does not contribute to any feelings of inadequacy or inferiority that a woman may mistakenly invent about the process of the niddah laws.

I quote the reader an example that was reported to me. Two couples walking home on an evening were caught in sudden rain. The wife of one couple, no doubt crowned with some newly coiffured hairstyle for her sheitel, asked her husband for his raincoat. These are the moments in life which all husbands should cherish. Here is an instant where the Clark Kent costume of daily life can be torn away, revealing Super Husband. With a swirling twirl of the raincoat, gallantry is shouted to the world and, more importantly, to the wife. Sadly, on this occasion, this was impossible, as the husband was clearly in difficulty passing the coat to his wife. His solution to the niddah laws was to drop his coat to the wet ground and walk on, forcing his poor shamed wife to grovel in the puddles for the protection from the rain.

This behavior is inexcusable. The husband could find many ways to protect his wife without shaming her for example, by asking the other husband to pass the coat to her. For those without the common sense to understand it, it violates all of the perspectives set out at the beginning of this book. More importantly, this form of deed threatens the benefits and beauties of the mitzvah.

It is critical that married partners take time to learn in advance how to deal with common situations where, obviously without in anyway compromising the laws pertaining to niddah, the encouraging supportive behavior that can be expected from the other part of one soul can be realized in charm and simcha.

On the positive side there is much partners can do to enrich their relationship during the niddah period. Man and wife can become friends, at a level distinct from lovers. With physical contact unavailable they have an opportunity to relate at other levels of friendship and caring sometimes lost in the dynamics of male/female interaction, and can develop opportunities to spoil each other with non-romantic but bonding friendship-improving activities.

When ultimately the time of separation concludes, the many legal requirements of preparation for mikveh will then be undertaken with zeal and anticipation.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Rambam, Laws of Mikvaos, 11:12.

  2. (Back to text) See Rambam, Laws of Temurah 4:13.


  Chapter 8:
Judgment
Chapter 10:
Tzimtzum
 
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