The Mitzva of Taharas u'Mishpacha (family purity)

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
Elisheva Maline 

When one asks the question, "What does the word Judaism mean to you?" there are many initial reactions. It's a religion, it's a philosophy, it's a list of rules.... None of these suggestions work with the real answer which is, Judaism is a way of life.

Lawrence Kelemen, who authored Permission to Receive, mentions three different areas Judaism encompasses.They are the personal (marriage and family), communal and political spheres. Since G-d's Torah does not translate vaguely, one cannot manipulate Jewish topics into fitting their personal views. Therefore, the Orthodox community can pride itself on its dissimilarities to characters like Oscar Wilde's Chasuble whose approach to religion suggests that it has an elasticity that makes it relevant to basically everything, "My sermon on the meaning of the manna can be adapted to almost any occasion..." The Importance of Being Ernest.

While some may assume that the Jewish religion belongs only in the synagogue, in truth, it covers every area of daily living. We have three major mitvot asais (positive commandments) which are shabbos (the sabbath), kashrut (Jewish diet), and family purity. If any of you are Oprah Winfrey fans, you might remember an interview the talk show queen did in a series called "America's Hidden Culture." She spoke with several Jewish women from Brooklyn, New York on the laws concerning family purity. The interview was enlightening because the people she interviewed not only clarified the laws about taharot u'mishpacha but also offered beautiful explanations as to why it strengthens spousal relationships.

When Adam and Eve were banished from paradise, they were both given a set of curses with which to contend and hand down to their descendants as a means of repentance for the original sin. G-d handed Eve ten challenges. One of them was dealing with her monthly cycle. I have a childhood memory of my older sisters cursing our brothers, and men in general, whenever that fateful day arrived. Of course, once I hit puberty, I leaped onto the 'we hate boys' bandwagon right away. 

Over time and after speaking with a lot of couples, however, I've come to recognize that a woman, along with her menstruation cycle, essentially controls the goings on in her relations with her husband. Here's family purity in a nutshell. When a woman becomes niddah (begins her menstrual cycle) she is forbidden to her husband for roughly two weeks. While some people would call this cruel and unusual punishment, the opposite is true. The Torah is offering Jewish husbands and wives the opportunity to focus on the talking part of their relationship, so that they are able to forge a deeper, more spiritual bond. On the flip side, the physical aspect of many peoples' relationships keep the real intimate moments at bay. 

One of the goals that family purity fulfills is the channeling of one's sexual desires. Unlike other major religions, Judaism does not consider procreation as only a means to an end. When a husband and wife utilize the wife's time period as a niddah to form a better understanding of one another, their physically coming together becomes the manifest expression of oneness, both in soul and body.   


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