Behavior During Niddah

The time when the woman is niddah is a time of abstinence of all physical contact. It is a time where the loving relationship between the couple should find expression in non-physical ways, such as greater sensitivity towards one another, consideration and giving. In addition to abstinence from sex, the halacha dictates certain other practices from which the couple should refrain, so as not to lead to temptation to physical contact.*

1. From the onset of a woman's menstrual period certain behaviors which cause the couple to be physically or passionately close together are forbidden. Not following these laws is very serious as it is expressly forbidden to come close to those with whom it is forbidden to have sexual relations.

2. These rules apply equally whether she is actually bleeding or is counting seven clean days--they apply as long as she has not properly immersed.

3. When the woman is niddah it is forbidden for the couple to behave frivolously with one another. Joking around is expressly forbidden. Of course, the couple should not be cold or nasty towards one another. Arguments should be avoided if possible.

4. Even the slightest physical contact is absolutely forbidden. Additionally, they may not pass each other objects from one hand to another, as that might lead to inadvertent physical contact. One should also not touch the clothes of their spouse (while they are being worn) when the woman is niddah. (There is no restriction regarding clothing which is not being worn.)

In situations where it is difficult for the couple to not work together (eg. taking the baby carriage down from an apartment, etc.) the couple might hold the long object together taking maximum precautions that they will not touch.

5. It is permissible to throw things from one to another. However, it is commendable to be strict in this matter, and not to throw directly from one to another.

6. There are those posqim who allow the couple to pass their child from one to another when the woman is niddah, and there are those who disagree. It is commendable to be stringent in this matter.

7. It is permitted for the couple to give one another gifts during when the woman is niddah, even though it increases the emotional attachment of the couple.

8. When the couple sits down to eat at their normal places they should have a reminder on the table to remember that she is niddah. This is similar to two familiar people eating milk and meat on the same table where a reminder is used to prevent them tasting from one another's food. A cup which is not being used may be put in between them as reminder or a small bowl of fruit. If one uses a place mat and the other does not it is also considered a reminder. Basically, anything which reminds them that they must not eat from one another's plate is suitable.

Of course, this law only applies when the couple is dining alone. However, if they are dining with other people there is no need for any such reminders. Likewise, if they are eating alone, but on opposite ends of a long table there is no need for the reminders.

9. He may not drink from what remains in her cup, since this is a sign of affection. However, if the liquid were poured into another glass it is permitted for the husband to drink it, even if he then poured it back into the original glass. Additionally, if she drank half of the glass he may fill it up and drink the remains.

10. If another person drinks from the cup after the wife drank, the husband is allowed to drink from the cup.

11. If she drank from a glass and has left the room, the husband can drink from her glass. He can continue drinking even if she returned to the room, while he was in the process of drinking from her cup. This law applies also if she turned to another side of the room and does not notice him drinking rom her cup.

12. If a woman drank from a glass and her husband does not know, she need not inform him. If, however, he knows that she drank from the glass but he does not know that she has become niddah, she must inform him.

13. A woman may drink from the remains of her husbands glass.

14. Although ashkenazim are stringent concerning the remains of food of the woman who is niddah, sepharadim allow the husband to eat his wife's leftover food, without any restriction.

15. It is permissible for a man to use the same towel as his wife when she is niddah. Their is no need for her to have her own special towel.

17. One should not kiss or play with a baby being held by either him or her, while the woman is niddah. It is also better to be strict not to feed a baby being held by the other spouse, unless there are extenuating circumstances where this is necessary and the couple is careful not to touch.

18. They should not light each others cigarettes since this brings closeness. However, it is permissible for a wife to hold the Havdalah candle.

19. It is permissible for the husband or wife to blow away lint or a feather from each other's clothing while she is niddah, yet it is commendable to be strict in this matter, if possible.

20. On a hot day they may not fan each other unless one of them is ill. However, there is no restriction regarding turning on the fan or the air conditioner for one another.

21. On a rainy day they may walk under the same umbrella as long as they are careful not to touch.

22. It is permissible for the couple to read the same book together, while the woman is niddah, provided they are careful not to touch.

23. A husband may not sit on his wife's bed even if she is not around, and he certainly may not lay on her bed. If the bed is not specifically hers, for example, at times she lies on it and sometimes he does, then he may sit on the bed when she is niddah. She may lay on his bed while he is not around.

24. The sephardic minhag is to permit the couple to sit together on a couch even if it is soft and moves as long as care is taken not to touch each other. However, it is commendable to be strict and not sit together if the couple is on a pleasure trip while she is niddah.

25. It is absolutely forbidden for the couple to lie on the same bed together even if they are fully clothed. Similarly, they may not use one blanket. Strictness should be applied not to lay on two separate beds unless the beds are separated, even slightly.

26. It is permitted to sleep on beds which are separated even if they have a common frame. It is not necessary to put a divider between the beds.

27. When a woman is niddah it is permitted for her husband to gaze at her beauty while she is fully clothed, since she will be permitted to him in the near future. However, her husband should not look at the normally covered parts of his wife's body, while she is niddah.

28. A husband may be in the delivery room when his wife gives birth but should not look at the normally covered parts of his wife's body.

29. It is permissible for the husband to hear his wife singing even though she is niddah. This applies also to singing shabbat songs. However, it is commendable to be stringent.

30. A man should be careful not to intentionally smell his wife's perfume or flowers that she is wearing when she is niddah. However, if she has removed the flowers he may even make a blessing on their fragrance.

31. A woman should have special clothing when she is niddah, though they may be just as nice as her regular clothing. This is so the couple will constantly remember that she is niddah.

32. A woman may dress nicely and wear jewelry and cosmetics when she is niddah, as is her custom when she is not niddah. Even if the husband claims that it does not matter to him, if that is her normal way of dressing up she should continue it when she is niddah.

33. If the woman normally works in the house she may do all of her normal household chores, even those specifically done for her husband, even in his presence. For example, she may cook or bake for him, set the table or serve him food. Excluded from this is serving him glass of wine, which is absolutely forbidden, unless it is done in a different way than normal, like serving with the left hand. All other liquids may be poured and served in the normal way.

34. Likewise, the husband may serve his wife food and make her coffee etc. However, he should not serve her wine unless it is done in an unusual way.

36. Although wine may not be poured or served, the Kiddush cup may be passed around in the usual manner with the wife who is niddah drinking from the cup directly after her husband.

37. She may not make his bed in front of him since this may be construed as a sign of affection. However, heavy work like fixing and placing a mattress is permitted. If he is not looking or not in the same room she may make the beds, even if he knows that she did it. This is permitted if it is done in the morning in order to straighten up the room. Additionally, it is forbidden for him to make the beds in front of her.

38. When she is niddah a woman must continue to do all of her normal religious duties, like blessings and prayers. She should continue learning even with mentioning God's name when learning the verses of the Tanakh. One should not be lax during this time. Also the woman who is niddah can go to synagogue. She may touch holy books and objects without restraint. (Although there are some ashkenazim who are stringent about these matters.)

39. If a husband is very ill and his wife who is niddah is the only one who can take care of him she may do so: she may feed, clothe, straighten him, and even hand him whatever he needs. She must, however, be careful not to touch him. Washing him should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary. She must still be careful not to make the beds in front of him.

40. All the above is only permitted if the husband is very ill, but if he only has aches and pains it is all absolutely forbidden.

41. These leniencies only apply if he is sick and she is niddah but if she is sick he may not serve her. Instead a nurse should be hired to assist her. Only when it is a life threatening situation can he be lenient to serve her.

*The laws of this chapter are adapted from Taharat Habayit Vol. 1 Chapter 12.