||TAHARAT HAMISHPAHA GUIDELINES
(often used in bridal classes)
NIDDAH is the term designating the status of a woman from
the time when she has her period, and is "separated" from her husband, until she
immerses in a Mikveh at the proper time.
MIKVEH means a gathering of waters that meets certain
Biblical and Rabbinical requirements concerning size and the source of water. A large hot
tub or spa does not qualify as a mikveh because the water has to originate from a natural
spring or rain water, aside from having to be built a certain way. An ocean or natural
lake qualifies as a mikveh.
TEVILLAH means ritual immersion (dipping) in a Mikveh.
BEDIKAH refers to a woman's internal check or examination
to determine her status.
THE SEVEN DAY PERIOD refers to the seven "clean"
or "pure" days before Tevillah during which a woman determines that she has no
menstrual flow. It is important to note that the terms "clean" and
"pure" are used but are not really appropriate. They are used for want of a
better translation. These words seem to imply that the menstruant woman is unclean or
impure while she has the status of "Niddah". This notion is incorrect. Jewish
law refers to a menstruant woman as Niddah, and when this status is lifted, her new
status is simply "permitted", meaning that sexual relations are permitted to
The following laws are the essence of Taharat Hamishpaha or Family Purity, and they come
directly from the Torah and from the Oral Tradition that was handed down from Moses to the
leaders after him. These laws were passed from generation to generation until they were
finally written down. The prohibition o sexual relations during menstruation time is
a G-d given law, and the penalty for committing this sin is severe. Included here are the
Divine commandments that are written in the Torah and rabbinical "fences" to
prevent people from transgressing the law.
Remember our example of a high cliff with a fence, to
prevent people from falling off the edge. One may come near the edge, and be overwhelmed
and overcome by the dizzying height. One could easily fall off the edge without ever
having intended to. Some laws from the Torah are like the cliff. To fall over the cliff
(to transgress the law) would have disastrous consequences. Other laws that we will learn
are akin to the fence at the edge of the cliff. That does not minimize their importance.
One does not go poking holes in the fence at the edge of a cliff. In making the important
commitment to keep the Family Purity laws, one can be overwhelmed by the extent of these
laws. Always keep in mind what your commitment is, and if a particular law is difficult
for you, do what you can to help yourself toward observing it.
In your married life, you must do what is necessary to make sure you maintain a certain
separation during your Niddah stage. Make sure that you never "fall over the
cliff". There may even be things that are not mentioned here that you will want to
avoid, because they provide a temptation to you. For example, if going to the movies is a
turn on for you and creates a potential problem, then avoid going to movies during your
Niddah period. Always be aware of what your personal pitfalls can be, and avoid them.
Also, be aware of what your husband's temptations can be. You may not even know that
wearing a certain scent is seductive to him. Communicate with your mate to find out what
you should avoid during this time. Since keeping the Family Purity laws can be quite
difficult at times, you don't want to make it unnecessarily hard on yourself or your
Also important to all of this is that if you ever have a question, don't hesitate to call
someone (A rabbi or his wife or ask the mikveh woman to call for you) to ask what the
right thing to do is. From my own personal experience, I've found that calling by
telephone is a whole lot easier than talking to someone face to face (o the phone,
no one can see you blush.) It is human nature and totally normal to be embarrassed about
sexual matters. Just keep in mind that human sexuality is a gift given to us by Hashem,
and the Family Purity law are packaged with this gift, kind of like operating
instructions. When you have a question, you need to know the answer so that you can
keep the laws properly. Any rabbi (or his wife) that I've ever spoken to on the
phone concerning a question has always been most sensitive to any possible embarrassment
that I may have. You will certainly have the same experience.
THE BASIC FAMILY PURITY LAWS THE SEPARATION BEFORE THE
1. No sexual relations are allowed during the 12 hour day or night time-period that
menstruation is expected to begin. This means that if you are expecting menstruation to
begin during the day on the 15th o the month, sexual relations are not allowed from
sun-up of the 15th until sun-down of the 15th. (Sometimes this interval is longer than
twelve hours, as in the summer when daytime lasts up to fifteen hours. During winter, the
day could last only 10 hours. If you are expecting menstruation to begin on the 15th at
night, then from sun down of that day until sun up the next morning, sexual relations are
2. How we determine when menstruation is expected.
If you have a regular period, that comes every month at
the same time, then this is when you expect it. If you always have a 29 day cycle, and it
always comes during the day of the 29th, then you separate on the day of the 29th. If the
day passes, and you have no signs of getting your period, you do a "bedikah" or
internal examination, and then you may have sexual relations.
If you have a semi-regular period, then you have to
separate on three
1. The Interval - if the interval between your last period and the one before that
is 32 days, you count 32 days from day one of your last period. On day 32, you separate.
2. The Hebrew Date - if your period arrived on the 10th day of the last Hebrew
month, separate on the 10th day of this Hebrew month. 3. 30 days - count 30
days from day one of your last period. On the 30th day you separate. Often one of
the above dates will coincide with another which means you may only have to separate two
days since many times the Hebrew date comes out on the 30th day. Sometimes, the count
between your last two periods may also be 30, and you will have to separate only one 12
Day or Night: If your period arrived at night last month,
then you will separate during the night this month (sundown until the next morning). If
your period arrived during the day last month, then this month you will separate during
the day (sun up until sundown). When your period starts is determine by when you
discover it. If you wake up in the morning and that's when you find out that your period
has started, you consider it as having started during the day. If the day to separate
passes, and you have not begun menstruation, you do a bedikah. If the cloth is stain free,
you may have sexual relations. For example, you are expecting your period to begin on the
25th, the 26th or the 27th of the month during the day. If the 25th passes, and you have
no sign of the onset of your period, then you may have sexual relations that night, after
a bedikah that shows you have not yet begun to menstruate. The next day you will again
separate from sexual relations during the day, since you may begin to menstruate that day
also. If all three days pass, and you have not yet begun to menstruate, then you do one
final check (in the example above, that would be during the evening of the 27th), an
then you do not have to check any more during that cycle. Please Note: The
separation for the times when menstruation is expected but has not come only refers to
sexual relations. You need not refrain from other things that are not allowed during
the actual Niddah time.
Other signs: If you always have certain signs that your
period is expected, then you separate whe these are apparent. For example, if you
know that without fail, the day before you start menstruating you get cramps, when
you get them you know that the next day you have to separate. If your symptoms are
variable, then they are not a reliable guide. Some women get cramps five days earl
one month, and not at all the next month, and the following month two days before the
period starts. In such a case you would not depend on cramping, bloating or tiredness as a
reason to separate, because these signs are not a reliable guide. You will use the
other ways to determine when t separate. Only when you have a precise, dependable
sign that means for certain your period is due in a measured amount of time, will you use
this sign as a reason for separation. This is not that common, but it does happen in a
segment of the population. 3. If you find a blood stain the size of a U.S. penny on a
white garment that you are wearing (or that you slept on and could logically be from
you) then you must separate. If it is at a time when menstruation is about to begin, you
must consider yourself Niddah. If it is at mid-cycle, and you are not expecting
menstruation to begin, then you must also consider yourself Niddah, but you should call a
Rabbi. There are instances where the halakha may determine that the stain is not a Niddah
one or where you do not have to wait th minimum four days before counting the seven
clean days before going to the mikveh. (For example where there is a possibility of a
wound or some other outside cause for the stain.) Only a rabbi can determine this. Make
sure you call, because you don't want to make life more difficult than it already is.
Certain color stains are not blood originated, and do not render a woman Niddah (such as
green, yellow, beige and some browns). It is best to save a bedikah cloth or stained
fabric to have it checked by a rabbi who is expert in judging stains. Any rabbi can refer
you to such an expert. If a stain is found on a colored garment then it is of no
consequence. For this reason, it is a good idea to wear colored underwear and use colored
sheets. Try to pick a pattern that has no white in it. Also, if the stain can
logically be attributed to something else, like a sore or scab or insect, then its
possible halakha might recognize that as the source. It is best to ask.
CONDUCT DURING THE NIDDAH STAGE
1. YOU MUST NOT TOUCH to avoid this, things are not passed hand to hand, and you don't eat
from the same plate (for example, sharing a bowl of popcorn).
2. YOU MUST NOT TEMPT to avoid this, when dining alone with
your husband, you establish a sign on the table to remind you of your status. He may not
have your leftover drink. You will not fold down your husband's bed or sit on it in his
presence, nor will he sit on yours, even not in your presence. You will conduct yourself
in a modest manner in his presence.
3. During your Niddah stage, you must not sleep on the same
bed. You must be on two separate mattresses that are not touching. Some of these
prohibitions may sound a little far out. Until you are married, its hard to imagine how
little things can be seductive or tempting. When you and your husband are alone, the
smallest touch can take on romantic significance. This doesn't mean that you have to be
nasty to your spouse durin the Niddah period. But you do have to be aware of where
the pitfalls are, and by keeping in mind the law in this section, you will avoid the
THE END OF THE NIDDAH STATE
1. You must count a minimum of four/five days from day one of your period. If you period
lasts three days, you still must count four/five days. If your period lasts six days or
more days, then you will count as many days as it lasts. The minimum is four/five,
depending on your family custom. In the late afternoon of the fourth/fifth day, before
sundown, you must do an internal bedikah to determine that menstruation has ceased. Wrap a
clean, white cloth around your finger and gently penetrate the inside of the vagina with
it. Rotate your finger gently to make sure there are no blood particles left in the folds
and crevices. Examine this cloth in daylight or by fluorescent light to make sure there
are no stains or signs of blood. If the cloth is clean, then you may begin counting your
seven clean days. If it is not clean, you may keep trying until you get a clean cloth, as
long as it is done before sunset. It helps to take a bath, but this is not necessary. You
should make sure that your body is clean however, even if you haven't taken a bath. If it
is not overly irritating, you may reinsert the cloth, or insert a tampon to keep in place
for twenty minutes beginning just before sunset. This is an extra check. When you take it
out twenty minutes later, you will examine it by fluorescent light to make sure your
period has indeed ended. It is preferable to wear white underwear the first 24 hours of
your seven clean days. If you forget to change to white, or to do the extra 20 minute
check, or are not home where you can change, your menstruation is still considered over
with, and your seven clean days have begun, AS LONG AS YOU DETERMINED BY AN INTERNAL CHECK
BEFORE SUNSET THAT ALL MENSTRUATION HAS CEASED. (It is also helpful to change any linens
that may have stains on them because you don't want anything to throw your counting off.)
2. You now begin counting seven clean days. Since in Judaism the day starts at sundown, if
you began counting your seven clean days on Sunday evening (you did your bedikah on Sunday
sometime before sunset) then your seven days will be concluded by sunset of the following
Sunday. Sunday night begins the eighth day, and on that night (Sunday night) you go to the
Mikveh. While counting your seven clean days, on each day it is preferable you do a
bedikah in the morning and in the evening before sunset, until the final one at the end of
the seventh day. If the checks from day two until day six (in the above case that would be
Tuesday through Saturday) are unduly difficult for you, or if you forget some of them, you
can still go to the Mikveh. HOWEVER, it is most important not to forget to do the
following three basic minimal checks:
1) The first bedikah that determines the end of
menstruation before sunset of the first clean day,
2) A check sometime DURING the first day of your seven clean days to determine that you
are stain-free that day and
3) A check during the seventh day to make sure that you have completed seven clean days.
It is most important that at least those three checks mentioned above be done, even if
some of the ones in between are skipped. Without them you do not have the required
evidence that your menstruation has ceased. In our case above, that would mean some time
during Monday, you would also have to make a bedikah. And you must also check on the
seventh day, which in the above case would be some time th following Sunday before
sundown. You will use the same method of wrapping your index or middle finge with a
spotlessly clean, white cloth and examining yourself internally.
There is a custom to wear white underwear and use white
bedsheets during the seven clean days. However, if you are prone to emissions you should
wear colored underwear during these days so that there will be no staining that is of
consequence. If during one of your checks you find a stain that renders yo unclean
(it is advisable to check with a rabbi) you have to start counting your seven days
again from the beginning. For example, if you checked on Sunday before sundown and the
bedikah was good, the next day is called day one of the seven. But, if when you check on
Monday you find a stain, you have to start again counting your seven days. You will do
another check before sundown Monday, and will go to the Mikveh next Monday night,
providing your bedikah is good.
PREPARATION FOR IMMERSION IN THE MIKVEH
After the seven clean days, and the bedikah of the last day, you can immerse in a Mikveh.
The immersion takes place at night, which is the beginning of the eighth day. The
Sephardic custom is that a woman may immerse right after sunset providing she is not going
to get home or be in private with her husband until seit hakochvim', about a half hour
after sunset. If you cannot dip in the Mikveh that night, you can go any following night.
In cases of illness, fear, extreme cold, or special circumstances, daytime dipping on the
eighth day may be permitted. In such cases consult a rabbi. But in any event you cannot
resume sexua relations until you have immersed in a Mikveh, no matter how many days
have passed. The immersion is what removes the Niddah status. One should not unnecessarily
delay going to the Mikveh for this puts an undue strain on the relationship. And certainly
a woman should never delay going to the Mikveh to express anger or annoyance at her
Care must be taken to bathe or shower (a bath is preferred, but not essential) carefully,
so that there is no dirt or adhesion on the body. During immersion there must be no
separation between the Mikveh water and the body. Special care should be taken that nails
are clean, and that no nails are broken or partly hanging. It is preferable but not
absolutely necessary to cut nails. All makeup should be removed, with care taken to be
sure that mascara and eye makeup is cleaned completely. Scabs that are new should be
soaked until soft and left alone. An old scab that has completely healed underneath will
probably come off upon soaking in a bathtub. If you're not sure, rub gently. If nothing
happens, leave it. All hair on the body should be combed thoroughly. If you've had a
waxing recently, make sure all wax is removed (baby oil is good for this, and remove baby
oil with soap and water.) Brush teeth. Remove contact lenses. Make sure all creases and
crevices of the body are thoroughly cleaned. Remove soft skin from behind and at base of
toenails. Remove loose skin from feet.
Make sure that you have no particles stuck between your teeth. Use toothpicks or
Dento-tape (a thick dental floss that doesn't break easily) to clean the teeth in addition
to a brush. Remove all tight jewelry, earrings, rings, etc. Any false teeth or removable
dentures must be taken out before tevillah. Permanent fixtures such as fillings and caps,
braces, etc. are not considered a barrier or interference to immersion.
You may prepare at home or at the Mikveh. Usually a shower is taken at the Mikveh, even if
you have done all your preparations at home.
THE TIME OF IMMERSION
When you have cleaned yourself thoroughly, and examined yourself to make sure there are no
adhesions or any dirt or foreign particles on your body and all hair is combed thoroughly,
you may immerse in the Mikveh. A matron will check that all your hair was submerged.
Outside the water, before you go down into the water, while covered with a robe or large
towel, say the blessing. The matron will give you a cloth to cover your head while you say
the blessing. In Hebrew: Baruch ata Ado-nai Elohenu Melech ha-olam asher kidishanu
bemisvotav vesivanu al ha-tevila. In English: Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the
Universe, Who has made us holy with His Commandments, and Who has commanded us to
observe the Ritual Immersion.
If you cannot say the blessing in Hebrew, mention it to the matron. She will gladly
say the words for you to repeat.
You then walk down into the Mikveh and submerse your body completely, making sure to
go down deep enough for all the hair on you head to be covered with water. Immerse as if
you are crouching down, hands and feet slightly apart, in a natural position.
Two dips is normally the minimum, some have the custom to dip three times, except in a
hardship case when one dip is adequate. Some Syrians have developed a tradition to dip
seven times. If seven is hard for you, do two.
The matron will say "Kosher" after each dip to
let you know that it was o.k. If there is a problem with one, she will tell you to
dip again. Remember she is there to help you perform this Misvah. You need not be
embarrassed in her presence, and she will help you with anything you need, or are not sure
FRIDAY NIGHT OR HOLIDAY IMMERSION
When your time to go to the Mikveh comes out on a Holiday or Friday night, you must
do all your preparations before you light candles. Call the Mikveh on Thursday night to
find out what time you can dip on Friday night. After you light candles, make sure not to
get dirty or not to do anything that will snag your nails or dirty them. At the
Mikveh, after sunset, you will not shower, you will just dip. Usually an extra dipping is
done. The first one also takes the place of the shower, and the following ones are the
LAWS FOR A BRIDE
A bride must determine when she has to go to the Mikveh using the methods described in the
earlier section. There are some differences, though. These differences only apply to a new
bride, and once she is married, she follows the procedures above.
1. If her period ends before four/five days, she may do a check and start counting her
seven clean days immediately.* As much as possible, the wedding date should be set keeping
in mind when the bride's period is expected, so that immersion will take place shortly
before the wedding.
2. The bride must also do at least three bedikahs (checks).
An unmarried girl must be very gentle doing these bedikahs, and should not try to
penetrate deeply with her finger.
3. The bride may immerse in the Mikveh on the eighth day,
or during the daytime any day thereafter, or even on the seventh day during the day when
the wedding is scheduled for that evening providing she will not be with the groom
until then. After she is married she will immerse according to the halakhot as
outlined in the previous section.
4. If the bride was not able to go to the Mikveh before her
wedding, she must consider herself Niddah and off limits to her new husband until
she goes to the Mikveh. Of all the things that can happen to a new bride, (and groom, for
that matter) this is one of the hardest. For this reason, our Rabbis state that the
bride and groom be "chaperoned" until the bride's Niddah status is ended. This
may be very inconvenient for you to do, but keep in mind that at this point in your life,
one wrong move could affect how you look at the Family Purity laws for your entire married
life. When that ceremony is finally over, and you belong to each other officially and
religiously and legally, the only thing that separates you is a ritual immersion.
This is like putting a starving person into a bakery and saying "Don't
eat." To make the best of what can only be called a bad situation, our Rabbis
told us the following: Arrange for a chaperon, or somehow do not be in private for
any length of time with each other. This means staying at your parents house or
having a youngster stay with each of you in separate rooms. While this poses great
difficulty, it can only help you handle a really tough situation. Not consummating
your marriage before you go to the Mikveh may be the hardest challenge you face, but when
you are able to do this you have really started your marriage off on solid ground.
Lets hope that you don't end up in that situation, and that your cycle is such
that your Niddah status will end in time for your wedding.
THE WEDDING NIGHT
After the first sexual relations, a virgin bride will usually bleed from the hymen. (If
there is no bleeding consult a rabbi as to your status.) The law recognizes that this is
not menstrual blood, but treats it as if it were, as there can sometimes be confusion.
Once the bride begins to bleed, she is considered Niddah, sexual relations are
prohibited and all laws that apply to Niddah apply here as well. However, she
counts four complete days after the bleeding starts, providing the bleeding stops,
and she may start counting her seven clean days on the evening of the fifth day. (If she
got married Sunday, and bled Sunday night, then if the bleeding has stopped by Thursday,
she may begin counting her seven clean days Thursday night. She will go to the Mikveh the
following Thursday night.) If the bride stops bleeding from the hymen before the four
days, and waiting eleven days would conflict with her regular menstrual period a rabbi
should be consulted in regard to beginning the seven clean days sooner. During
the first several months of marriage, it may seem that between "virgin bleeding"
and menstruation, the bride hardly ever finds herself in the "permitted"
category. While this may seem unfair, it really is a way for the new couple to develop
their sexual relationship slowly. It gives them a chance to adjust to each other
gradually. Marriage is a learning process, and Jewish law introduces the sexual aspect of
marriage gently, step by step.
PREGNANT AND NURSING WOMEN
A woman who's pregnancy is assured, that is after three periods are missed, does not have
to separate at all from her husband. The same applies to nursing mothers who don't expect
a period. [After her first period is missed, she will count 60 days from her last
period and separate for the day or night, whichever is applicable. The following
month she will count 90 days from her last period (30 for each month) and again separate
for the day or night. (Even though she may have had a test that determined that she was
pregnant, many women stain on the day that the period is due. For this reason, the
separation from sexual relations is mandated.) It is a good idea to wear colored underwear
during pregnancy also, just in case of staining.] If a nursing mother does
resume menstruation, then she must follow all the rules of separation. After
childbirth a woman must wait at least seven days after a boy and fourteen days after a
girl before she may begin counting seven clean days. As most women bleed more than two
weeks after childbirth, she must wait until the flow has completely ceased before
she begins counting seven clean days.
MAY G-D SHOWER HIS BLESSINGS UPON YOU AND MAY YOU
MERIT A HAPPY, FRUITFUL AND SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE.
Mrs. Miriam Barry