Niddah Diaries

This is a very personal topic to be writing about, which is why I have chosen to share it via an anonymous public blog.

As those of you following me may know, I broke up with the old bf about 4 months ago. I have started dating a new guy, and we have been together about 2 months.

We are not having sex. Due to both mine and his negative experiences with introducing sex early on in a relationship, we have decided to wait. However, we are still somewhat physical with each other.

He and I are both marriage-minded. If this relationship goes well, we would both like it to end in marriage. We are also both Orthodox Jews, and believe in keeping the Jewish sexual laws known as niddah.

Niddah, in it’s strictest biblical interpretation, forbids a husband and wife from having sex while the woman is menstruating. Rabbinic decrees have stretched this to include 7 days after the woman stops menstruating, and to prohibit all types of touch, including hugs, kisses, etc. During the middle ages, under the influence of Islamic neighbors, these rabbinic decrees were even further stretched to prohibit such activities as passing an object directly to one another, sleeping in the same bed, and eating off the same plate.

Additionally, as part of these laws, many believe that since an unmarried woman is considered a “niddah” (menstruant) until she purifies herself in the mikveh, which only happens after she is married, an unmarried woman and man may not touch each other at all.

Needless to say, we don’t keep all of these restrictions. We touch, sometimes. However, it is important to him that, since eventually he does plan to keep the niddah laws in marriage, some form of niddah should be observed before marriage as well.

We decided that, while I am menstruating, we will not have any physical contant. No hand holding, no hugging, no soft arm stroking, and certainly no kissing. I told him I’ll try. I’ll see how I feel about it.

I have always been ambivalent about niddah. On the one hand, it seems so restrictive. Why can’t I have sex with my husband when I want to? Particularly in marriage context, when kids are involved and the couple is often tired and exhausted at night, if there happens to be one day where both spouses are up and ready for it, why should the fact that the woman only stopped menstruating 3 days ago be a hinderance? And what if one spouse had a particularly trying day? The other can’t come home and offer a hug of support?

On the other hand, long term monogamy is scary. Am I really expected to have sex with the same person year after year after year and still have that same spark of intimacy and excitement and arousal? Niddah, supposedly, is a way to combat that. By creating a distance between spouses for a certain amount of time each month, there is a certain excitement that, supposedly, returns when the couple can reunite physically.

I have heard vehement arguments from both sides of the spectrum. I haven’t yet decided how I feel about it.

And that’s where this project comes in. I have decided that, in order to sort through my feeling on niddah during this experimental time, I will write my thoughts and feelings down on this blog. I welcome your comments and input, particularly those of you that have some experience with keeping-or not keeping-niddah.

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