Unlike the author of this excellent piece about keeping niddah for the first time, I did expect niddah to be hard. I expected to feel distant from my husband and frustrated with not touching. I expected that the emotional turmoil that niddah creates would harm rather than strengthen our marriage. I expected to feel resentful of halacha for interfering with my life in a most intimate way.
What I didn’t expect, however, were the ways niddah interferes with my life in minor ways. I haven’t had a manicure since my wedding. Now, that’s not super unusual for me, I generally adhere to the philosophy of “why pay someone to do something that I can do myself”, but I also like to indulge once in a while. Recently, I was walking around manhattan with some time to kill, when I found myself in front of one those quickie-cheap nail salons, where you can get a mani-pedi for twenty bucks in twenty minutes. I thought it would be a good idea, but then I realized mikvah night was a few days away. Grr. No sense in getting my nails done when I’m just going to have to take it off in a few days.
Similarly, I recently accidentally cut myself on a razor that I had thrown into my huge catch-all bag that I carry to work. I was going to the mikvah that night straight from work, so I had to make sure to bring everything I needed with me in the morning. Trust me, it’s super awkward when your secular co-workers ask why you have a razor in your bag.
In a sense, it seems trite to complain about these things. Really, you have to be more organized in planning your manicures? Oh boo hoo. But actually, this is just a reflection of the bigger problem that I feel with halacha. Halacha wants to get into to your life and pop it’s annoying head up everywhere. It is exactly the sentiment expressed in that line from The Fiddler on the Roof: “We have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes…This shows our constant devotion to God.”
And that is how halacha is dually beautiful and over-intrusive, all at the same time.