THE SECRET BEHIND THE SUCCESS OF THE JEWISH FAMILY (taharas/taharat hamishpacha)
This booklet is meant to be an informative basis for understanding the concepts behind observing the mitzva(Divine commandment) of Taharat Hamishpacha, which in Hebrew means “family purity”. This concerns the relationship between husband and wife, regulation of their marital relations in accordance with the woman’s menstrual cycle and immersion in a kosher mikvah in order to render the woman pure after she has experienced bleeding from her uterus . Those of you who are not familiar with the term may ask what is a mikvah? I once asked this question to a woman who had recently come to America from Russia. She looked at me with a puzzled expression and then said, “Oh, I know. You mean bar mikvah?”
She had heard of Bar Mitzvah but I realized then that she had no idea what a mikvah is. She was confusing the Hebrew words. Unfortunately many people in the world today are not aware of this important mitzvah of mikvah. Basically a mikvah is a ritual pool of water, built according to very specific requirements in the Torah. The bor or actual pit of the mikveh must be filled with rain water which is drawn by natural means into the pit and then thispenn pit or bor is connected to a larger pool of regular water (through a hole ) and the entire pool then attains the status of a kosher mikvah. Immersion in the mikvah renders a woman pure after she has uterine bleeding (ie. due to her period, after giving birth or for other hormonal reasons).
One does not have to be an observant Jew to keep the laws of mikvah: it is something which can be done by any Jew, no matter what their level of observance or commitment. One might well ask why a non-observant Jew would desire to keep mikvah? Well, many people do so because they find that it enhances their marital relationship and romance, many people who could not become pregnant were blessed with children upon going to the mikvah and many women simply feel that there are health benefits involved (health in both a spiritual and physical sense, since the two go hand in hand).
Nowadays there is a lot of confusion in the world and as we get closer to the Messianic era, to the redemption, there is greater darkness in the world which tries to oppose holiness. All the confusion we see today (such as gender issues etc.) is a manifestation of spiritual darkness and impurity. In a dark room, things become blurred and difficult to differentiate one thing from another. Similarly, in a dark world, truth becomes obscured and it is harder to feel clarity in things that to previous generations were so simple and natural. Lack of observance of family purity also causes a blemish in the spiritual realm which can then bring to the world more spiritual darkness and confusion , G-d forbid. The way to heal the world is to increase in light and holiness. Adding in proper observance of mikvah brings greater purity to the world.
Mikvah is a mysterious word to some women. But over the past twenty years there has been a tremendous revival of this wonderful Jewish tradition. What is it that is attracting thousands of modern, twentieth century women to start keeping these beautiful laws which have been part of our Jewish tradition for so many thousands of years?
Perhaps it is the element of romance that mikvah adds to a marriage…..or the wonderful feeling of joy and spirituality that accompanies immersion in the mikvah waters…or simply the knowledge that for generations Jewish women have faithfully kept these traditions and laws because they are truly the foundation and secret to the success and purity of the Jewish
In the Torah (Bible) we find that Sara, Avraham’s wife, had a special blessing in her home: her Shabbat candles burned from one Shabbat to the next, there was a special blessing in her dough, and a cloud of protection rested over her tent because she observed the laws of mikvah. Rivkah, Rachel and Leah also had these same blessings because they followed in Sara’s footsteps. And this is a gift that all Jewish women are able to have since we are all daughters of Sara, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.
Taharat Hamishpacha is commonly translated as “family purity”. But what does purity really mean? In Judaism, pure and impure are completely spiritual concepts. “Tameh” is the word for impure, and anything tameh has a spirit of unholiness within it: it carries a strong potential for negativity. Contact with something tameh closes a person to Godliness and makes it difficult to experience true joy. “Tahor” is the word for pure. Anything tahor leads to happiness and spirituality: to closeness to God and a feeling of elevation. These are spiritual terms and are defined by God Who created the world and instilled within the world forces of holiness and forces of unholiness.
Mikvah and purity go together. Men also go inside the waters of a mikvah in order to achieve spiritual purity. This is the traditional Jewish way to purify one’s body and mind. The waters of the mikvah are referred to by the Rambam (Maimonides, a great Jewish scholar) as the “waters of pure knowledge”. What does this actually mean? Impurity includes within itself thoughts of evil and the knowledge of “sin”. Pure knowledge is the concept of pure thoughts: of innocence and spirituality. This is the state that existed in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. Immersion in the mikvah purifies one’s mind and is the remedy for bad thoughts and negative thinking.
In fact, on a spiritual level, the waters of the Garden of Eden come to every mikvah and at the time of immersion it is as if one is entering the Garden of Eden and achieving that original level of purity and innocence. That is one reason why we do not wear clothing, jewelry etc. when we go in the mikvah because in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve did not wear clothing until they sinned since they were originally on a very high level spiritually and their bodies were a vessel for the light of their souls, thus allowing them to feel true closeness to God at all times . Only after their sin when the world lost it’s status of purity and consciousness of Godliness, not wearing clothes became immodest and engenders feelings of shame within a person. The entire idea behind the sin of eating the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge was that people suddenly gained a knowledge of unholiness: the side of impurity. People suddenly understood the idea of being separated and cut off from Godliness which brought about a feeling of tremendous shame. However, at the time of immersion in a mikvah we try to recapture the innocence and spirituality that our forefathers once knew.
When a woman has her menstrual period (or some other bleeding from her womb such as after giving birth etc.) that blood is “tameh” and the woman becomes “Nida”. Actually any bleeding from the uterine lining (due to natural menstruation or a discharge due to hormonal changes etc.) could render a woman Nida depending upon where and when this bleeding is found. Nida actually means separated. It is connected to the word nidche which means to be far. I also heard once that it shares a root in Hebrew with the word “nedar” which means a vow.. In the Torah, certain people called nazirs would take a vow to separate themselves from certain physical experiences in order to reach a higher spiritual level. For example, they would vow to abstain from drinking wine etc .
The concept of separation and holiness always go together just as God separated us from the other nations of the world in order that we should be a holy nation to Him.
Under the marriage canopy (the chupa) a woman becomes sanctified to her husband by separating from all other men and keeping herself special for her husband. That is why the word for marriage is “kiddushin” which comes from the same root as kedusha (holiness). The same idea applies to a woman at the time of being Nida. She separates from physical relations with her husband until immersing in the mikvah in order to reach a higher plateau in her spiritual growth and in her relationship with her husband. Of course, the husband also grows spiritually at this time and learns to become the master of his physical desires. It is a very positive time: a time of learning and developing, a time of renewal.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained the following, according to the teachings of Chassidus: Before the sin of Adam and Eve with the snake, evil was not a part of the human being and the human body was totally pure and holy, knowing only the consciousness of Godliness and purity . After the sin happened, evil entered into the body and psyche of a person, human consciousness fell from a level of holiness and evil became a complex part of humanity. The Rebbe explained that a Jewish body is holy and by nature wants to push outward anything unclean or unholy. So the period a Jewish woman experiences each month is her body’s way of rejecting and discharging the knowledge of evil . It is a woman’s job to bring purity to the world and to her marriage and to rectify the original sin of Eve.
After her period a woman counts seven clean days (days which represent her longing to re unite with her husband and since husband and wife mirror the relationship of God and the Jewish people, this indicates the kind of longing the soul has to be connected to God and the recognition of how far we are spiritually from true holiness ). Part of the laws of counting seven clean days is that a woman cannot be discharging semen during the seven clean days. We know that it takes 72 hours for the body to discharge semen. And in case a couple would have intercourse during twilight ,when it is unclear which day it is and how to begin counting those three days, the women actually came to the rabbis and requested that it be necessary to wait a minimum of four days from the time bleeding commences before starting to count their seven clean days to avoid making any mistakes. It became a custom to add one more day for various halachic reasons, making five days that a woman must separate from her husband when she becomes nida before she can begin to count her seven clean days.
The strength of a Jewish custom is very strong and one may not change that on one’s own. Please note: certain sephardim have the custom to wait only four days rather than five (as long as all bleeding stops by the fourth day) so if you are sephardic, find out if this is your custom.
Also please note: women who have difficulty conceiving, possibly due to early ovulation which occurs during the seven clean days, should consult a Rav, a Rabbinical expert in that field, as he would know how to advise her and what leniencies he may be able to help her with so she could get around the problem of early ovuluation etc. (Sometimes a Rav may advise a woman to keep only four days instead of five before commencing to count her seven clean days if all bleeding stops by that time. But of course a Rav must be consulted as a couple must not make such decisions on her own). In general, any time there is a problem of infertility, a Rav should be consulted as he may be able to help the couple halachically to work out a solution to the problem, depending upon what the cause may be.
Once a woman successfully completes counting her seven clean days, she then immerses in the mikveh, which purifies her each time on a higher spiritual level and thus raises her and her husband to a status of greater kedusha (holiness) and sanctity. It is an elevation of physicality and an elevation of consciousness.
Tevilah is the word for immersion in the mikvah. In Hebrew, tevilah has the same letters as the word “bitul”, which means self nullification. The inner purpose of mikvah is the idea of nullification of the ego. By immersing in the waters of the mikvah, one loses oneself and becomes totally submerged in and nullified to the water. This self nullification causes one to let go of one’s ego, and this letting go of the ego renders the person a vessel in which God’s light can rest. God’s Presence can only dwell in a place of humility and selflessness. There are detailed preparations which go into immersing in the mikvah. The woman must first bathe herself thoroughly and remove anything that could be a “chatzitza”.
A chatzitza means an interference: anything which does not allow the waters of the mikvah to reach every part of the body (ie. ink stains, dirt under the nails etc.). Spiritually, according to Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, the purity of the mikvah represents the idea of the soul permeating the body with joy. A chatzitza represents a worry which does not let the joy of the soul affect the body totally. The Kabbalah explains that the only positive worry in life is to worry about a chatzitza and this then substitutes for and eliminates all other negative worries of life. All preparations for tevilah must be done in the spirit of preparing for one’s wedding, with great joy. The woman must bathe, remove dirt, cut finger and toe nails and clean them very well, brush her teeth, clean out the corners of her eyes, her nose, ears, naval and all other parts of the body. She must comb out all the hairs on her body so no hairs are tangled together etc.
There are more details to learn about preparation but we will only cover things very generally for the moment (later in greater detail). Once the woman has completed all her preparations, she is then ready to immerse in the mikvah waters.
Some people used to say that women would go to the mikvah in the olden days because it was good for hygiene since they never could take a bath easily. But that is obviously untrue because before immersion one must cleanse oneself thoroughly and only then can one go into the mikvah, and even if a woman takes a hundred baths but she does not actually immerse in a mikvah, she does not become pure and she retains her status of tameh and Nida. So it is obvious that the reasons behind mikvah are spiritual and not for physical cleanliness.
The fact that physical cleanliness is part of preparation for immersing in the mikvah is because cleanliness is associated with Godliness. And when one prepares properly one then reaps all the spiritual benefits, similar to the idea that when a radio is plugged in only then can one receive the sound waves and hear the music. The waves are there all the time but if the right connections are not made, one cannot appreciate the music. Keeping the laws of Taharat hamishpacha does have certain health benefits as well, as even doctors have discovered that not having relations during one’s period lessens the risk of diseases of the cervix, for example. But again, the laws are not kept because of health benefits. Health benefits do automatically accompany keeping God’s laws since the Creator of the world certainly knew what things a human being should do or not do in order to achieve maximum health, both spiritually and physically. But the laws are kept simply because they were commanded and they are done in a spirit of humility and acceptance that we cannot fathom the wisdom of God.
There are very exact measurements as to the way that a man made mikvah must be constructed. The ocean , of course, constitutes a natural mikvah. However, not all bodies of natural water meet the requirements of a mikvah (many lakes do, if they have natural springs of water underneath).For a spring or river itself to meet the requirements for immersion, the water must originate from a spring and not from a collection of rainwater. Similarly, a natural lake that is fed by river water and springs can be used for immersion.
Certainly a regular bathtub or a swimming pool can never be used as a mikvah for women.
The measurements of the mikvah have deep spiritual symbolism and meaning. The mikvah must be 40 seahs deep. 40 signifies wisdom in the Torah: knowledge.
There are also complex laws as to the way a mikvah must be built and how the water must be drawn in to the mikvah as well as which type of water one can fill the mikveh with: the water must be rain water originally (water from the Heavens) which fills the cistern (bor) of the mikveh and which is connected to the body of the mikveh and constantly mixes with the regular water of the mikveh itself. There are many mystical reasons to all of these laws, as there are behind all the mitzvot (Divine Commandments). And by keeping these laws one can feel the tremendous spiritual benefits and the spiritual elevation which
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburg, in his book “The Covenant of Marriage”, discusses mikvah in the following way:
The days of first seeing blood (when one’s period begins) parallels the idea of submission. Upon initially sighting blood, one becomes aware of how distant one is from God and from true purity. It is a humbling experience: a feeling of submission to a higher Force. The husband, by being emotionally close to his wife, experiences the same feelings. They must then concentrate on preparing to draw close again which does not allow any feelings of despair but rather gives the couple a feeling of great yearning to reunite.
Once the initial days of bleeding are finished, the woman must then count seven clean days: seven consecutive days free of any bleeding. The woman examines herself internally twice a day to see if there is no more staining, even minutely.
The seven clean days parallel the spiritual work of separation from evil. During these days the yearning for reunion is very great. But one must check oneself internally in a spiritual sense as well to be sure all thoughts, feelings etc. are directed properly toward holiness. One utilizes these seven days to separate oneself from any thoughts or behaviors which could distance a person from God.
The seven clean days is a feeling of yearning and anticipation for the reunion to come which will then be on a higher spiritual level. Finally the time for immersion and renewal arrives. Immersion in the mikvah is followed by great feelings of joy. The couple experiences simcha (happiness) similar to the feeling they had on the day of their wedding. They refreshen their relationship and truly appreciate being able to be together physically. Their physical union also takes on a more spiritual tone.
According to the Torah, husband and wife are two halves of one soul. They find each other in this physical world and marry. (That, by the way, is one reason that a Jew and a non-Jew are not supposed to marry: their souls come from different sources and are not compatible in the sense of truly being soul mates). Up in the Heavenly worlds there are also certain levels of a couple’s souls which exist constantly. When a woman is pure down here, then also spiritually it is a time of union of the souls.
This union, which manifests itself down here in marital relations, is able to produce a child. Even if a woman is already pregnant, when she has marital relations she and her husband still produce spiritual children and new souls.
The purity of their thoughts and the modesty of their conduct at the time of their union determines the quality of children they create. And the concept of purity and modesty permeate all the mitzvot: this is the key to our connection to God.
Even at the time of relations it is customary for the woman to cover her hair as this brings greater purity to the relationship but this is not a law and if a woman uncovers her hair during relations it is not a problem : this is something husband and wife decide between themselves. The couple must strive to have pure and holy thoughts as this brings down a pure and holy garment for their child’s soul (which basically means it affects the spiritual, psychological and physical health of the child as well as the middot (character traits).
According to Shulchan Aruch, the holiest position for marital relations is the husband on top, facing his wife. This is particularly important at the time when the woman could conceive and would want to conceive a child in the holiest possible manner. It is permissible to be together in other positions but we are simply discussing the holiest position.
When a woman is Nida, it would be harmful spiritually for the couple to have relations then. And in fact, couples who do not observe the mitzva of taharat hamishpacha often end up fighting and feeling many blockages to expressing their true feelings or to really feeling close. Many marriages end up in divorce due to a lack of observing these laws. When it is Nida time, it is a sign that the couple must learn to communicate withouttouching. This is an important aspect of marriage : the woman is never made to feel like an object.
God created everything to go in seasons and cycles. The woman’s cycle establishes the physical relations of the couple in the home. After the Nida time is over and the woman immerses in the mikvah, it is a time of reunion, like the joy of a bride and groom. This helps to keep the marriage fresh and exciting.
When there are times that a husband and wife cannot be together, then the times that they can be physically close takes on new meaning and their appreciation for each other never wanes, even after 30 years of marriage. Many people complain that the romance in their marriage disappears afer a while and this can cause arguments, boredom, dissatisfaction etc. Through keeping the laws of mikvah, once a month a couple has an evening filled with romance: an evening just for the two of them and this is very healthy for a marriage.
Children also can appreciate and thank their parents for keeping the laws of mikvah. When a woman immerses in the mikvah, she is then able to draw down a pure body and soul for her child: a mind which is not tainted by bad thoughts, unnatural desires, and so on. It is explained in Torah and mysticism that after immersing in the mikvah, angels accompany the woman home, including the angel in charge of the soul of the child that will be born from that union.
Since spirituality and physicality are so closely related, when a child is born from a pure union, both the physical and mental condition of the child will be purer. Genetic problems, psychological problems and other difficulties will be minimized. What greater gift than this could a mother give her child? Judaism believes that every child is a blessing and the more children a couple have, the more the home is blessed. Certain souls are designated to come to your family but it is important to bring these souls into the world in purity, to bring down children who will grow up to be a source of true “nachas’(pleasure) to their parents and to the Jewish nation.
The Jewish family has always prided itself on having successful marriages and a peaceful home atmosphere. To understand why this has been so, it helps to understand the concept of marriage. Jewish marriage is considered a building. One of the blessings we read under the chupa is to have a “binyan adei ad”: an everlasting edifice. Of course, every building needs a strong foundation in order to prevent it from collapsing. The laws of taharat hamishpacha are that foundation.
And we can see that in the more recent decades when many people have not kept the laws of mikvah due to ignorance or misunderstanding, the quality of marriages have not been the same and the rate of divorce has been much higher. Also society has degenerated in many ways. When a husband and wife conduct themselves according to the laws of the Creator of the world, the laws of purity and mikvah, they not only keep their relationship holy and pure, but they even affect, on a cosmic level, the purity of the entire world. They bring to the world holiness, stability, kindness and morality. So this is not just a personal choice: this is something affecting the entire world.
Our sages assure us (and history testifies to this fact) that when a couple observe the laws of taharat hamishpacha, the husband and wife will remain as beloved to one another as on their wedding day. The separation is only a temporary one for the purpose of elevation. And this separation can be used as a mini-vacation and we know that “distance makes the heart grow fonder”. The Lubavitcher Rebbe once said that when a couple are together at the time when they should be far, then they will be far when they should be close. And of course when they separate at the proper times then when they should be close they will become extremely close to one another and truly feel one. When a marriage is based on sanctity and holiness, the relationship becomes one in which God Himself is revealed and becomes a partner. This is reflected in the feeling of peace and contentment which prevails in a Jewish home.
And the woman, being the mainstay of the home, is really the one who sets the tone for the purity and happiness of the family. Consequently, not observing the laws of family purity can cause marital strain and tension and can have devastating affects on a Jewish couple leading to arguments, lack of marital harmony and possibly even divorce.
The position of the Jewish woman in the home is a very esteemed one according to the Torah. Throughout the ages Jewish women have always saved the Jewish nation from destruction. It is in the merit of the Jewish women that the Jews were redeemed from slavery in Egypt and it is in the merit of the righteous women of this generation that the Jews will be redeemed from exile. The Jewish woman is entrusted with the three most important laws: preparing for Shabbat and Yom Tov, keeping kosher, and bearing and raising the children based on the laws of observing taharat hamishpacha. So essential is mikvah to a Jewish family life, that the Jewish community is required to sell its shul (synagogue) and even its holy Sefer Torah if they lack sufficient funds to build a mikvah! The mikvah takes priority over all else because it directly affects the quality and purity of one’s children and it affects generations. It is the basis for success in bringing up children who will be open to Torah and Jewish values and who will understand the concept of true modesty and beauty (as it says in the Torah “Kol kevuda bat melech penima: the glory of the King’s daughter is within” Modesty and the laws of taharas hamishpacha go together since that is all part of the purity upon which a Jewish home are based and modesty is a trait which all Jewish women possess deep within).
All Jewish women have a right to enjoy the respect and happiness that comes with properly observing the wisdom of the Jewish traditions. I have a friend who recently came from Russia. She is not yet observant although she is interested in Judaism. But she did agree to try going to mikvah. And to this day she faithfully goes to mikvah every month. Her husband is in fact as happy about it as she is because every time she goes to the mikvah, her husband somehow manages to find a job after that or has additional business. He anxiously awaits her time of tevilah. It is a secret between the two of them that they believe God will bless them with work and money (along with health and all other benefits) when she goes to the mikvah.
And in fact Kabbalah explains that one of the secrets of immersion in the mikvah is that it changes all difficulties in life to chesed (kindness) and makes things easier, which can include making a living easier as well. I once asked this Russian friend if she finds it at all difficult to observe these laws, and she replied, “I love it. And my husband loves it too because it really works!”
PLEASE NOTE: THE LAWS, AS EXPLAINED BELOW, ARE A COMPILATION OF INFORMATION OVER SEVERAL YEARS FROM MANY ORTHODOX RABBIS. HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION THAT YOU ARE NOT SURE ABOUT, OR YOU HAVE A BEDIKA SHAYLA , PLEASE CONTACT AN ORTHODOX RAV WHO IS AN EXPERT IN THESE LAWS IN ORDER TO OBTAIN PRACTICAL ADVICE AND HIS RULING IN YOUR PARTICULAR SITUATION.
First of all, it is important to explain the function and role of the rabbi in the observance of the laws of family purity. Part of observance of these laws involves many questions (in Hebrew: shaylas). For example, at times a woman may experience staining either during counting of the seven clean days or at other times, or she may find a stain of a questionable color while making an internal examination. At such times it is necessary to ask the expertise of a Rav. Just as one would consult a doctor and trust his advice if there is any problem, in the same way one asks a Rav who is an expert in the laws of Nida when a question arises.
God does not put all the responsibility for the laws on the shoulders of the woman. A Rav is an orthodox rabbi who is specially trained and learned in all areas of Jewish law (halacha). Not all rabbis may become a Rav. A Rav is a higher level, so to speak, sort of like the status of a doctorate over a masters degree . And when a Rav answers questions according to the guidelines of the Torah, God then gives the Rav a certain inspiration to receive the correct answer and to know what to declare as being kosher and pure or impure. In fact, so important is the Rav that what he declares kosher actually becomes so even if it seems to everyone else that it is impure. For example, at times a woman may show a stain to a Rav that she is sure it is not “kosher”. But the Rav may very well declare the stain clean. Once the Rav says something, it takes on halachic importance and in Heaven it is declared the same way. The entire world was created through Divine Speech. Speech therefore has a power within it to create. And when a person speaks from a basis in Torah (which is God’s wisdom) then he can actually change nature and affect the physical world.
It is very important to find a Rav that one feels comfortable with and one should never feel embarrassed to ask a question since that is the job of the Rav: he deals with shaylas all day and nothing is strange or embarrassing to him. So the first thing every couple observing the laws of family purity must do is become acquainted (even by phone) with a Rav whom they can call whenever they have a question.
WHAT DOES THE WORD NIDA MEAN?
Nida means separated. A woman who is Nida must separate from physical relations with her husband until she immerses in the Mikvah. But this separation is only for the purpose of bringing her to a higher spiritual level. Through menstruation she rids herself of spiritual impurities and the immersion in the Mikvah renders her pure on a level of true holiness (Kedusha).
A woman should never joke and say that she is Nida when she is not (even if she is angry with her husband). In Jewish law a woman’s word is very much trusted and therefore she must not make light of this responsibility: she must not joke with such an important Mitzvah.
HOW DOES A WOMAN BECOME NIDA?
According to the Torah itself, in the past a woman would become Nida when she had bleeding (even a minute amount) accompanied by a particular physical sensation (called hargosho in Hebrew). That physical awareness of the commencement of bleeding was a necessary prerequisite to render the woman Nida in those times. The Rambam explains that feeling as a a“trembling of the body” as the blood leaves the uterus. Or, if a woman felt that her cervix opened. A third possible sensation was that a woman felt a flow of liquid leaving the uterus [not to be confused with a feeling of liquid oozing from outer edge of the vaginal canal – which is not considered a‘sensation” at all and which women do feel nowadays as well]. The above mentioned sensations are very rare in today’s day and age, and most women never feel such sensations at all, therefore we no longer look for sensations to accompany bleeding. The guidelines for a woman becoming nida are much simpler now. A woman becomes a Nida now when she has her menstrual flow, or any flow of blood which is an actual flow, more than staining or spotting, (and an actual flow is considered as if it came with a sensation, even though such a sensation is not noticeable). Once the amount of blood is enough to constitute a flow , she becomes Nida according to the Rabbonim (rabbis).
You may read in various books on taharat hamishpacha this idea about a hargosho, whereby they may mention that if a woman feels such a hargosho, she must immediately make a bedika. However, since nowadays we cannot recognize those feelings as being particularly related to a menstrual flow, and women are not aware of these particular physical sensations when they menstruate, it is generally accepted that women should NOT do such additional bedikas at all. The only thing that counts nowadays is having an actual flow of blood, which is a substantial amount, (or after giving birth a woman becomes Nida also ). Staining (very minimal bleeding) would only render a woman Nida according to the rabbonim (the rabbis) and therefore there are many details as to exactly how and when a woman becomes Nida from a stain.
Another way way that a woman becomes Nida is if she finds even a minute amount of blood upon inserting internally a bedika cloth, or inserting internally toilet paper or any other material. If she finds actual blood, even a tiny amount, on anything which was inserted internally, she would become Nida unless there is reason to believe the blood came from the cervix or vaginal canal, and not the uterus, at which point a Rav should be consulted for his determination. Please note: it is not considered a bedika to wipe externally with toilet paper or a cloth. But if your intention is to slightly insert the toilet paper to ascertain if there is bleeding and you do find blood, you need to consult a Rav as to your status.
Blood inside a discharge of mucous would also be a problem if it is found upon an internal examination but not if it is found upon toilet paper when wiping normally. Finding blood upon toilet paper is usually not a problem because toilet paper is a material that is not mekabel tumah (does not receive impurity). Therefore if one wipes oneself normally after urination (it is a good idea to wait about 30 seconds after finishing to urinate before wiping) and one does not insert the toilet paper internally (like a bedika) but only wipes externally, then even if she sees a red color (even if it is a bit larger than the size of an American dime) this does not render her Nida as long as she does not experience a real flow like during menstruation. Finding a light brown color on toilet paper is not a problem either and can be disregarded.
If however a woman is in a rush and she wipes herself before she has really finished urinating and she then finds a red color on the toilet paper, it could be a problem and she has to consult a rabbi.
There are rabbis who may advise women not to look at toilet paper and in general a woman does not have to look at toilet paper ….however, if a woman has a problem whereby she stains a lot, then it is not really proper for her to avoid looking at toilet paper in order to ignore the problem if she feels something is there, because if she feels that she is discharging blood then she has to see what is going on……and of course if she sees an amount of blood which is more than what should be, then she has to consult a Rav to find out her status. But in general, toilet paper is not a problem as long as the amount of blood seen is not too much. And it does not matter what color the toilet paper is: even white
toilet paper is okay.
If a woman had an internal exam by a doctor and blood was seen on his instrument or glove after the exam, a Rav should be consulted to determine the woman’s status. But if a woman had a pap smear or a similar exam, as long as the doctor did not enter the uterus and no blood was seen after the exam, the woman would not become Nida.
After marital relations if the husband wipes himself and finds blood, even a small amount, a Rav must be consulted because marital relations are a bedika of sorts and blood found could render the woman nida, depending on the cause , timing, color etc. If any blood stains or dark brown stains are found on whatever the husband uses to wipe himself (even if it is a colored cloth), that should be kept and shown to a Rav for determination of status.
So to summarize the process of becoming nida and then how to purify from that status to a status of purity. More details will be elaborated on further on:
- When does a woman become nida? At the onset of her period or whenever she experiences bleeding from her womb (uterus). Also after giving birth a woman becomes nida. A bedika ( an internal exam done with a bedika cloth) upon which a stain with an unclean color is found, will also render a woman nida even if it is not the time for her period. Stains found on underwear are subject to various laws and do not always render a woman nida (depending upon the size, color of the stain and what color and type of material it is found on). Certainly stains found on colored underwear are not generally a problem as long as the staining is not too much and is not soaking through the underwear. More details will be expounded upon as you continue reading.
- What is forbidden from the moment a woman becomes nida? A woman is not allowed to have any physical relations or even physical contact with her husband. She has to sleep in a separate bed. There are several harchokos (restrictions) which we will review in detail later as to the proper conduct of husband and wife during the nida time.
- How long is a woman nida for? Until all bleeding or staining stops and she is able to then count seven clean days and immerse in a kosher mikvah. The minimum time that one must wait from the moment bleeding commences until one can try to make a hefsik tahara and then begin counting seven clean days is five days. If on the fifth day after one’s period begins all bleeding and staining has stopped, the woman can make a hefsik tahara (although many women are nida longer than that depending upon how long it takes for all staining to stop). However, some Sephardim have the custom to wait only four days and if all bleeding stops they can make their hefsik tahara on the fourth day and then begin their seven clean days after that. There are some differences in laws for sephardim and ashkenazim. But for ashkenazim one must wait five days minimum (even if staining stops before that time), and then count seven consecutive clean days. How does a woman leave her status of nida?
- Step one is Hefsik tahara: she must make a hefsik tahara (this is the internal exam (bedika) done on the fifth day (or thereafter) to determine that all bleeding and staining have stopped. The purpose is in order to determine if there is any further staining (which would show up on an internal bedika cloth even if outwardly she does not see signs of staining). For the hefsek tahara exam only she can make several exams in a row until she manages to get a clean one because the hefsik tahara exam is not part of her actual seven day count. It is just the preliminary exam to determine if she is ready to begin counting the seven clean days. The hefsik tahara just indicates that bleeding and staining have stopped. It is advisable to take a bath or a shower to clean oneself before attempting to make a hefsik tahara exam but if one is unable to do so it is fine to go ahead and do the hefsik tahara exam anyway. If the woman does bath or shower before doing the hefsik tahara exam, she should then allow about ten minutes for drying and after that proceed to make her bedika. If she finds an unclean stain or color on the bedika cloth, she can try as many times as she likes to make another exam, even several exams in a row (up until sunset) to see if one will come out clean.
- After doing a successful hefsik tahara bedika, if she does not see on the bedika cloth any blood stains or any stains of a color that would render the woman impure, the NEXT morning would begin the seven clean days. Please note: The same day of the week that the woman makes her hefsik tahara is the same day of the week that she will immerse in the mikvah seven days later. In other words, if she made her hefsik tahara successfully on Monday afternoon before sunset, the following week on Monday night will be her tevila (immersion) in the mikvah
- Step two Moch d’chok: After completing her successful hefsek tahara exam, the woman should then take another bedika cloth and very close to sundown of that same day she should insert it into the vaginal canal and leave it there until nighfall. That is called a moch d’chok (a cloth that removes all doubt as to whether her staining has fully stopped) After nightfall she removes it and looks to see if it is clean. If she sees nothing, it is pure and as mentioned, her seven clean days would begin from the next morning AFTER the successful completion of the hefsik tahara and moch d’chok. If however she finds any stains on the moch d’chok cloth, she must save the cloth to examine by daylight the next morning (because sometimes in daylight it will look different than in artificial light at night) and if there are any questionable colors on the cloth, a Rav must be shown the cloth to determine if the color is pure. If there is a color that the Rav says is not pure, she would then need to do a new hefsik tahara and moch d’chok (that same afternoon towards sundown) and obviously her seven day count would only begin the FOLLOWING morning, once her hefsik tahara exam and moch are clean . If she did not do a moch but only a hefsik tahara exam, she can still begin counting her seven clean days the next morning if all is clean. ( Note: Even if there is a questionable color on the moch d’chok, you should still make a bedika the next morning just in case the Rav will declare the color pure, you will not have lost one day of the seven clean days and will not start counting late. Of course if you cannot reach a Rav for a response the same day, you should do a new hefsik tahara the next day just in case. In other words, you continue doing bedikas so you do not lose any days until the Rav responds. (if all bedikas come out with questionable stains, you must label each one clearly so you know which one is from which exam of which day so you can then figure out when your seven clean days actually begin.)
- Step three counting 7 clean days: the woman must successfully count seven consecutive clean days without staining or bleeding and she should preferably do two bedikas a day during the seven clean days. (However please note: for the bedikas (exams) done during the seven clean days, she CANNOT make several bedika exams in a row. She must only make one exam is in the morning, anytime after sunrise, and the second exam is in the afternoon, preferably close to sunset time (but any time in the afternoon is acceptable). It is best not to do the exam too close to sunset in case she finds stains that she is sure render her impure and she must then have enough time to start over counting her seven clean days by making a new hefsik tahara exam that same afternoon. She may even need to do a few exams until the bedika comes out clean because sometimes she has to do a few bedikas to clean out the area from old stains. Or she could soak in a bath to wash away old stains, she then needs to allow time to dry inside before doing her bedika. But this is only in case that she is certain she needs to start anew and make a fresh hefsik tahara either due to impure stains found on a bedika cloth , or through a sudden flow of blood on one of the seven clean days or a large stain on her white undergarments that would render her impure ). If however, she finds a color on any of her bedikas which is questionable but she is not sure that she became impure, she should continue counting and doing her exams on time, as usual, so she does not lose any days from her seven day count. In this case it is better not to do several bedikas in a row to try to get a clean one….but if she does do so, she must save any bedikas that come out with stains to show the rav and label them clearly so she knows which one is which in case any of them are pure and that would be her new hefsik tahara. (for example: if she checked herself on day one of the seven clean days, and in the afternoon exam she found a questionable color, she should save it to show the Rav but she should also continue doing bedikas the next day so if the Rav says the first day bedika was clean, she does not lose time. Of if he says the first day bedika was not okay, then the bedika done the next afternoon could count as her new hefsik tahara if it comes out clean. If she made a few bedikas in a row, thinking she could possibly get a clean one if she would need to restart her count, then she must clearly label each cloth ie. 1st cloth from afternoon exam, 2nd attempt from afternoon exam etc. ) Usually the first three days of the seven clean days are the most prone to finding a stain that could render her nida again. But once the first three days go by in purity, it is less likely to find a stain on the last four days. If she finds some stains that are questionable on a bedika cloth she should not assume she is impure: she needs to save those cloths to show a Rav. As mentioned, she should simply continue doing her bedikas, making sure not to miss the afternoon bedika in case the Rav says her morning bedika is not pure but the afternoon one could then serve as a new hefsik tahara.
- A red, bright pink or black stain of any size on a bedika cloth would render the woman nida. Please note: even the tiniest stain is not okay on a bedika cloth.
- During the couning of the seven clean days the woman must wear white underwear . It is customary to also put white sheets on her bed.
- If stains are found during the seven clean days on the white materials, if each stain is less than the size of a gris (about a US dime) then the woman is pure. If a stain is larger than a gris she needs to ask a rav if the colors are questionable. If the colors are red, black or dark brown (or brown with a reddish hue ) she would be considered nida if they are larger than a gris.
- Stains found on the body are different than on materials: a stain found on the lower body , if less than a gris, is okay but if there is more than one stain, all the stains are added together. On a cloth the stains are not added together if they are separate. But on the body they are added together to determine the size. A stain found on inner thighs or inner calves of the legs or on the upper toes, ankles or heels . Blood stains found on the outside of the legs or thigh would generally not render a woman Nida, nor would stains found on the front or back surface of the thigh or calf . Hands are different since hands are always busy and can come in contact with many different things so blood stains on hands are not added together . As long as each stain is not more than a dime, it is fine.
- Stains found on toilet paper is a different matter so it is best not to look at toilet paper in general as there are different opinions concerning such stains. If a stain is found on toilet paper consult a Rav. But stains on toilet paper are often not as significant because of the material toilet paper is made of etc.
- Anytime during the counting of the seven clean days if she finds stains either on her bedika cloths or on her white undergarments which would render her nida, she would have to begin her seven day count anew, starting with a new hefsik tahara (even the same day the stain is found) and the following morning again would restart her seven clean days. She does NOT have to wait five days again before restarting to count. She can begin the same day she finds stains as long as the staining stops before sunset.
- Step four: preparaing for immersion in mikvah: After successfully counting her seven clean days, on the seventh day (after dark) the woman immerses in a mikvah to remove her impure status and make her permissible once again to her husband.
- A woman begins her preparations for immersion in the mikvah usually during the daytime of the seventh day: she must take a bath for about half an hour and then a shower. She has to shampoo her hair, soap and clean her entire body, and then comb all hair before immersing. She must clean her teeth properly and make sure no food is stuck in between the teeth. She must clean her eyes (remove any hard crusty discharges from inside or outside the eye and remove contact lenses or glasses), clean her ears, nose, and naval. She must remove any make up or jewelry or nail polish. She must cut all nails on the hands and feet and remove any hangnails. Peeling skin should be removed to the degree possible, especially when the pieces of skin are large and easy to grasp. She must check herself well to be sure no dirt (dough etc.) is sticking to her hands or body. She must check for stains of any type and try to remove them. She should do her best to remove scabs that have healed underneath, or soak to soften those that are not yet healed. (review the section on chatzitzas for full details)
- After carefully checking that no dirt remains on her body, and after combing carefully all her hair (head and other areas) and checking the bottom of her feet as well, the woman dons a bath robe and slippers and calls the attendant to bring her to the mikvah for her immersion. She must be supervised by a mikvah attendant to make sure all her hair is totally under the water at the same time while she immerses so the tevila is done properly.
- Once the immersion is completed properly, the woman is now permissible to her husband. She should now wear only colored undergarments and sheets and not do any internal bedikas until she becomes nida again or until the dates of the month where she is anticipating her period (see the section on Dates to review details).
- Step five tevila: immersion (tevila) in a kosher mikvah. Immersion must be after dark so that seven full days elapse before the immersion. A woman or girl older than 12 years must watch her immersion to be sure all her hair is totally under the water at the same time and no hair floats above the water. Once she has immersed correctly at the proper time she is permitted to engage in marital relations again with her husband and her pure days begin. She would then change to colored underwear and put a colored sheet on her bed.
Now we will proceed to discuss the laws of family purity in greater detail.
WHAT COLORS OF BLOOD RENDER A WOMAN DEFINITELY NIDA?
Red or black are Nida colors, even if dried up particles, and would render a woman nida if found on a bedika cloth used for an internal examination. But stains found on a white garment are subject to size limitations before they are considered nida. A red blood stain which is found on a white garment (especially white underwear), if it is not larger than the size of a gris, is still considered clean (A gris size is approximately a US dime but some Rabbonim consider the size to be a US penny. The gris is somewhere between a dime and a penny and both measurements are okay, but many Rabbonim prefer to measure according to a dime to be sure) , But black, even if it is smaller than a gris, may render a woman nida. A Rav should be consulted when finding a black color on a white underwear. Gray can also be a problem but is not a very common color to find . Pink is usually a Nida color but if it is very pale it should be shown to a Rav for determination . Sometimes it is really pale orange, or light brown which are okay.
There are many shades of brown: if brown is more reddish, or a rusty red color, it can be a problem. A dark brown like coffee without milk must be shown to a Rav. A Rav must be consulted until a couple can realize what is considered light brown, dark brown etc.
WHAT COLORS ARE DEFINITELY CLEAN?
Any green, blue, white or pale yellow color do not render a woman Nida. If a stain is light brown immediately upon exiting the body, it is definitely clean. Very light brown on underwear is always ruled as kosher. But if a stain on a bedika cloth looks pinkish and then becomes light brown later, that has to be looked at by a Rav.
WHAT COLORS ARE QUESTIONABLE AND REQUIRE THE DETERMINATION OF A RAV?
Very dark yellow (which has a slightly reddish or orange hue), other shades of brown such as darker brown , and other pale colors which are hard to determine exactly (they may look a bit orange or a bit pink and yet be unclear). Certain shades of blood do not signify internal bleeding and would not render a woman Nida. For example, the uterus may be healing and there could be a brownish discharge. But it is sometimes hard to determine the different shades of brown:
there is a coffee color, chocolate color, dark brown color etc. That is why a Rav needs to be consulted. Certain shades of brown are kosher and certain shades of brown are not. A Rav would be able to say if the shade of brown is pure or if it indicates actual internal bleeding. Usually the redder or darker the color, the more of a problem it is.
Generally very light brown is okay. A brown color which is like milk chocolate or coffee with milk is okay. A chestnut color is also generally okay.
Many times two stains may look very similar to our eyes. A Rav may declare one stain clean and the other unclean. There can be very slight differences which a Rav is trained to observe. It is important to always ask when in doubt.
In order not to feel embarrassed when asking a Rav, you can put the bedika cloths or underwear in an envelope with details as to which day or exam it is from along with your phone number and put it in his mailbox, or you can give it to his wife or have your husband bring it to the Rav. If a person lives far from a Rav, it is good to call on the phone to determine whether or not a shayla must actually be sent in and if so it can often be sent via overnight mail etc.
WHAT IS A BEDIKA EXACTLY?
As mentioned before, a bedika is an internal examination. It can be done sitting on the toilet or standing (with one leg raised) but it is often easier to do a bedika sitting down rather than standing. A bedika is performed with a small, white, soft cotton cloth which should first be inspected on both sides for any dirt, little threads etc. which might cause confusion (ie. red threads which one could mistake for blood) and then it is wrapped around the index finger and inserted into the vagina as far as it is possible to go comfortably . It is then rotated gently , wiping the inside of the vaginal area carefully, and upon removal it is looked at by daylight to see if there are any stains on it.
PLEASE NOTE: even the tiniest red or black stain on a bedika cloth which is inserted internally would render a woman nida. (the only exception is if one has something else to attribute the stain to such as an internal injury in the vagina and in such a case a Rav should be consulted to determine one’s status and how to do bedikas etc.) The size of the stain on a bedika cloth makes no difference. even the tiniest red or black stain is not pure. Of course a stain of a questionable color on a bedika cloth would have to be shown to a Rav for determination as to whether it renders one nida or not.
The bedika cloth in Hebrew is called an “eyd” which means a witness. It is a witness to the purity of the woman. It is said that angels collect these cloths and present them to G-d in order to attest to the purity of the woman and to the purity of her child.
Bedika cloths are generally available in one’s local mikvah. Bedika cloths must be looked at in daylight rather than at night (but one need not hold them up to direct sunlight: it is best to shade them a little.). The cloth should be looked at to see if there is any stain of an impure nature or a stain of a questionable color which would require asking a Rav about.
A bedika cloth must be white. One cannot use a colored material for doing a bedika. If you have no white bedika cloths available you can use a SOFT white cotton material but you should inspect it to see that it has no colored threads or any dirt on it that could cause confusion. However, it is best to always make sure you have on hand an adequate amount of bedika cloths.
Please note: a bedika done with the finger without any cloth is not valid, and a bedida done with toilet paper is not valid either. However if a bedika was done with toilet paper (ie. you are traveling and have nothing else with you) it could be valid (a Rav should be consulted) and any questionable colors on the toilet paper should be saved to be shown to a Rav.
Sometimes on a bedika cloth there is a tiny streak of some dirt that is on an outer part of the cloth which did not even enter properly when you did the bedika. If you are sure that part did not go inside and it looks like the dirt is from an external source, it can be disregarded. Sometimes there may be a tiny speck of some color which is so small it is hard to even see: that is usually considered nothing as well . If it is so small that the naked eye can barely see it or determine what the color is, then it is usually nothing. But if you see a very reddish dot on a cloth, even if it is tiny, if you see it is truly red looking, then you must ask a Rav and it usually would render the woman Nida unless the Rav says it is a thread or something like that. At times pink or red threads are mixed in with the weave of the bedika cloth or could come from outside and can cause confusion but if you are sure it is a thread, you can disregard it as well. One should never tamper with a bedika cloth but sometimes if you are positive what you are seeing is a thread, you can very gently and lightly try to move the thread : if it is an actual thread it will move to another area of the cloth and can be seen as an actual thread. If it is blood, it may smear into the cloth or may not move at all. But never try to remove a color from the cloth as that could affect the correct judgment of a Rav.
I would like to take a moment here to mention an example. A woman started to do a bedika on her 7th clean day, but she only inserted the cloth very slightly and then withdrew it for a moment, and on that cloth she saw a clean clear discharge (a pure white color), but towards the side or edge of the cloth (on the dry area) she saw a small brownish stain! She really got nervous worrying perhaps this would invalidate her seven clean days and being that it was the 7th day, she was very worried. She then took a clean new bedika cloth and did a proper bedika, entering fully, rotating the cloth etc., and when she took out the cloth again she saw the same clean white discharge and no brownish stain at all. So she asked a Rav about it and he told her it is not a problem because that brownish stain was probably some external dirt that accrued to the cloth as she attempted to enter. But because the brownish stain was not near the clear white discharge and the second bedika showed again only a clear discharge with no color to it, then the Rav said it was not a problem because any internal staining would have some type of color mixed into the discharge. So he said she could assume it was from an external source. Of course, one should always ask a Rav to be sure in such a case, but I wanted to mention this point since some women really do get
nervous over these type of shaylas and it often is not even a problem. That is besides the fact that the brownish stain was probably a shade of brown which also was not a problem. But in this situation the Rav told her she did not have to ask any Rav to look at the bedika cloth. He saw no problem with the whole situation just by speaking on the phone . So very often you will get an answer over the phone: it is always imperative to call and speak to the Rav. Never assume something is no good until you ask.
And sometimes a woman knows her own body and simply feels that a certain stain is not from her internally, or she feels somehow instinctively that she is pure. When speaking to a Rav always mention that point as well because sometimes it makes a difference to his ruling. But one must never assume on one’s own whether one’s status is pure or not. It is imperative to ask a Rav in any case of doubt.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD BEDIKAS BE MADE?
There are certain times when bedikas are necessary (ie. During the counting of the seven clean days). But during the days when a woman is permissible to her husband she should not make bedikas. The reason is because any blood found on a bedika cloth (even a small amount) renders a woman Nida even if it is not the time for her period. Finding a small amount of blood on her underwear or bed sheet does not make her Nida. But on a bedika cloth which is inserted internally, finding even a minute spot of blood would render the woman Nida.
Please note: if toilet paper or any colored cloth or anything else is inserted internally either during the seven clean days or at any other time, and even if there is no intention to do a real bedika, if blood is found on that toilet paper or cloth, it creates a big shayla and may render the woman Nida. So be very careful when and how you make bedikas. If you are not sure about something, call a Rav before doing anything on your own.
Please note as well: after marital relations, if your husband cleans himself with a colored cloth, a white cloth or with toilet paper or napkins, if he finds a blood stain at that time a Rav must be consulted because marital relations constitutes a bedika of sorts and it would therefore not make a difference if the husband cleans himself with a colored garment or a white garment. If blood is found (and the period did not commence) a Rav must be consulted to determine the woman’s status. But it is very important for the husband to note the color of the blood he sees or even to wipe it onto a tissue to keep to show a rabbi because it may not be a real red color and hence the woman may not be considered Nida. Also the woman should mention to her husband if she has pain upon intercourse and he should mention that to the Rav if she did have pain as that may indicate a cervical infection or injury. Bleeding from the outer cervix is not Nida blood.
Please also note: if a woman makes a bedika and somehow drops the cloth (ie. in the toilet ) or loses it before she even gets a chance to look at, it is considered as if she did not do a bedika and she would have to make a new bedika.
If she glanced at the cloth and thought she saw a reddish or brownish color and then she loses the cloth, she must consult a Rav as to her status.
WHAT IF A WOMAN FINDS A BLOOD STAIN ON HER UNDERWEAR OR HER BED SHEETS OR HER CLOTHING?
If the underwear is white or the sheets are white (such as during the time when she is counting her seven clean days, since at that time she is supposed to wear white underwear and put clean white sheets on her bed), then if the stain is larger than the size of an American dime (the size is measured according to the total area of the stain) the woman would generally be considered Nida, depending upon the color of the stain (if it is red or very dark brown). If the color is pale brown or even orange or pale pink etc. or different shades of colors, then it has to be shown to a Rabbi for determination.
However, if the stain is not larger than a dime, the woman would not be Nida. The reason is that there could be many reasons for staining: ie. Irritation in the vagina, external skin irritations, hemorroids, insect bites, cervical infection etc.Only bleeding from inside the womb itself renders a woman Nida.
If a stain is larger than a dime then it becomes more significant and more likely to be from the womb. This is the law for stains on clothing or bedding. As mentioned before, stains on a bedika cloth are not affected by size and even a minute stain would be a problem.
On underwear we do NOT add together different stains: each stain is evaluated separately for its size. So you may find several small stains which are separate and the woman would not be nida even if when added together they might be larger than a dime. If however a woman finds a lot of small stains consistently, she should ask a Rabbi to determine her status. (Later we will discuss stains found on various parts of the body: there the law is different and the stains are added together)
Please note: a stain is measured according to those parts which are reddish or dark brown and therefore it is possible for a woman to see a large stain (larger than a dime) of a very pale brown color or even a clean looking color, and inside that stain or on the outer edges could be other reddish parts which would actually add up to less than a dime, and therefore the woman would not be Nida. The shape o f the stain does not matter: it could be long, round, etc. The total area is measured, not the shape.You have to figure out if the stain would fit within the dimension of a dime in total. If you are not sure, you need to ask a Rav. (If the stain seems slightly larger than a dime but still less than a penny, it usually would be okay as well. If you are not sure whether you are measuring the size accurately, always ask a Rav because many times he would rule that it is kosher even if to your eye you are not sure. So any doubt ask a Rav.)
But remember; the color of the stain makes a difference. You may find a large stain, larger than a dime, but it is a very pale brown color or perhaps a pale orange color or perhaps a color which is hard to determine….to your eyes, you may think it is red or pink, but it is very important to show stains to a Rav to determine the color because many stains are kosher. Until you are very experienced with colors, never assume a stain is not good. Always ask and you will be quite surprised about many answers.
However, if underwear or sheets are colored (any color other than white) , and during the days that a woman is permitted to her husband she should make a practice to wear only colored undergarments, then a stain larger than a dime would generally be okay as long as it is not the usual time for her period or she does not have an actual flow of blood (ie. the staining is not too much). Of course a real flow of blood (more than simply staining or spotting) would cause her to be Nida unless the bleeding is definitely known to come from another cause (ie. Cervical polyps etc.). The cervix is connected to the womb but bleeding from the outer area of the cervix does not render a woman Nida.
However, if a woman has constant spotting she must consult a Rav. If a doctor ascertains that there is a cervical injury or problem, then spotting could be attributed to that.
This is why during the days she is permissible to her husband she should wear colored underwear. It is not necessary to wear black underwear or very dark colors, although a woman may do so if she prefers that. The reason one
does not have to wear black is that if she experiences more than a little staining and she has actual bleeding, if the underwear is so dark that she could not see the color, she may have to assume she is Nida. If she can see the color and determine it is perhaps light brown or whatever, then she may not have to assume she is Nida. A Rav should of course be consulted concerning all of these matters.
If a woman finds a stain on her colored underwear or sees a discharge which has a reddish hue to it (ie. sometimes she may discharge semen or some mucous which has some brownish or reddish color mixed with it), she should NOT wipe off the stain with toilet paper or any other white cloth to determine if it is actually blood or to see the actual color. She should consult a Rav if she is unsure about anything
ALSO PLEASE NOTE:
IF ONE SEES A STAIN EITHER ON HER UNDERGARMENTS, CLOTHING, TOILET PAPER OR BODY, ONE SHOULD NEVER MAKE A BEDIKA. DOING A BEDIKA AND FINDING IT CLEAN WOULD NOT NECESSARILY MAKE A STAIN THAT WAS FOUND ON UNDERGARMENT TO BE PERMISSIBLE , SO THERE IS NO PURPOSE TO DO A BEDIKA UNLESS INSTRUCTED BY A RAV. ONE SHOULD ALWAYS ASK A RAV FIRST BECAUSE DOING A BEDIKA AND FINDING A REDDISH COLOR ON THE BEDIKA CLOTH WOULD DEFINITELY RENDER HER NIDA , BUT OFTEN STAINS ON CLOTHING, UNDERWEAR OR TOILET PAPER WOULD BE DECLARED CLEAN BY A RAV. SO ALWAYS ASK THE RAV: DO NOT DO AN EXTRA BEDIKA ON YOUR OWN!
Concerning blood stains on her clothing: if the clothing are colored then it is the same law as for colored underwear. If the clothing is white and she finds a blood stain yet she did not find any stain on her underwear, a Rav should be consulted. However, if she does find a stain on white clothing, even if her underwear are colored yet she also had some staining on her underwear, she could be Nida if the stain is larger than a dime and also depending upon whether or not the clothing could have come in contact with the vaginal area (and at times even sleeves could come in contact with the vaginal area, ie. when
wiping herself after using the toilet etc.). One also should take into consideration whether she handled any type of food or product that could have been responsible for the stains on her clothing.
If the garment she is wearing is a mixture of white and other colors, if the stain or even part of the stain is on the white part, she has to measure the size. On the colored area she can ignore it.
In all cases of doubt a Rav should be consulted. It also depends whether or not there is anything reliable to attribute a stain on clothing to: ie. if she was cutting up meat and it may have splattered on her clothes etc. Why is blood on a colored garment “acceptable”? By Torah law, only on white (which is symbolic of purity) are we obligated to take notice of blood. This is Torah law. We do not have to be holier than God asks us to be. Many times bleeding may not actually be Nida blood and therefore we wear colored garments to make things less complicated and reduce the risk of rendering oneself Nida needlessly. Of course if a woman stains constantly even when wearing colored undergarments, she must speak to a Rav to determine her status. Speaking with a Rav is always helpful as very often the Rav can offer useful advice to help the woman retain her pure status as much as possible. One should never assume she is Nida without asking an expert.
WHAT ABOUT BLOOD STAINS FOUND ON THE LOWER BODY? (IE. THIGHS, LEGS)
If a stain which is not attributable to an actual cause (ie. scratching a mosquito bite or some other injury etc.) is found on the inner thighs or inner calves of the legs or on the upper toes, ankles or heels and is more than the size of a dime, the woman would generally be considered Nida. If it is not larger than a dime, then the woman would not be considered Nida. A Rav could be contacted in case of any doubt or if the woman feels this blood is not blood from her uterus. Blood stains found on the outside of the legs or thigh would generally not render a woman Nida, nor would stains found on the front or back surface of the thigh or calf as it would be unusual for blood to fall on those parts of the body. The law for stains found on the body is slightly different than the law for stains found on a garment. On garments separate stains are not added together. On the body, however, if there are several small stains that can be attributed to the same source (assumed to be from the womb) then they are added together to see if the size is still not larger than a dime. If so, it is fine and she is still pure. If not and the stains added together would equal more than the surface area of a gris, she would generally be considered Nida. But there is room to be lenient even here if the stains are of a questionable color (ie. a light brown) or if the stains are all very separate and each one is less than the size of a gris. Of course if she has something to attribute the bleeding to (ie. she scratched a mosquito bite and it was bleeding or she had some scratch or cut) then she would not be nieda. But in all cases of doubt (for example, if a woman wears underwear constantly day and night and sees no stain on them and finds a stain only on her legs, it may be attributable to something else) a Rav should be consulted. The laws of stains are complex and it is best to ask a Rav if you are not sure.
Please note; blood found on the hands is also a little different . Since hands are always busy and there are many things that could cause a woman to come in contact with blood during the day (ie. a nosebleed, a scratch, cooking meat etc. etc.) then blood stains on hands are not added together . As long as each stain is less than a gris, it is fine. A bloodstain on the back of the hand or on the wrist or forearm would generally not render a woman Nida since those areas generally do not come in contact with the vaginal area
WHAT ABOUT BLOOD STAINS FOUND ON TOILET PAPER? Here the law is a bit different. Generally a small stain (even if it is slightly larger than a dime) is acceptable on toilet paper if the woman merely wiped herself normally (without inserting the toilet paper internally at all). Also it is important to wait at least 30 seconds before wiping after urination to avoid problems. However, since the laws of finding a stain after urination are complex, many Rabbonim advise that in general a woman should avoid looking at toilet paper but of course if she feels that her flow began it is necessary to look to see if she is truly nidda. Blood seen in toilet water (as long as there is no blood found anywhere else, such as on toilet paper or underwear or the body) does not usually render a woman nida because water is not mekabel tumah (does not receive impurity). So if after urination you notice blood in the toilet water, you would not necessarily be nida . However, if it is a large amount of blood a Rav must be consulted and often it is advisable to wait a day to see if your period actually begins because it could mean one’s period is soon going to start. So if you do see actual blood in the toilet water which you cannot attribute to anything , then you should wait a day before having marital relations just to be sure your period is not beginning. But all of this should be discussed with a Rav.
sometimes a reddish color in the water is not from blood but could be because you ate beets. Yes, beets can create a red color in urination, or when having a bowel movement.
If you do see blood in the toilet, do not do a bedika. In general if you find stains etc. do not do a bedika without asking a Rav if you should do so. But of course if you did do a bedika and the bedika was clean then there is no problem of nida at all.
The general rule when looking at toilet paper should be the following:
After urination, she should NOT wipe herself immediately and certainly not while there is still some dripping. She should wait about 15 to 30 seconds before wiping so that any stain found would be less problematic. (The reason it is not so problematic this way is because urination could mask the feeling of the womb opening and in past generations , when women could differentiate the feeling of the womb opening, wiping immediately after urination created definite shaylas if a stain was found. Nowadays we no longer really know what the womb opening feels like, nevertheless we are still strict about stains found immediately after urination. that is why the Rabbonim advise never to wipe right after urination and not to look at paper that is used immediately after urination unless you wait the minimum time of around 30 seconds).
If she sees a very large stain of a very red color on her toilet paper, she must consult a Rav. If she finds a smaller stain (even if a bit larger than the size of a gris (a US dime) it is not usually a problem. A large size, even around the size of a quarter, is also not really a problem on toilet paper if there is no flow and it is not the time she is expecting her period. But in any case of doubt, one should speak with a Rav. One would be surprised how very often things that we think are problematic are really not. A woman’s mind would be at ease if she consults a Rav and does not make her own decisions on matters she is not sure about.
However, if a woman was in a rush and wiped herself in haste, before she was even finished urinating, then any size stain could be a problem and a Rav must be consulted.
During the time that a woman is permitted to her husband (after tevilah), women who have problems with staining often line their underwear with toilet paper (or panty liners) since a stain coming out directly on the toilet paper lining would not allow the woman to become Nida (unless of course it is an actual flow of blood or her period really started). A small amount of blood which comes out directly onto toilet paper which is lining one’s underwear, would not cause one to become unclean, even if the stain looks quite large, even larger than the amount of three american quarters (as long as there is not a true flow of blood) . In any case of doubt a Rav should be consulted.
Most rabbonim permit a woman to use panty liners (same idea as toilet paper) during her seven clean days whether or not she has difficulty with staining problems, and even if she finds a stain which is larger than a penny (as long as it is not larger than the size of about three US quarters) then she would still remain clean as long as the panty liner is very thin and is made out of paper material. Therefore, if women do prefer using panty liners during their seven clean days, they do not have to be so concerned with the idea of a stain being larger or smaller than a gris. That only applies to stains on white underwear (a material that is mekabel tumah). But it is advisable when using panty liners to change the liners often so new stains do not fall upon old stains causing confusion as to the size, color etc. If there are any questionable sizes or colors, save the panty liners to show a Rav.
Certainly when a woman has problems with excessive staining, then she is permitted to use panty liners or to line her underwear with toilet paper during her seven clean days. Please note, however, that since blood can get absorbed into panty liners or pads, if there is a considerable amount of blood or stains then one must take into account the idea that some could be absorbed in the pad and therefore one should consult a Rav and even show him the panty liners if one is unsure as to how much staining is actually taking place. If the staining is excessive then it may be considered bleeding and one would be Nida.
The reason a larger size stain is permissible on toilet paper (or panty liners made of a paper type of material) is because paper is not mekabel tumah, it is not a material that becomes unclean, and therefore if a stain is found on toilet paper lining the underwear, it is not a problem if it is not an excessive size and even if the toilet paper is white. As long as it is just staining and not an actual flow then on an inferior quality paper such as toilet paper or panty liners the stain would not be so significant. Howeve , as mentioned before, this applies only if the woman merely wiped herself normally after urination and she found a stain on the toilet paper which is not very large. That would generally not be a problem. But if she wiped immediately after urination or even in the middle of urination and she found a stain, she must consult a Rav. If a woman is not sure about anything, she should ask a Rav. You can even save the toilet paper to show the Rav.
Some Rabbonim advise that during the clean days, it is better not to use pink colored toilet paper as little particles could remain on her body and cause confusion on a bedika cloth at the time she makes her bedikas. If one sees a stain of blood on toilet paper the day one is expecting one’s period to begin (dates are discussed later), one should consult a rav. One generally is not nida if the amount is not too much, but one has to be careful and watch to see what develops.
Same thing if one begins spotting a few days before one’s period begins: one does not really become nida if the spotting is on colored underwear or on toilet paper and is not too much. However, it is advisable to avoid intercourse if it is close to the time of one’s period if she already sees staining. She should wait to see what develops. But one does not have to avoid touching or handing things to each other until the period actually begins.
However, if the spotting or staining is excessive (ie. very large stains of a dark or bright red color etc. or constant staining) then one would most likely be considered nida even if the actual flow did not begin yet. A Rav should be consulted in any cases of doubt.
Do not use toilet papers for bedikas at all as that also creates a problem and could render the woman unclean if the toilet paper is actually inserted internally . Toilet paper is not valid for a bedika anyway!
After tevila (after immersion in the mikvah) one changes to colored underwear but one may also use panty liners. The panty liners do not have to be colored. The same halacha is for panty liners as during the seven clean days: stains up to the size of about three US quarters are permissible. More than that must be shown to a Rav. Since the laws of stains are complex, and measuring is not always easy, it is best, when in doubt, to always ask a Rav anyway.
WHAT ABOUT BLOOD STAINS FOUND AFTER MARITAL RELATIONS:
After marital relations in general if your husband cleans himself with a colored cloth, a white cloth or with toilet paper or napkins, if he finds a blood stain at that time a Rav must be consulted because marital relations constitutes a bedika of sorts and it would therefore not make a difference if the husband cleans himself with a colored garment or a white garment. If blood is found (and the period did not commence) a Rav must be consulted to determine the woman’s status. But it is very important for the husband to note the color of the blood he sees or even to wipe it onto a tissue to keep to show a rabbi because it may not be a real red color and hence the woman may not be considered Nida. Also the woman should mention to her husband if she has pain upon intercourse and he should mention that to the Rav if she did have pain as that may indicate a cervical infection or injury. Bleeding from the outer cervix is not Nida blood.
While some opinions are only strict regarding blood found within 15 seconds of intercourse, other opinions consider blood found within a minute or two of intercourse to be in this category as well. Therefore it is best to wait a few minutes after relations before getting up to clean/wipe yourselves off. Try not to look for any stains (especially on your husband, since blood stains found on the male organ will render the woman nida and are considered problematic even if found after a few minutes have passed since relations). You should also take care to wait 15 seconds after urinating before wiping in order to disregard any stains found on toilet paper.
Also if one found blood on the shower floor or bathtub (after intercourse or at any time) it can usually be disregarded as long as one did not see blood exiting the body and no blood was seen on the body and at least a few minutes went by before going into the shower or tub.
WHAT MUST A WOMAN DO IF SHE BECOMES NIDA (EITHER THROUGH HAVING HER NORMAL PERIOD or THROUGH STAINING ETC)?
She must separate from her husband: in other words, they must not sleep on the same bed anymore and they must not have marital relations in any form or any physical contact. She must wait until all bleeding stops, do a hefsik tahara exam and then count seven consecutive days referred to as seven clean days (whereby she checks herself internally twice a day, morning and afternoon) to determine that she has no further staining or bleeding. On the conclusion of the seventh day of her seven day count, she then prepares herself to immerse in a kosher mikvah. After her immersion she is permitted to her husband again.
There are several rules of conduct which husband and wife must observe during the time that she is nida and which are briefly enumerated below:
All marital relations in any manner are forbidden. The husband and wife may not even touch each other. The reason for all the following restrictions is so that the couple will not be tempted to be intimate with each other since contact leads to intimacy. Anything which could even slightly arouse one’s passions or bring one to thoughts of intimacy is not allowed. The husbands in particular need constant reminders that their wives are not available during these times. The wife should not sing in front of her husband. The husband cannot see any part of his wife’s body which is normally covered. Of course the wife also should not see her husband undressed but it is more difficult for a man if he sees his wife uncovered since a man’s passions are more easily aroused.
Husband and wife must sleep on separate beds (beds that are not joined in any way or touching at all: they should be far enough apart, preferably at least arm’s length). The distance should preferably be at least 50 cm. Nothing is permitted to connect the beds such as a headboard even if the beds are technically separate. if they usually have one large bed it is necessary to have a second bed or mattress for the times of nida
A man should not sit or lie on his wife’s bed unless she is out of town. It is preferable that the woman not make the beds in front of her husband as well. A woman may sit or lie on her husband’s bed but not in his presence.
The couple should not directly hand anything to each other (even a newborn baby). The object or child can be handed through a third party or first put down and then picked up by the other person. It is also not correct to throw objects to one another directly, but one may throw an object straight up in the air and the other person may catch it. The husband may bring a baby to his wife to nurse in her bed but he may not put the baby on her lap nor hand the baby directly to her. He may place the baby on the bed near her however.
A woman may attend to all her husband’s needs if he is seriously ill and unable to care for himself properly even if it means handing things to him, but if she can avoid handing him anything, it is of course preferable to do so . She should avoid touching him directly if at all possible (ie. better to touch him by holding a garment and touching him with the garment etc.) She should avoid pouring water over him if possible. If her husband only has a headache or a minor illness she may not hand things to him etc. There is an opinion that the couple can prepare negelvasser for each other.
If a woman is seriously ill her husband may tend to her needs and may possibly hand medications to her etc. but he should not touch his wife directly if it is at all possible to avoid doing so. If it is unavoidable, he should try to use a garment to touch her rather than direct contact. Husband and wife must not sit closely together on one couch or on the same car seat. If an object or a child is between them it is okay. The idea is that they should not touch. On a moving swing or a couch that is very moveable and bouncy one must exercise more caution and be very careful not to sit near each other or even sit on that swing
or couch at the same time.
They should not eat alone at the same table unless something unusual (such as different placemats or different salt shakers etc.) are on the table to remind them she is Nida or they change seats or something similar to that to make a difference from usual. That is again to keep them conscious of the fact that she is Nida so they will not come to any sort of behavior which could lead to intimacy.
The couple may not eat from the same plate or drink from the same cup. A husband may eat of his wife’s leftovers only if she left the room or if he is not aware they are her leftovers or if they are transferred to another plate or someone else ate of them in between. A woman may eat of her husband’s leftovers.
If a couple is traveling somewhere and they buy a soda, the husband should drink first and then he can give the remainder to his wife to drink even though it is from the same can or bottle.
If there is a central bowl, such as popcorn, husband and wife cannot eat from that same central bowl unless they take out the popcorn and eat it from their hand or transfer it to another plate, or if someone eats in between then them each time then they can eat from the same bowl.
A husband cannot pour a drink for his wife nor can she pour for him unless she does it in a different manner than usual. The same applies to placing food in front of her husband. (ie she should do so with her left hand if she is right handed). A husband cannot designate a specific cup of wine for his wife, even from Kiddush.
A woman must be extremely modest in front of her husband (ie. He should not see her nursing a baby unless she is thoroughly covered: ie . with a blanket etc.). The couple should not exhibit any sort of frivolous or flirtatious behavior or talk either. A wife should not put on too much make up or perfume that would be very noticeable so as not to draw attention to herself.
There are some men who find the Nida time difficult and may react by ignoring their wives or even by getting angry. Some women get nervous and angry as well. But once the couple knows this is just the person’s way of handling the relationship at this time they will not feel upset or insulted. Because of the discipline and restraint required during the time of Nida, the time of reunion becomes a more romantic experience. The couple experiences a feeling of accomplishment and spiritual unity.
WHAT IS A HEFSIK TAHARA AND HOW DOES A WOMAN COUNT 7 CLEAN DAYS?
On the fifth day from the start of her period (or fourth day, if the couple are sephardic), or any day thereafter when bleeding has stopped completely, before sunset the woman must wash her lower body (either in a bath or a shower or in whatever way is available to her) to remove old stains etc. She can douche if she wants to as well. Then it is preferable to wait ten minutes or so to allow for drying. The bedika is then done either sitting on the toilet or standing with one leg elevated on the edge of the toilet or bathtub etc. I would suggest sitting on the toilet because it is far easier to insert the cloth. Certainly for a kallah ( a new bride) i would recommend sitting on the toilet to facilitate the bedikas. This first bedika is one of the most important and must be thorough. She examines herself internally by inserting the bekida cloth into her vagina as far as she can comfortably and then she rotates the cloth slowly and checks in all folds and crevices to be sure there are no more stains which could interfere with her counting the seven days. She removes the cloth and looks at it by daylight to see if there are any colors on it. If no stains of questionable color are discovered, or if she sees only a clean color, then she is ready to begin counting the seven clean days starting from the next morning.
In other words, the seven clean days only BEGIN from the day AFTER the hefsik tahara. The hefsik tahara is NOT part of the seven clean days. Some women make a mistake and think that the hefsik tahara exam is the first exam of the seven clean days and hence they err and immerse in the mikvah one day early, which is NOT kosher. Therefore it is very important to keep this point very clear: the hefsik tahara is a separate exam to determine if bleeding has ended.
The seven clean days begin from the next day, the day AFTER the hefsik tahara. So if a woman makes her hefsik tahara on Sunday night, Monday morning would begin the first of the seven clean days and Monday would be the first day. Hence her seventh day would be the following Sunday and she would immerse on Sunday night.
If she does find stains during the hefsik tahara exam, she may keep trying to make bedikas until one exam comes out clean, up until sunset (meaning while it is still daylight, before the sun goes down: around the time of lighting Shabbos candles).
If the woman is clean and the hefsik tahara is fine, there is a custom to then insert another prechecked bedika cloth before sundown and leave it in until it is dark or until at least about half an hour after sunset (after shekia time). This is called a moch d’chok exam. This is a praiseworthy custom and part of the proper and careful observance of taharat hamishpacha, but if it was omitted it will not generally invalidate the counting of the seven clean days. This extra moch cloth is actually to determine beyond a doubt that bleeding has really ended. However, if she omits inserting this second bedika cloth (the moch d’chok) it is okay and her immersion is still valid. If she had an actual flow of blood the day that she makes her hefsik tahara, then that additional cloth assumes more importance and it is more advisable to do the moch. But again, if somehow for whatever reason it was not done, her seven clean days would still be valid. If she had to try several times in a row to do bedikas before finding a clean color, it is not absolutely necessary to insert another cloth (the moch d’chok) if she finds it difficult or irritating to do so, but it is a good idea and praiseworthy to do so in order to be assured that all bleeding or internal staining has really stopped.
After the moch is removed it may be examined by artificial light: if it looks clean it may be discarded. If the woman is unsure about the color, she must save the cloth to be examined the next morning by daylight . However, if a woman has any sort of problem (such as any injury that could be aggravated by the cloth being left inside, or even if she has an injury to the anal area or a condition such as ulcerative colitis whereby she bleeds often from the colon, since this could cause confusion if any blood gets on the bedika cloth , she is not obligated to do the moch as sometimes leaving the cloth inside can aggravate
things and cause bleeding , or if there is some blood on the outside area because of some injury or problem, it might also get on the bedika cloth by mistake when she removes it thus causing an unnecessary shayla since one would not be able to know for sure what that blood is from. A Rav would generally advise against doing the moch in such a case).
Please make a note clearly that If the moch bedika was forgotten or omitted, it does not make the seven clean days invalid, whereas omitting a hefsek tahara exam DOES invalidate the counting of the seven clean days. And if a woman did do a successful hefsik tahara exam and a moch and then somehow she had some staining that rendered her nida again during one of the subsequent seven clean days and she has to begin to count again, she DOES have to make a new hefsek tahara, but she does NOT have to repeat the moch.
Any questionable color on either a hefsik tahara cloth or a moch cloth would have to be shown to a Rav.
If the cloth from the hefsik tahara (and moch) is clean then she can begin counting the seven clean days from the NEXT morning.
It is advisable for a woman to make a bedika sometime during the day on the day that she would be doing her hefsik tahara (for example on the fifth day after her period). If she did do a proper bedika during the day (ie. around noon time for example) and it was clean and then the rest of the day she had no flow of blood, if somehow she was unable to check herself again closer to sundown, or she forgot to check again, that initial exam could still count as her hefsik tahara exam. A woman I know personally used to forget all the time to do her hefsik tahara at the proper time and she would be late and have to wait until the next day…a Rav advised her to make a habit of doing a hefsik tahara bedika earlier, around noon time, and he told her that would count as her hefsik tahara as long as she did not have any bleeding later on in the day. If she saw some stains on her underwear she should consult a Rav but if the stains are not large, it would most likely not be a problem. If a woman was unable to make any bedika during the day and the first bedika she made was after shekia (the time for lighting the Shabbos candles) that is fine as long as she is within the 18 minutes from shekia time to sunset. If she makes a bedika after actual sunset, then a Rav must be consulted: it depends upon how many minutes after shekia the bedika was done, or if this was the first bedika done during that day, whether there was any bleeding that day or not, etc. etc. But never assume that a bedika is made too late and the woman would have to wait until the next day. Always ask a competent rabbi.
After a succesful hefsik tahara exam, the woman should change to clean white underwear and she should wear white underwear during the entire time that she is counting the seven clean days. (If she is somewhere and she is unable to get white underwear, she may use clean lightly colored underwear. It will not invalidate your seven day count if you do not have white underwear available but in general white underwear must be used and that is the proper procedure for counting the seven clean days). If a woman does not sleep with underwear, she must use clean white sheets on her beds and preferably a white nightgown. It is customary for women to put on white sheets if possible when beginning to count the seven clean days even if they wear white undergarments to sleep. If she cannot put on white sheets for some reason, then at least the sheets should be clean and a light color. If she is traveling or somewhere that she does not have access to white underwear, she should at least wear a clean pair of underwear which is as light colored as possible until she can change to white. Not having white underwear or white sheets or a white nightgown will NOT invalidate the seven day count as long as she does the necessary bedikas and does not have any staining which renders her impure (meaning a certain amount of staining or color etc.)
The woman begins from the morning after the hefsik tahara exam to count 7 consecutive days free of bleeding or staining which could render her Nida. She should check herself twice each day (once in the morning and one in the afternoon before, and as close to sunset, as possible). Each day she should say aloud which day it is so she does not lose
The first three days free of blood establish a chazaka in Hebrew which means it gives a strength to it and therefore once three consecutive days go by without bleeding or staining that would render her Nida, the last four of the seven days are less problematic.
On the conclusion of the seventh day, she must bathe and prepare herself to immerse in the mikvah. Only after this ritual immersion is she permitted to resume marital relations with her husband.
It is permissible to swim and take a bath in a tub during the seven clean days, but the woman should wait at least fifteen minutes after that before making a bedika. It is preferable on the first and last of the seven clean days to make her first bedika BEFORE swimming or bathing.
THERE ARE SOME WOMEN WHO SOMETIMES HAVE DIFFICULTY COUNTING THEIR SEVEN CLEAN DAYS DUE TO CONSTANT SPOTTING OR STAINING. WHEN THEY DO BEDIKAS THEY OFTEN FIND STAINS WHICH RENDER THEM NIDA OVER AND OVER AGAIN AND THEY MAY FIND IT VERY PROBLEMATIC TO CHECK THEMSELVES TWICE A DAY AND COUNT ALL SEVEN DAYS IN A ROW.
IN SUCH A CASE, SOMETIMES THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH STAINS ON THE WHITE UNDERWEAR. IN ALL SUCH CASES, THERE ARE LENIENCIES AS TO HOW TO COUNT THE SEVEN CLEAN DAYS (AND THESE LENIENCIES ARE DESCRIBED IN DETAIL THROUGHOUT THIS BOOKLET). IF ONE DOES HAVE TO RESORT TO THESE LENIENCIES SOMETIMES, ONE NEED NOT FEEL THAT THE MITZVA HAS NOT BEEN DONE PROPERLY. BELOW IS THE REASON WHY THERE IS ROOM FOR
SUCH LENIENCIES IN JEWISH LAW:
There is a positive command to eat in a Succah. The minimum that one can eat in the succah is an olive size of bread during the first night of Succot. However, the more that one eats and does things in the succah, the more he is fulfilling the positive command of living in a succah during succot. If one picks up a lulov on succot and then immediately puts it down, he has fulfilled the minimum requirement of the mitzvah of Succah. I f one shakes it in all directions, holds it during Hallel and hoshanot he has fulfilled more of the positive command of succot. If however a great loss would be involved, or sholom
bayit, we would tell the person not to fulfill the mitzvah in its fullest form since when it causes undue distress one can rely on the minimum.
The Torah teaches us that when women bleed they have a mitzvah to “count” seven clean days. How does one fulfill the mitzvah of“counting” seven clean days? By doing actions [bedikot] to ascertain that she is indeed clean.
Each time that she makes a bedika she is fulfilling the mitzvah of counting the seven days. The least amount that one can do of bedikot to be considered that she has ascertained seven clean days, is by doing the hefsek tahara exam, and one exam on the first and one on the seventh. The complete mitzvah of course is to ascertain the cleanliness by doing bedikot twice a day for seven days. But in a case where this will cause great hardship, one can rely on doing the minimum amount of bedikot to ascertain the cleanliness. Just like many many other halachot in the Torah, when there is a defined difficulty, we can rely on doing the minimum but if the difficulty does not exist, then we are commanded to perform the mitzvah in its entirety.
Therefore, if by performing the mitzvah in its entirety it will cause that she will not be with her husband for a normal amount of time, she may do less “ascertaining” even though each time she does ascertain she is performing a mitzvah, just like by the succah that each time one eats or shakes the lulov one is performing a mitzvah. But if eating a meal now would cause a great loss of money, we would tell the person don’t eat in the succah now since one does not have to do so in this circumstance.
The same with the bedikot. A woman will become tahor (pure) if she does the minimum, but if there will not be a defined problem, she should do her best to perform the mitzvah in its complete form.
Examples of some difficulties women may encounter at times: there can be problems with excessive spotting during the counting of the seven clean days. Sometimes a woman may find it hard to begin counting her seven clean days before 10, 11, or even more days have gone by from the start of her period. The reason may be due
to stains on the bedika cloth or stains on her white undergarment. If this is the case, then Rabbonim allow the woman to put on colored underwear (not very pale colors such as light beige etc, but a color such as blue, green, yellow etc.) and to line the underwear with toilet paper (a napkin or paper towel is also permissible). Stains that fall on that paper (as long as each stain is not larger than about the size of three American quarters) would be okay and would not render the woman impure. So the Rabbonim would advise the woman to make a clean hefsik tahara and then the next day to make one bedika only (she should try to determine which part of the day she is more likely to be clean: she may realize she stains mostly in the afternoon and thus should make her bedika in the morning, or vice versa). She should do one bedika that first day and if it is okay, then she should wear the colored undergarment for the remainder of her seven clean days, lining the underwear with toilet paper as well whenever possible. Then on the last day (the seventh day) she has to make one bedika as well and if that is clean she can tovel and be pure for her husband. This is not something to do in general but only if one is having difficulty with staining.
If a woman has continuous staining or even intermittent staining during her seven clean days and she is perhaps not even able to do bedikas during the seven clean days (other than the first day and seventh day when at least one bedika on each day is mandatory) if after making a bedika on the seventh day she sees it is okay but during the course of the day she still sees that she continues staining, she should not check herself further but she should consult a Rav before tevila to see how to proceed. Sometimes the Rav may tell her to tovel but wait a few hours before relations to be sure there is no further staining.
However, if she tovels and she does not feel that she is staining anymore after tevila (or if on the seventh day she did not see any further staining after doing her last bedika), then after tevila she need not look or worry about anything. She can be with her husband without worry. She should remember to wear only colored underwear though and to use colored sheets on her bed all the time that she is permitted to her husband..
Women who have a lot of problems with staining should look into possible vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Some people are helped with a multi vitamin, calcium and vitamin C. Some are helped with various herbal remedies.
WHAT IF DURING THE SEVEN CLEAN DAYS ONE FORGETS TO MAKE A BEDIKA ON ANY OF THE SEVEN DAYS OR SKIPS A BEDIKA?
As discussed previously, during the seven clean days one should examine oneself twice a day: once in the morning and once in the afternoon before sunset. However, as long as the woman makes a hefsik tahara exam and then at least one thorough exam on the first day and one thorough exam on the seventh day, the rest of the days are valid.
It is also advisable to make at least one other exam during the seven clean days (Ie. the fourth day or something like that). The reason is that if a woman got mixed up and forgot to make her bedika on the seventh day, she would have to being counting all her seven days again! But if she made a bedika on the fourth day, for example, then that could be considered the first day of her seven clean days and she would just have to add a few more days to make up the seven day count.
If a woman forgot to make the first day’s bedika, but she did a successful hefsik tahara , then she would have to consult a Rav how to proceed. But in general she must make the first day’s bedika the next day (which would have been day 2 of the seven day count as long as she did not have any staining or problems during the original first day which would have rendered her nida again)and she must continue thereafter with her remaining bedikas. However, please note: if that happens, then the rule that the same day as she does her hefsik would be her night of tevila (immersion in the mikah) no longer applies since the tevila night would be moved ahead one more night, so it would be a night later. In other words, if she made her successful hefsik tahara on Sunday night but forgot to make any bedika on Monday, as long as on Monday she did not have any bleeding or staining that would render her nida, then she would make her first day’s bedika on Tuesday morning and would count that as her first day of the seven clean days and then count the remaining seven days, thus making her
tevila to come out Monday night instead of Sunday night.
Rav Moshe Feinstein rules that if a woman sees a stain on her underwear during the seven clean days, she may skip that day’s bedikas. However, she must not skip making at least one exam (bedika) on the first day and one on the last day unless a Rav specifically instructs her to do so and in what way to do so. So what happens if she finds a stain on her underwear in the morning of the first of the seven clean days, before she makes a bedika?
For example, if a woman makes a successful hefsik tahara on Sunday night, for example, and the next morning she sees some small staining on her white underwear which would not render her nida, she may decide to skip that day’s bedikas completely so as not to risk messing up her seven day count. In that case she could also begin counting her seven clean days from the following morning, Tuesday morning. But again her tevila would be one day later than usual.
In any such complicated situation, she it is best to speak with a Rav.
If she forgets to make any exam on the seventh day , it is a huge problem and she may be required to count over the entire seven days. However, a Rav should be consulted in such a case: sometimes the rav will ask questions which may allow the woman a possibility of immersing. So it is imperative to speak with a Rav.
For example, if a woman forgot to do any bedika on the 7th day and she did make a bedika on the 2nd day of her seven day count, the second day could count as day one of her seven clean days and then she would be required to make a bedika the next day after the 7th day (in other words what now is the 8th day) and that could count as her seventh day so she could immerse on at night following the 8th day. However, if for some reason she omitted any bedika on the second day of her seven clean days, then a Rav must be consulted and it is possible she may have to count anew her entire seven clean days. In general if she forgets an exam on either the first or seventh day of the seven clean days, she should consult a Rav for advice.
And in general it must be emphasized that a woman must be sure to do at least one exam on the first and seventh days of her seven clean days, whenever she does actually start the seven day count. It is very important to be careful NOT to miss at least one exam on the first of the seven clean days and one exam on the seventh of the seven clean days. So even if she started her seven day count a day later than she intended, whatever day she starts becomes her first day and she must make a bedika that day. And of course she must make a bedika on the seventh day.
Please note: if a woman sees a stain on her underwear on either the first or seventh day of her seven clean days (when it is obligatory to make at least one internal exam) it is advisable if possible to consult a Rav before making any bedika as he often can instruct her how to best make the bedika, what time to make it etc. so she will not disturb her successful counting or the timing of her tevila. If she cannot reach a Rav, the procedure she can follow if she notices a stain on her underwear which is small and would not render her nida on the morning of the seventh clean day, for example, is the following: she should skip the morning’s bedika and do a bedika in the afternoon instead. Or at least she should wait a few hours from the time she sees the stain until she makes the bedika. She can do the bedika anytime during the daylight hours: it does not have to be late in the afternoon if she skips the morning bedika.
Or if she made a bedika in the morning and it was good, and then in the afternoon or midday she notices some staining on her underwear, she can skip the afternoon bedika. As long as she does at least one bedika on the first day and one on the seventh, her seven clean days would still be valid and kosher.
However, in case one may be tempted to take a lenient stand and feel it is okay to just do a hefsik tahara and one exam on the first day and one on the last all the time, even if one is not experiencing difficulties counting one’s seven clean days, I would like to take a moment to explain an important concept.
Although that is the minimal halachic requirement and one’s seven clean days would still be valid this way, nevertheless, when a woman performs a mitzvah in a way of hidur (enhancement, beyond the letter of the law) this brings a reciprocal response from Above whereby Hashem showers His chesed and blessings to the woman and her family, and in fact to all the Jewish nation, in this merit. Performing a mitzvah beyond the minimal halachic requirements shows a true love of Hashem and of His mitzvoth which in turn arouses Hashem’s love for the Jewish people and this brings down tremendous blessings to the world.
Therefore, unless one is really having a problem counting one’s seven clean days, it is not proper to avoid doing bedikas during the seven clean days. In fact, an angel collects each bedika cloth and declares the woman pure, which does have a beneficial affect upon a child conceived from that union after the woman goes to the mikvah, and therefore doing bedikas is an important part of the seven clean days. If someone forgets or is out of the house and unable to perform one of the bedikas, then it is okay if she omits some bedikas, as long as she does a hefsik tahara and at least one exam on the first day and one came on the last day. But the woman who takes her time to perform this mitzvah in the best manner by checking herself twice a day for each of the seven clean days, is definitely praiseworthy. As we know, the time of nida is a time of tumah and spiritual impurity. When a woman checks herself each day, removing impurity and growing in kedusha until the culmination of the time of her tevila in the mikvah, then she breaks many impure forces and this brings purity to the world.
The benefits of this mitzvah are not only for herself and her family, but even has good affects for all the Jewish people. As we know any mitzvah done carefully brings blessings to all the Jewish nation and can in fact bring health and healing and kindness to the Jewish people everywhere, spiritually and physically.
WHAT IF A WOMAN DOES A BEDIKA AND THE CLOTH GETS FLUSHED AWAY OR LOST BEFORE SHE CAN LOOK AT?
In such a case it is not considered to be a problem and she would make another bedika and utilize that one. If however she glanced at the cloth and saw a questionable color and then somehow the cloth got lost or thrown away before she could show it to a Rav, she must consult a Rav to determine her status.
WHAT ABOUT STAINS FOUND DURING THE SEVEN CLEAN DAYS ON THE WHITE UNDERGARMENTS OR ON A BEDIKA CLOTH?
As mentioned before, concerning stains on white underwear, if it is not larger than the size of a dime it is no problem. If there are several small stains that are separate, that is also okay as long as each stain does not amount to more than a gris (it does not matter if collectively they do add up to more than a dime as long as each separate stain is not larger than a dime. Separate stains on a garment need not be added together).
A stain larger than a dime that is definitely red would render the woman a nida and she would have to begin her seven clean day count anew, starting with making a new hefsik tahara, even that same day before sunset. A stain with a questionable color must be shown to a Rav. However, please note: often a woman may see a light brown stain which is larger than a dime and inside that or on the edges of the light brown she will notice a darker brown or a reddish color. In that case, she must estimate that if she would add together all the darker , reddish parts, would that equal to more than a gris or not? In other words, the pale brown parts of the stain are often not to be worried about: it is the reddish or darker parts that are the problem. But since they are inside the paler color which connects them, then they have to be added together. However, there are different opinions and complex laws concerning stains, so a Rav should be consulted (even by phone) about all such matters. If the entire stain looks a dark brown or even a pale pink color, then of course she must see how large the whole stain is. She should still consult a Rav but a truly pink color or a very dark brown is generally not okay.
If there is more than one color in one stain (ie. A reddish section but also a very pale brown or yellowish section), If the reddish or pink parts of a stain do not add up to more than a dime , then she is clean. If she thinks it would add up ( meaning the total area of the impure colors) to more than a dime, then she must show the garment to a Rav. She should not automatically assume it is not kosher. Also, if the woman lines her underwear with panty liners during the seven clean days, then a stain a little bit larger than a dime or penny would also be acceptable: the law for panty liners is somewhat different than the law for underwear. In that case, a stain which is smaller than the size of about a half dollar or three US quarters would still be acceptable. If it is larger than that, a Rav must be consulted. If one is unable to obtain panty liners, toilet paper or any disposable paper product is okay. Also, it may happen that a woman would stain more than once during the seven days and she would see a new stain falling on top of an old stain and it could become difficult to ascertain how large the stains really are and what color they are etc.etc.
The best thing to do in such a case of frequent staining (since it is difficult and not always possible to keep changing underwear) is to line the underwear with white toilet paper (or panty liners) and keep changing the paper as needed and if there are any stains which would be questionable, those pieces of toilet paper (or those panty liners) should be saved and shown to a Rav. Obviously if there is a considerable amount of staining, more than a few stains a day, then a Rav would have to be consulted to determine the woman’s status.
It is a good idea to call a Rav when a stain is found on underwear because he will often be able to answer by phone, thus saving the woman or her husband a trip to show him the garment.
IMPORTANT POINT: If a woman found a stain or stains on her underwear and at least one of the stains is larger than a dime, if she saw the stain at nighttime by artificial light and it may have looked pinkish, but then for some reason the stain got washed away (ie. If she perhaps coughed and urine leaked out on the stain, or by mistake she washed the undergarment) before she could see the stain by daylight or show it to a Rav, she can consider that stain pure as long as it was not very large or very dark or too red looking. Artificial light often makes the stain look darker than it really is or a different color
than it really is. If the stain was pale by artificial light, one can be lenient.
However, with a bedika cloth one cannot be lenient even if one looks at the stain by artificial light. If there is a questionable stain on a bedika cloth and somehow the cloth got lost before one could show the Rav, one has to assume it was not good in general. But one should always consult a Rav because if , for example, the bedika was from day 4 of the seven clean days, a Rav may not tell the woman to start her count all over again. He may ask questions to determine the shade of the color and then decide accordingly what to do. So it is important to always ask a Rav and not assume in such a case. Also, if an undergarment got lost before it could be examined to see if there were any stains (for example, if a woman takes off her undergarment to change it during the seven clean days without looking at it and she throws it in the laundry and was not aware if there were any stains, one can assume it is clean.
Please note that on any of the seven clean days , any questionable stain on a bedika cloth from an internal examination must always be shown to a Rav and any actual red blood on a bedika cloth would render the woman Nida, even a small drop. For a bedika cloth the rule of a stain larger than a gris would not apply. Even a tiny drop of blood renders her nida if it is found on a bedika cloth after an internal exam.
If she thinks that she may have to start counting her seven days again because she found a stain on an internal exam, she could make a new bedika that same day towards sunset . However, if she feels doing a bedika at that time may mess up her count, she could call a Rav for his advice as to how to proceed. Because if a woman sees that she is staining during the seven days, as we mentioned before, she is permitted to skip that day’s bedikas (unless it is the first or seventh day exams which are mandatory). So if a woman sees some brownish staining or even reddish staining on her underwear on one of the seven clean days, she should not run to do a bedika. Because if she does a bedika and finds a red color, she would automatically be Nida. I f she does not do a bedika and the staining is minimal, she would not be Nida.
I should mention here that it is permissible to wipe oneself with toilet paper EXTERNALLY ONLY (not immediately after urination, but it is best before urination or at least a minute or two after urination) before doing a bedika in order to ascertain if there is any staining or discharge of mucous that may be tinged with a brownish or reddish color. But the wipe must be
external, without entering the vagina. Normally, when you wipe, if you wipe but don’t stop in that place but rather just wipe over it, it is not considered a bedika and not considered going inside even though it does touch the surface and may even ‘enter’ a drop.
If a stain (which is not too large) is seen on toilet paper after wiping externally, one is not considered nida but one is permitted to skip that day’s bedikas if she is worried that she would render herself nida by doing an internal bedika. Of course in any case of doubt or concern one should speak with a Rav for guidance in these matters.
Some women have a problem whereby they may begin counting their seven clean days without any problems, but on day 4 , 5 or more of the seven clean days, they may suddenly experience some staining or shaylas on their bedika cloths. If you see such a pattern develop, or you see that you have this difficulty, then it is a good idea to wipe externally on those days to determine if you may be staining so you can avoid doing bedikas then and avoid disrupting your seven day count.
it is rare to find an actual red blood stain on the fourth or fifth day or more of the seven clean days. Any stain found at that time on a bedika cloth is usually more of a brown color and often due to ovulation and is generally ruled as kosher by a Rav. But if the color is questionable of course one must show the cloth to a Rav for his determination but make sure to mention which day of the seven clean days the bedika is from.
If a woman finds a stain on her underwear on the last of her seven clean days, on the seventh day, she should consult a Rav as to when or how often to do bedikas that day (often he will tell her only to check once) so as to minimize her risk of becoming Nida again. The woman may check herself in the morning and be clean and then notice some staining later on in the day, in which case it may be advisable for her not to re-check that day but to consider the one bedika as sufficient for that day and she would retain her status of kosher as long as she does not have an actual flow of blood . These are the things a Rav could advise the woman about. But if she is unable to contact a Rav on time, she should do her one mandatory bedika of the seventh day and then she does not have to check herself again if the first bedika was good.
The reason is because Inserting internally any bedika cloth to actually check oneself is very strict by Jewish law and therefore any blood found at such a time is a problem, so it is permissible to avoid looking internally under certain circumstances since we are not obligated to look for problems.
If at any point in time during the seven clean days a stain found on a bedika cloth or on her underwear does render a woman Nida again, then she must start anew to count the seven days. She does not have to wait five days again before beginning to count the seven days. She can immediately make a new hefsik tahara and then begin to count from the next morning her seven clean days again.
WHAT IF A WOMAN FINDS A STAIN ON A BEDIKA DURING AN EXAM OF HER SEVEN CLEAN DAYS AND SHE IS NOT SURE IF IT IS OKAY AND SHE CANNOT GET TO A RAV RIGHT AWAY BEFORE SUNDOWN?
In this case the woman should put aside the bedika cloth to show the Rav and she should make a new bedika, as if making a new hefsik tahara . If that one is okay, then that would be her new hefsik if the Rav declares the first bedika cloth impure. But if she checks again and finds another stain, she should try another time and hopefully it will come out okay. If each time she checks she still finds a stain, then she should simply wait until the next day rather than frustrate herself too much.
However, each time she checks herself she must keep the bedika cloths (putting each one in a separate envelope and marking on the envelope if it is the first cloth, second cloth etc. and the day of the week) and show all of them to a Rav. It is best to allow the cloths to dry before putting them inside the envelope. She can either put them in flat or fold the cloth . Some women have the custom to write on the bedika cloth itself which day it is from, not to risk having the Rav mix up the cloths. It happened once that a woman I knew gave three shaylas to a Rav and one of those shaylas she was sure was clean. He called her and told her that that shayla was not good, so she asked him if he is sure he did not mix up the cloths. His answer was that he was not sure and it is possible he mixed things up. After she questioned him, she understood he had indeed mixed up the cloths and luckily she knew which cloth was which and she was able to determine what was actually a problem and what was not. But for that reason some women prefer to write on the cloth itself from which exam it is, to avoid any confusion later (ie. First exam of 2nd day etc.).
After giving all cloths to the Rav, he may say to her that the original exam was no good but the next exam might be okay or perhaps the one after that was good.
If none of them are good, then if it is still daytime she can begin again to make a new hefsik tahara that very afternoon. But if she receives the answer after sunset, she waits until the next afternoon to start again to do a hefsik tahara and of course the next day she would begin again to count the seven clean days. . If she cannot contact a Rav for a few days then she simply continues examining herself twice each day and collects all the questionable cloths to show the Rav at one time. Once she speaks to the Ravshe will straighten out exactly which day her tevilah will take place.
If she happens to see staining on one of the days when she is supposed to continue making bedikas because she could not get to the Rav yet to determine her status, she should call a Rav before examining her self that day to find out how to proceed: he may tell her not to check that day and to wait until he sees if her shayla is kosher or not. Or he may tell her she must check herself that day but she should wait a few hours before doing so etc.
If she finds a stain the last day of the seven clean days, she must do her utmost to get to a Rav that very day, even if it is close to evening. However, if she is for some reason unable to get to a Rav, she at least should call a Rav as many times a shayla can be answered by phone. If for some reason she cannot reach any Rav at all, she must postpone her tevila until the next day when she can show the shaylas to a Rav. But never assume a shayla is unclean: always ask!
DOES A PAP SMEAR OR AN INTERNAL EXAM BY A DOCTOR RENDER HER NIDA?
A pap smear and a regular internal exam generally do not render a woman Nida as long as the cervix is not actually penetrated . If she has bleeding or staining after such an exam, a Rav should be consulted.
In fact, if on the doctor’s glove or instrument blood is seen, the woman should ask the doctor immediately what is the reason and source of that blood so that she knows what to tell the Rav when she calls him. However, it is advisable for a woman to have a pap smear or have an internal done when she is already Nida (ie. just before making her hefsik tahara exam is the best time). Also a woman should mention to the doctor before he does the pap smear that he should be careful not to penetrate the cervix.
Please note: it is NOT necessary or advisable to make a bedika after an internal exam. Nor is it necessary to inspect the doctor’s gloves after an internal exam. Only if the doctor himself mentions he sees blood is it necessary to look and get all information: Ie. is he sure it is from the cervix? etc.
Bleeding due to a pap smear does not generally render a woman Nida nor does it disturb the counting of her seven clean days since the blood is from the outer cervix and not the uterus itself. However, if a woman finds blood a day or two after having a pap smear, she should consult a Rav. It is nevertheless advisable to do any internal exams when a woman is Nida and before she begins to count her seven days.
During pregnancy a woman should also be careful, particularly in the last month, that the doctor’s internal exams do not render her Nida. There are many women who refuse to have any internals done during pregnancy at all, unless there is a definite medical reason to warrant one.
DOES INSERTING AN IUD MAKE A WOMAN NIDA? Most Rabbonim say yes, anytime there is an entrance into the uterus , with or without seeing blood, the woman is considered nida and must wait five days and then count seven clean days and immerse in a mikvah before she can resume marital relations. But one should always ask one’s Rav to be sure: evey situation is different. Also, it is noteworthy to know that many women who put in a copper IUD have reported adverse affects including an increase in anxiety and depression.
WHAT IF A WOMAN TRAVELS DURING THE COUNTING OF HER SEVEN CLEAN DAYS?
If a woman travels, this does not in any way disrupt or disturb the counting o f her seven clean days. A woman can begin to count from wherever she is and she goes according to sunset of that particular geographic area of the world. If she is on a plane and must make a hefsek tahara exam, she is advised to do so early enough so that in case it suddenly becomes dark, she does not miss out on the exam. One day could be only a few hours when traveling, depending upon sunrise and sunset and arrival time.
For example, if a woman begins to count her seven clean days on a Thursday morning, (meaning her hefsik tahara exam was on a Wednesday afternoon) and her tevila is scheduled for Wednesday night, if she arrives in Hong Kong on Monday afternoon (which would really be Sunday, middle of the night, Canada time) she still considers Monday afternoon as one o f the seven clean days and she continues counting from then, which means her tevila would still come out to be Wednesday night Hong Kong time (making it actually Wednesday early morning) in Canada! But that is fine: her tevila would still be kosher. She is just gaining some time due to her travels. But that is only if she did have seven days where there was sunset and sunrise. If for some reason there was only sunshine all the way and the sun never went down at all, she cannot consider the days she arrives in her destination as the next day but it would be considered the same as the day of her departure and therefore would have to wait until the following day to be considered a new day.
Going the other way would also be a similar situation except that she loses time: in other words, if the woman makes a hefsik tahara on Wednesday afternoon in Hong Kong , making her tevila to be Wednesday night (Hong Kong time) the next week, then if she leaves Hong Kong for example on Thursday morning arriving back in Canada on Thursday (also in the morning, due to the time change) she continues counting as if that is her first day even though in reality by Hong Kong time it is already Thursday night. That would mean her tevila would come out to be Wednesday night Canadian time but in reality that
would be already early Thursday morning Hong Kong time , thus causing her to lose 12 hours(in other words to go to mikvah later than she normally would have done). However, that is also fine: that is the halacha. So traveling may seem complicated but in reality it is no problem. The woman goes according to the shekia (sundown) of the place she is in at the
If a woman will be traveling over the international dateline, such as going to Australia, then it is advisable to consult a Rav as to the proper manner to count her seven clean days since she will actually be losing one day in her travels. But in general there is no problem even if she loses or gains a day in the travel, she still goes according to sunset and sunrise and counts like that (so perhaps in reality what would have been two days normally back home would be only one day because of the travel and time change, she still goes ahead to count seven days according to the place she is at the time and sunrise and sunsets).
WHAT IS TEVILAH AND WHEN SHOULD IT BE DONE ETC.?
Tevilah means immersion. It refers to immersion in the waters of a mikvah. Tevilah takes place in the night time after counting her seven clean days. On the seventh day, after it becomes dark, she is able to tovel. The earliest time a woman can tovel is usually 20 minutes after shekia (sundown).
It is very important not to postpone or put off the time of one’s tevila . Certainly a woman must never postpone going to the mikvah in order to cause her husband to suffer or to get revenge against him if she is angry at him for some reason, or in order to prevent becoming pregnant. However, it is important for the couple to be happy and not upset with each other on the night the wife tovels and therefore it is incumbent upon both husband and wife to fix up and resolve any quarrels or angry feelings they may have before tevila.
If a woman’s husband is not in town, it is customary not to tovel until he returns. Therefore, if a woman counts her seven clean days but will not tovel on the seventh day because her husband is not in town, then she puts on colored undergarments and waits until her husband returns and she is able to tovel. She does not have to continue making any further bedikas.
It is permissible to go to mikvah before he comes back (even several days in advance) as long as she then sleeps with some garment of her husband’s under her pillow the night that she immerses (for Kabbalistic reasons). Some have the custom to sleep with a knife under the pillow, also for kabbalistic reasons: because there is so much holiness surrounding a woman after she immerses in the mikvah, the knife keeps away any unholy forces that try to disturb that purity before she is able to be with her husband.
But Friday night she should not tovel if her husband is not in town. She can and should tovel Thursday night as long as it is already either the actual time for tevila or past the time of her actual tevila.
It is possible, for example, that the husband may be scheduled to return just before yom tov or Shabbat (or perhaps the wife is not sure exactly which night her husband will return and she wants to be in a state of purity when he arrives back) and it would not be convenient or possible for the wife to tovel that same night that he gets back, so she may tovel before as long as she has finished counting her seven clean days properly.
If a husband is out of town for an extended period of time (pehaps a month or more) and the wife counts her seven clean days and then puts on colored underwear waiting for a time closer to her husband’s return to tovel, and in between she has some slight staining which she finds on her colored underwear, she does not have to count anew seven days: she retains her purity and is able to tovel at the appropriate time as long as she does not actually have a flow of blood that would render her nida.
WHAT PREPARATIONS ARE INVOLVED BEFORE TEVILAH AND WHAT IS A CHATZITZA?
There are several preparations a woman must make before she can tovel in the mikvah.
As mentioned before, purity of the mikvah is not a matter of physical cleanliness, nevertheless physical and spiritual do work together. If a woman takes 100 showers she is still not spiritually pure until she immerses in a kosher mikvah. But in order for one to be in the proper frame of mind to be cleansed o f spiritual impurity, one must also be physically clean and free from anything that could mar her joy.
Preparations should be started while it is still day (according to the opinion of Rashi). According to Rabbeinu Achei haGaon the preparations should be started close to the time of tevila. So in order to fulfill both opinions most women begin preparations close to sundown. However, it is permissible when necessary to begin some preparing, even to take the bath, from the time of halachic noon (around 1:00). The woman must first bathe for about half an hour in warm water. If she has no bathtub and cannot use one in the mikvah building, then she can fulfill her preparations only with a shower if necessary, but it is preferable to bathe. After the bath she must shower and shampoo her hair. Any shampoo can generally be used, even a shampoo with conditioner, as long as she rinses her hair very well in warm water afterwards to remove oiliness. Any oiliness that remains after is not a problem.
She must cut the nails of her fingers and toes. If a woman strongly objects to cutting her nails, she is allowed to immerse without cutting them as long as she carefully cleans under the nails and around. But it is preferable to cut the nails. By kabbalah there is an important reason for cutting nails: it brings chesed and mercy to the world as the nails contain tumah or impurity, especially the nails that grow during the time of nida. She can do the nail cutting early in the daytime and then carefully watch that she does not dirty her feet or her hands until the time of her immersion. And of course she would have to recheck her toes, feet and hands very well before the tevila. It is very important to be sure all nails are cut because one missed nail is a problem and one would have to ask a Rav if the tevila would have to be repeated. Nails can be cut for the purpose of tevila even during the nine days or chol hamoed etc. During the thirty days of mourning someone else should cut the nails for her. A woman is allowed to cut both finger and toe nails on the same day for the immersion even if she generally does not do so. Cuticles are not a chatzitza and should not be removed.
Hard skin under the feet is not a chatztiza but one should soften the skin in a bath or warm water. Same with callouses.
Some women like to shave their genital hair and cut the hair on their heads before going to mikvah. It is actually a custom for a woman to cut a bit of her hair before immersing in the mikvah but this hair cutting should be done during her seven clean days .The reason is that any hair that grew during her menstrual period brings with it harsh judgments and in order to temper these judgments, we cut some of the hair from that time to remove that impurity. Any hair cutting should preferably be done a few days (around 3 days) before her tevila so that little hairs would not stick to the body and become a chatzitza.
Hair of the head should definitely be cut a few days before tevila so that any small hairs that stick to the head or body would fall off by that time and not be a problem. If it was not possible to do so and a woman does cut or shave her hair the same day as her immersion, she can still immerse but she has to be very careful to clean all small hairs clinging to the head or skin.>
We mentioned previously that a chatzitza is something which does not allow the waters of the mikvah to reach all parts of the body completely. Something which bothers the woman is generally a chatzitza . The rule here is that if something would bother a woman when she goes to a wedding (not her own but a friend’s or relative’s) then she should remove that as it could be a chatzitza for her but if it would not bother her, then it is not a problem. There are also certain personal hakpodas (things women are particular about for themselves) such as removing hair on their legs and if a woman is particular about that three times in a row for her mikvah preparations, then she should do that each time unless she specifies the first time that she is not making this a habit. One should avoid making any personal hakpoda a habit as there could be times when one cannot do certain things.
The following things are accepted as being chatzitzas for most women and should be removed to the best of one’s ability:
Jewelery, rings, earrings, makeup etc. must be removed before tevilah . If earrings were not worn that day, then the holes in the ears should be cleaned by running an earring through them.
If makeup does not come off perfectly, it is not generally a problem but mascara remaining is a problem and should be removed carefully. However, if one is not sure that all mascara has been removed perfectly, the woman should dip in the mikvah water just prior to her tevila, wipe off her eyelashes (since the chlorine in the water removes mascara!) and then she can do her tevilas.
Nails must be cut normally (generally one can leave a bit of white showing on the edge of the nails so they need not be cut too short) and cleaned as much as possible to remove any dirt underneath or on the nail surface. One does not have to dig deeply to take off dirt and if there is some dirt on the edges which does not come off after scrubbing etc. then it is considered absorbed and is not a problem. If a woman strongly objects to cutting her nails, she must clean them very carefully underneath the edges of the nails to be sure there is no dirt. Nail polish must be removed with acetone or nail polish remover.
It is preferable not to do manicure or pedicure the day of your tevila. best to do it the day before. but if you did do manicure or pedicure the day of your tevila simply wash the nails well to be sure no oils remain etc.
Hang nails or peeling skin should be removed where possible. But peeling skin around the fingers for example need not be removed perfectly. If the amount of skin is big enough to hold EASILY between two fingers one should remove it. Otherwise it really is not a problem. Women often spend hours trying to remove all peeling skin and there is no end to that but it is not necessary and not a problem if they are not large pieces. peeling skin from eczema is not a chatzitza. just do your best to remove big pieces of peeling skin. dont scrub it hard to irritate the eczema.
Skin which is peeling a lot (ie. from a sunburn) one should try to remove (but first wet the body and then remove as much as possible easily) but it is not necessary to remove a lot of peeling skin if it does not bother the woman and especially if it is in an area such as the back where it is difficult to get to or to be seen. One is not required to do more than is normal and
possible. There is no end to removing peeling skin from a sunburn and therefore one need not do so to any great extent.
Scabs should be well softened in water before immersion (that is accomplished through the bath preparations). If the skin underneath has healed completely then the scab should be removed. However, if a scab will bleed by being removed or will cause pain or discomfort to remove it, it need only be softened and cleaned. Sometimes one has very tiny scabs which one can hardly even see: if these are things that do not bother the woman normally, she need not be very concerned about them. She has to simply wash them to be sure no dried blood or mucous is attached to them. If they come off easily she can remove them. But if she misses a scab (for example, she may go to the mikvah and after tevila or after marital relations, she may see a scab which she did not notice before her tevila) she does not have to tovel again because of that. That is why it is good to take a bath in warm water and the scabs become moist and soft and therefore even if a healed scab was overlooked it is not a problem. Using a loofa or firm brush or cloth to scrub the skin is also good and will remove scabs or other dirt easily. One can then assume anything that had to come off would have done so through that scrubbing.
Stains which are flat, such as ink ,one must remove to the best of one’s ability. Medical benzene or alcohol help for that. So does lemon juice and even toothpaste can be applied to take off certain stains.A product called Goop is also helpful to remove stubborn stains.
But if the stains do not come off fully, as long as one tried to the best of one’s ability with whatever she has available to remove the stain, the remaining stain after scrubbing is not considered a chatzitza.
A woman in the profession of making carrot juice, for example, need not worry about the carrot stains since they are normal for her and do not bother her. Also stains from other vegetables are not a chatzitza generally if a woman does her best to remove them but they leave some coloring (ie. from beets). As long as she scrubs well and tries all that she can to remove the stains, any residue of color is not a problem generally. (
Stains which are thicker, such as milk or honey or paint (that have a substance to them), one must remove. If such a stain does not come off, consult a Rav.
a product called Goop is helpful sometimes to remove difficult stains.
A woman who kneads dough for bread must take care that the particles are removed from her fingers and nails. That is why it is recommended not to knead dough the day of tevila but in honor of Shabbat or yom tov it is permissible even if her tevila is that same night. But the fingers must be cleaned carefully before tevila.
The naval must be cleaned normally.
The ears must be cleaned normally to the distance of how far the little finger could enter the ear. She should feel with her finger for any hard pieces of dirt and remove them. Normal wax remaining is not a problem. There is no need to use Q tips and in fact it is preferable not to. A small amount of hydrogen peroxide can be put inside the ear to clean and dissolve the
Mucous outside the eyes or hardened in the corners of the eyes must be removed as well.
Pus outside a wound (but not inside), or dried up blood, are chatzitzas. Pus inside a wound must be removed after 72
The nose must be cleaned normally. A running nose is not a problem.
Teeth must be brushed well and dirt in between removed. It is preferable not to use dental floss if the teeth are close together since dental floss could tear and get stuck in between the teeth and that would create a real shayla. Many Rabbonim advise women not to floss at all. It is preferable to use a toothpick and preferably a plastic toothpick. (If somehow a piece of dental
floss did get stuck in the teeth and does not come out, if you buy tape dental floss and use that it usually does not get stuck and it will remove the piece which is stuck)
If a woman does not floss and she is unsure if she has any dirt in between any of her teeth, as long as she does not feel any food in between and nothing bothers her, then she may tovel. It is customary on the day of tevilah not to eat foods such as meat, chicken (or even foods like corn, mango or pineapple) that get stuck in the teeth. A worry about food in between the teeth means that she feels as if something is stuck there. If not, she is not obligated to clean minutely between each tooth looking for dirt.
A temporary cap which is not cemented down is not a chatzitza unless it falls off easily. But a Rav should be consulted in such a case. One should consult a Rav about a temporary filling. A permanent filling or cap is not a problem.
One must remove any clips or pins or elastic bands from the hair. Hair must be washed in warm or hot water and combed out completely. Lice and nits are generally a chatzitza (particularly if there are a lot of them) but in some locations where lice are very common (such as Israel or France) they may not be considered a chatzitza, however the lice should still be removed as much as possible with a special lice comb and a shampoo to kill live lice should be utilized if possible. It is a good idea to have another woman check her hair before tevila, if at all possible . A Rav should be consulted how to proceed if in doubt. After cleaning the hair from lice a woman should NOT lie down to rest as that could cause lice to multiply.
Dandruff is not a chatzitza but if a woman has an unusual amount of dandruff that covers most of her hair, then she should apply baking soda mixed with water as a paste for her scalp and rinse it off well as that would remove a lot of dandruff. A dandruff shampoo such as Head and Shoulders can also be used.
Loose hair is NOT a chatzitza. It is not necessary to spend hours trying to remove loose hairs from the head etc. And even during tevila if a woman noticed some hair sticking to her skin when she comes out of the mikvah, it is not a problem unless it is wrapped around a finger tightly. Otherwise loose hair is not a chatzitza.
Tangled or knotted hair is a problem and that is why hair must be thoroughly combed before tevila. Hair all over the body must be combed and must not be tangled at all.
Skin must be washed well. Sometimes a little dirt or stickiness remains (ie. From a band aid or bandage that was on the skin) and that must be washed off well. Sweat deposits should be rubbed off if they are brown in color as that would constitute dirt. If they are white that is just dry or flaking skin and is not a chatzitza. A thorn or splinter fully embedded in the skin is not a
chatzitza but if it protrudes even a little, then it must be removed with tweezers. Can be softened with a little olive oil first.
Something which is permanently inside the body such as a pacemaker is not a chatzitza. An IUD is a question for a Rav because of the string that sticks out. But generally it is not a problem to immerse with an IUD.
Stitches that are self dissolving are not a chatzitza. But stitches that have to be manually removed are a problem and a Rav must be consulted.
If a woman has a cast on or anything that would not allow the water to reach all areas of her body, she needs to consult a Rav to see whether she can immerse with the cast. Usually a cast is a chatzitza but if it will be on a long time, a Rav may rule that she can immerse. So in any case of doubt or anything that one is not sure about, consult a Rav.
One must prepare the entire body to be free of dirt or anything which might prevent the mikvah waters from reaching every part of the body. The woman must examine in a mirror all parts of her body as well as she can just prior to the immersion.
A woman or girl over the age of 12 years must watch when the woman immerses in the mikvah to be sure all the hair is submerged and no hair floats above the surface and no limb protrudes from the water so that the immersion
will be valid. Any hair or limb sticking out of the water at the time the woman immerses would make the tevila invalid. That is why it is important for the woman who watches the immersion to be a G-d fearing woman and religious.
WHAT IF ONE’S IMMERSION NIGHT IS ON FRIDAY (ON SHABBAT) OR YOM TOV?
If one’s immersion turns out to be on Shabbos or Yom Tov, one can use the mikvah if one is within walking distance.
If a woman lives far from the mikvah, Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that there is a way to go earlier during that day, on Friday, but a Rav would have to be consulted to find out the correct procedure.
Otherwise tevilah is postponed until the next night (in which case, one can put on colored underwear since one already completed counting 7 clean days and one need not examine oneself internally any further but on the actual day of
the tevila it is a custom to make one more bedika in the daytime). All preparations for tevilah on Friday night must be made before Shabbos starts, including combing of the hair. After lighting the candles one cannot do further combing of hair, nail cutting, etc. If a woman forgot to remove nail polish, she can pour acetone or nail polish removed directly on her nail and rub it with a tissue or one’s hand to remove the polish. Same with removing make up if she forgot to remove some before Shabbos. She can pour on liquid to remove the make up and then rub it off with her hand or a tissue. Lemon juice prepared before
Shabbos and left in the mikvah building can be used to remove stains on the hands etc. if something was overlooked. We cannot cut the nails on Shabbos so if an uncut nail is discovered, a Rav must be consulted. A splinter could be removed on Shabbos with a tweezer if it is protruding out of the skin. Dirt around or under nails could be removed with a toothpick, particularly a plastic toothpick. But one is not allowed to scrape the nails on shabbos with an instrument used for nail cutting. One cannot remove skin on Shabbos. If a large piece (large enough to hold easily between two fingers) is discovered, one would ask a Rav what to do. According to many rabbonim, a woman cannot brush her teeth on Shabbos but she could use sugar or salt (abrasive substances) and rub then on her teeth with her fingers and then rinse well as that would remove dirt (being careful not to cause her gums to bleed since one must be careful not to cause any bleeding on Shabbos). A scab that is for sure dried up can be removed on Shabbos and should be, but if one is not sure if it is healed underneath, better not to remove as it could bleed. Just soften with water. One should visually recheck the body before tevilah on Shabbos to be sure no dirt is sticking to any part of the body and there are not chatzitzas, particularly once you arrive at
One should run one’s fingers through the hair to be sure it is not tangled but one does not re comb on Shabbos. (Of course we do check thoroughly the entire body before Shabbos begins as well).
The same rules for tevila on Shabbos apply to tevila for the first night of yom tov.
You do not shower before the tevila on Shabbos, however it is customary to do one tevila just to wet the body and then do the usual amount of tevilas. In other words, one tevila to get wet, then one more tevila, then the bracha, then the rest of the tevilas. If one’s tevilah is to be the second night of Yom Tov, preparations are also made before yom tov begins, on erev yom tov. It is permissible to tovel the second night as long as one is careful during the first day not to get dirty with anything that would be difficult to remove (ie. It may be advisable to wear thick socks all the time and perhaps to even use plastic gloves when cooking or preparing food). Teeth may be brushed on yom tov but without toothpaste according to some opinions. According to other opinions, on Shabbos or yom tov if one needs to brush teeth, one should rub salt or sugar over the teeth with one’s fingers and then rinse well as this is abrasive and will clean the teeth without a brush. If her gums will bleed she should be very careful and she also can clean her teeth with a toothpick (preferably plastic) or by hand. Hair should be separated with the fingers to be sure they are not tangled together. If there is any particular dirt such as mud or dirt from food, the woman may wash this dirt off in cold water, with liquid soap if available. She should not take a whole shower but she can wash by hand any dirt she sees.
If one’s tevila is to be motzoi Shabbos or yom tov (the night after Shabbos or yom tov, for example Saturday night) she should try to do most of her preparations on Friday (or erev shabbos or yom tov) and then simply take a shower and re comb her body, brush her teeth etc. before the tevila. But if she is unable to do most of her preparations the day before, she can do everything motzoi shabbos or yom tov as long as she takes her time and does not rush.
METHOD OF TEVILA
Just before entering the mikvah waters she should check her entire body to see that nothing adheres to it such as a bandaid etc. and to see that she removed her contacts, did her preparations properly etc. The mikvah attendant will also check her.
She should be careful not to walk to the mikvah without slippers on her feet. She should recheck the bottoms of her feet before entering the water.
She enters the water and then bends slightly forward to go under the water, with her arms stretched out a little in front of her. Some women jump up and go under the water. Some women stretch out flat in the water like a fish. The main thing is to go under the water fully.
The woman goes under the water one time, then says the blessing and immerses herself again as many times as is customary for her. But on Shabbos and yom tov, it is customary to immerse one time just to wet the body, then do one
tevila, then make the bracha and tovel more.
To immerse herself, the woman goes completely under the water. Her eyes should be lightly closed and her mouth lightly closed as well. Fingers should be slightly spread apart. Upon emerging above water from the first immersion, the
woman then recites the blessing which is: “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al hatevilah.” Usually the mikvah attendant will give her a small washcloth to put on top of her head while she
recites the blessing. Many women cross their arms over their chests while they say the blessing, so as to be more modest.
If the feet are touching the floor of the mikvah or a limb touches the side of the mikvah while the woman is immersing, the tevila is still kosher as long as a limb does not touch the side of the mikvah or the mikvah walls the entire time she is under the water. However no hair may protrude above the water at the time of immersion. If even one hair protrudes out of the water at the time of tevila, that tevila is not kosher. (but if a woman immerses several times in a row, usually at least one or more of the immersions will be kosher so it is a good idea to go down several times: the usual custom is three times, but many women immerse seven or nine times or more).
The woman who supervises the tevilah should announce “kosher” each time the woman goes under the water. Women differ in the number of times they immerse ,as mentioned above. Some tovel three times, some seven times and some more. The minimum is usually three, although in a case of emergency even one immersion would be kosher if done properly.
After tevilah in the mikvah, when she emerges from the water, the woman who watches her immersion to be sure it is kosher should then wrap a towel around her or touch her hand since her first contact after leaving the mikvah should be with a Jew.
This has special spiritual significance and in fact if one leaves the mikvah and touches an animal first or a non Jew, many women have the custom to go back and tovel again since this spiritually affects one’s thoughts during relations and hence affects the children born from that union. It is customary not to shower or wash off the water after tevila while still in the mikvah building . At home many rabbonim allow the woman to shower before marital relations as long as one part of the body is not put under the water . After marital relations the woman may shower as she wishes to but not on Shabbos or yom tov.
WHAT IF A CHATZITZA IS FOUND AFTER TEVILAH?
If it is discovered while still in the mikvah building, she should immerse again. But only an actual chatzitza (such as a bandaid she forgot to remove). But if in doubt, a Rav should be consulted, particularly if the woman has already dressed and is nervous to tovel again. But finding a hair on her body after she dries herself with a towel and is getting dressed would not
constitute a problem at all. A loose hair is not a chatzitza anyway.
If a chatzitza is discovered after she returns home, then a Rav must be consulted. But it depends if it is a true chatzitza and she is positive it was there before tevila. If she is not sure the chatzitza was definitely there before the immersion, she generally does not have to immerse again. It also depends upon what the chatzitza is and whether it is something that bothers the woman (or that bothers most women). It also may depend upon what part of the body the chatzitza is on. For example, contact lenses must be removed before tevila but if a woman toveled and then went home and realized she did not remove the lenses, a Rabbi must be consulted but he may be lenient because it is in the eyes and it is not stuck to the eyeball, but is simply sitting on the eyeball and the eyes are closed, so there are rabbonim who say one can be lenient in such a case. But a Rav would have to be consulted in such a case.
If one got home after tevila and realized she did not remove her mascara, for example, from one of her eyes, then she would generally have to tovel again. But in all such matters a Rav should be consulted as the rules are complex.
If for example a woman immersed and then discovered one nail which was not cut, she must consult a Rav because one nail which is uncut when all the others were cut could be a problem. Or if she found a nail which is peeling off and it bothers her, she must ask a Rav as this could be a reason for her to tovel again.
If the chatzitza is discovered after marital relations, generally the Rav will not ask her to immerse again, but a Rav must be consulted depending upon what the chatzitza is. All such questions must be posed to a Rav expert in these laws. One should not make such decisions on one’s own. Even if it is very late at night, call a Rav. If you cannot reach the Rav in your hometown, you may even reach a Rav in another town. Due to time differences you may reach a Rav in another part of the world where it is daytime rather than night. But do not assume because it is late at night you cannot ask a shayla and must either wait until the next night or simply make your own decision. A Rav can always be reached somewhere for an answer. And if you do not know what Rav to call, call your regular Rabbi or local Rebbetzin and ask them to get hold of a Rav for
WHAT IF ONE’S TEVILA IS DONE IN AN OCEAN?
It may happen at certain times that one is unable to tovel in a regular mikveh building (perhaps she is traveling and there is no mikveh, or she is by a beach and it is too far from a town which has a mikveh etc.). In such cases a woman may tovel in the ocean. There are in fact women who live in places where there is no mikvah at all and they rely only on the ocean as their mikvah.
An ocean is a natural mikveh at all times. (Please NOTE; not all bodies of natural water are mikvahs and therefore before toveling in a lake or a river one should ask a rabbi to be sure that that particular body of water is kosher as a mikvah, but an ocean is always a kosher mikvah). However, to tovel in an ocean one must take care about various matters:
First of all, the woman must be sure to go to a secluded area where she will not be seen by other people.
Secondly, she must bring along a flashlight or some sort of light so that whoever accompanies her can watch to be sure her entire body is under the water at the same time and no hair floats above the surface of the water. She must be careful not to dirty the bottom of her feet (or between her toes etc.) with mud or sand before entering the ocean. She can wear rubber thongs to walk into the water if she likes and then give them to the attendant with her (but this is not a necessity to wear any thongs: she can also enter the water with her barefeet and just be sure to clean off her feet and between her toes just to be sure nothing clings to them), and then she can tovel. Some women prefer to jump up and to tovel without putting their feet on the ground until finishing all immersions.
If a woman happened to stand on the sand while immersing, as long as there was no sand stuck between her toes or no mud or tar sticking to her feet, then her immersion is valid. There is no problem to stand on the sand as long as there is no tar or sticky substance on it. Once in the water sand does not cling to the body in general.
She must also be careful not to close her eyes or mouth too tightly (out of fear of the salt water). If water enters her mouth, she must be sure no sand clings to her teeth. But in general once she is in the water nothing should really cling to her. Nothing inside the ocean is a problem for her tevila. An ocean is a perfectly kosher mikvah and actually has been used by many women throughout the ages when no other mikvah facility was available. If nobody is available to watch her besides her husband or if she is afraid to go to the ocean unless her husband accompanies her, then he may with her and supervise her tevila. One word of advice: if toveling in the ocean, it is best to walk into the water wearing a robe, then slip off the robe, hand it to the person accompanying her and do her tevila. But always bring along an extra robe or clothing plus a long towel to leave in a bag on the beach, far enough away from the water that it would not be swept away by waves, so that in case while toveling somehow her robe gets lost or swept out of the hands of the attendant, she has another robe to wear after completing her tevila.
DATES TO OBSERVE
There are certain dates of each month when husband and wife separate from physical relations because of the possibility that the woman may become Nida then. It is important for the couple to keep a calendar noting when the period begins exactly each month. The calendar goes only according to the Hebrew dates and months! Being together when the woman is Nida is so detrimental spiritually that couples take extra precautions to avoid any chance of that by observing certain dates each month as a time of separation from marital relations because on those days the woman might get her period.
The three dates are ona beinonis, which is the thirtieth day of the month counting from the day one’s period started, the date of the month (Hebrew date) and the interval of the month (number of day’s between periods counting from and including the first day of the period as well as the first day of the next month’s period). But these three dates only apply to a woman who does not have a regular period. An ona is a period of time (ie. from sunrise to sunset, or from sunset to sunrise).
Regarding a woman having a regular period: this means that for three months in a row her period started on either the same day of the Hebrew month (but that would include the same part of the day (the same ona), either day or night of that date), the same day of the week regardless of the interval between periods (ie. Tuesday, three times in a row, but it has to be the same part of the day or night as well), or on the same interval (ie. every 28 days exactly) or her cycle increases or decreases three times by the same number of days each month (ie. if she got her period on the 26 of Elul, then the next month on the 27 of Tishrei and the next month on the 28 of Cheshvan then she can expect her next period on the 29 of Kislev.
In all cases of a regular cycle, bleeding must commence in the same part of the day (same onah: always at night or always in the daytime). If one month she has her period on the 5th of the month at night and the next month on the 5th in the daytime, that is NOT considered a regular period!
It is not very common to truly have a regular period and most women are considered irregular even though they may have their period on the same date (for example)for a couple of months in a row, but to actually have this occur three times in a row is not so common these days. Women’s bodies are weaker in our generations. Even if some women seem to have a regular period, it usually will not last for any length of time. A woman who does have a regular period must only separate from her husband on that particular day that she is expecting her period (either during the day or night time onah, depending upon when it started the previous three times ). She does not have to observe any other dates. But it is necessary to make a bedika at least once during that period of time when she is expecting her period (two bedikas would be preferable: one in the beginning of the onah and one towards the end). But if two is difficult for her, she should make at least one bedika and preferably towards the end of the onah time. If she somehow forgot to make such a bedika at all and the onah passed, she is not allowed to be with her husband until she does make a bedika to show that she is still clean (even a couple of days later). If she bathed or swam before performing any bedika, a Rav must be consulted. A regular period would only be canceled if another three months go by and her period no longer occurs on that date (or in that same way) for three months in a row.
Some women establish a regular cycle based upon bodily symptoms (which is rare) so if a woman experiences a certain bodily symptom which is always associated with the start of her menstrual cycle and this happens three times in a row, she may be able to establish her cycle as being regular based upon that, but a Rav should be consulted as these laws are complext. If a woman notices, for example, that for three months in a row every single time her period starts it is accompanied by a certain physical symptom (such as sneezing spells, temperature change etc.) then a Rav must be consulted as it may become a little more complex to determine the days she must separate from her husband.
Please note: if a woman has a regular period that started, for example, three times in a row on the 6th of the Hebrew month but then the next time it started instead on the 7th of the Hebrew month, since she did not yet cancel the first date of the 6th (because three consecutive times did not go by without seeing blood on that date) , she must still observe the 6th of the next month as her possible date but she also observes the 7th. However she does not have to observe any other dates or intervals etc.
To establish a regular period, one can count the bedika done on the onah date she observes. If she finds a stain that is not pure, she can count that as her period beginning in order to establish a regular period if her stain is found on the date that would indicate a chazaka.
A regular period is nullified only after three months go by in a row where the period no longer occurs on that timing.
A PERIOD THAT IS NOT REGULAR:
For a woman who does not have a regular period the law is different. She must keep a few dates each month where she may expect the commencement of her period.
ONAH BEINONIS (AVERAGE CYCLE): The first date is the thirtieth day from the first day that her period started. We count by including the first day of the actual start of her period. If her period was preceded by slight staining (ie. she saw a stain of blood on her underwear a day or two before her period began) we do not consider that the first day: for the purpose of calculating her calendar dates, the first day would be the day that she actually noticed a flow of blood. However, please note: if a woman has slight staining (even smaller than an amount that would actually render her Nida) but she still separates from physical relations from her husband because her period is imminent and she is afraid it may start at any time, she may not generally count those days as part of her five day wait before beginning her seven clean days. But in some circumstances (ie. if the staining was considerable and she is considered actually nida and is not allowed to be with her husband) then it could be permissible to include those days as part of the five and therefore a Rav should be consulted if she is not sure. For the purpose of calculating the 30th day, she would count from the day her flow started. And the flow is considered to have started from the time that she saw blood. Even if she felt that she became nida before, until she actually sees blood she would not be considered as having started her period. For example, if she was out somewhere and felt that perhaps her period started and it was close to sunset but she was unable to look until after dark, her period would be considered to have started from the nighttime, when she actually saw the blood. On the 30th day after that, husband and wife must abstain from relations for 24 hours (please note: sephardim usually abstain for only one onah, during either the day or night, depending upon which part of the day the period began in). If the period started at night then the next month the couple would generally separate the ona (day) before, all the way through to the following sunrise (in other words, 24 hours). Abstaining from the onah before is a chumra (an extra strictness) according to the opinion of the Ohr Zaruah and it is not a custom that is accepted by everyone.
As mentioned above, many Sephardim separate only for one onah: either the day or night in which the period started, just like for the other dates which are observed as days of separation. But there are some Ashkenazim and even some Sephardim who always separate on the ona of the Ohr Zaruah for all the dates.
Chabad does separate for 24 hours for the onah beinonis only.
During the portion of the day that the period began the month before (ie. during the day or night) the woman must examine herself to be sure there is no bleeding or staining . She should examine herself preferably twice but if she only checked once it is okay but preferably closer to the end of the ona .
However, one only checks from the time and onwards that the period actually started the previous month: in other words, if the period started at 10:00 pm, the next month she would do a bedika any time from 10:00 pm on. Or if it started
at 10:00 am, she would check herself the next month from 10:00 am onwards, but not earlier. Sometimes the period begins slightly and is only noticeable with an internal exam. That is why it is important to check to be sure the period did not begin yet. If she somehow forgot to make a bedika, she must examine herself anytime as soon as possible thereafter (even the next day or night or even a couple of days later) before resuming marital relations with her husband. For the onah beinonis she cannot resume marital relations unless she made a bedika.
So to review: If her period started at night the month before, on the thirtieth day after that she must separate from the nighttime (and if one keeps the chumra of the Ohr Zahrua then she separates as well from the onah before, the daytime before that). If she forgot to make an exam during the entire day of the 30th, then she must make the exam the next night of the 31st or the next day of the 31st before she can resume relations.
She may bath and swim on the day she separates from her husband, according to the opinion of the Chazon Ish. Some Rabbonim advise against swimming or bathing on the onah beinonis (30th day). It is advisable to do a bedika before bathing if possible. And she must not have relations with her husband until doing a bedika even if the day passed and she did not check herself and she did not see any staining or bleeding. The 30th day is the most strict of the three dates to be kept. If the ona beinonis went by and she forgot or was unable to perform a bedika, she must do so before resuming relations. If she bathed or swam before performing any bedika after the onah passed, a Rav must be consulted as to her status. There are people who keep the chumra of the Ohr Zahrua (the extra onah) on the 30th even if they do not keep it the other days.
According to Chabad, one simple way to calculate the 30th day or ona beinonis, is to take the first day of one’s period and count four more weeks and one day over. In other words, if one’s period started on a Monday, one would count four weeks more after that and one day over, and observe Tuesday of that fourth week. Chabad observes the date from sundown to sundown of the next day, regardless of when the period started, day or night. It is a full 24 hours of that date. So Chabad does not go according to the Ohr Zahrua keeping the onah previous to the actual onah. They do however observe a full 24 hour separation for the onah beinonis only, from sunset to sunset.
Some Rabbinical authorities advise the couple to abstain from relations the 31st day as well but that is not a must and depends upon one’s custom. Most people do not keep this extra strictness. Anyhow the 31st often turns out to be either the same as the date or the interval.
INTERVAL DATE: The next date to observe is the time between periods (the interval date). The woman notes when her period started and also when the next month’s period starts. She counts the days including the first day that her period began as well as the day the next month’s period began and that becomes her interval date. However, the custom of Chabad is different for this particular matter. The Admor Hazaken, (the Alter Rebbe, first Chabad Rebbe) writes in his Shulchan Aruch that a woman should calculate the interval date according to what date she made her successful hefsik tahara. She would then count from that time until when her next period begins and that would become her interval date.
On that number of days the following month she would separate from her husband either in the night or daytime, depending upon whether her period started at night or during the day. So it is an onah separation . Again she must check herself at least once during the day or night, depending upon when her period started the month before. And again, only from the actual time that her flow began the month before (ie. if it was, for example, 10:00 am then she would check from 10:00 am onwards for that onah) The cloth need not be saved to look at in daylight if the bedika was made during the night, unless the woman sees a questionable color. She can look at it at night and throw it out if it looks clean. If she forgot to make an exam altogether, she does not have to do so later. But many women do a bedika before resuming marital relations because at these times of the month women like to be more careful.
As an example of the interval date (according to the way the majority of people calculate it), if her period began on Tishrei 3 and the next month on cheshvan 5, then she would count the days including Tishrei 3 and Cheshvan 5
(ie. 32 days) and the following month she would count 32 days from Cheshvan 5 (which might be Kislev 7, for example) and she would observe that as her interval date. And if the time went by and she forgot somehow to check herself,
as long as she did not experience any bleeding, she does not have to examine herself again before resuming relations with her husband. But many women do a bedika before resuming marital relations because at these times of the month women like to be more careful.
DATE OF THE MONTH (YOM HACHODESH): The third date to observe is the date of the month when her period began. For example, if she got her period on Cheshvan 10, then the next month, on Kislev 10, the couple would also abstain from relations for that onah, again either by day or night depending upon whether the period started in the daytime or at night. There are women who have the custom to keep the additional onah before that but again, it depends upon one’s custom. The woman should examine herself at least once during that onah period (ie. Kislev 10 in the daytime, not at night (since her period started in the morning) she would make an internal exam, a bedika), but if she forgot or the time passed by without making the bedika, then she is not obligated to make an internal exam before resuming relations as long as she did not feel her period start at all.
For the interval date and the date of the month, there is also the opinion of the Ohr Zarua that in addition to that onah period of abstinence; the couple should also abstain for the onah PRIOR to that. Some ashkenazim or Chassidic communities observe this custom. Sephardim generally do not keep this custom. They keep only the one onah time period. A nighttime onah would be from sunset to sunrise. A daytime onah from sunrise to sunset.
If a woman is not aware when her period began and she discovered it at night but she is not sure whether or not it started in the daytime (before dark) she should assume that it arrived at the time she discovered it and should consider it to have commenced at night.
If a woman is aware when her period began but is not sure if the time was exactly before or after sunset, she also would consider it to have started at the later time. For example, some women get their periods at the time between sunset and nighttime. If that occurs, one would assume the period began at night.
If a woman became Nida through staining rather than through having a real flow or her period, then she does not have to observe a 30th day or the date of the next month . We only observe the calendar dates for a real flow of blood. But for an unclean stain on a bedika cloth on one of the dates of separation one would observe the 30th and the date for the next
If a woman is traveling and her period begins, for example, after dark on what is in that location the 30th day of the month, but if she would have been in her hometown it would have been the 29th of the month in the daytime, nevertheless for the purpose of calculating the next month’s dates of separation, she goes according to the place she is in when her period started. So the following month would be the 30th as her interval date, not the 29th, and it would be at night, not in the daytime.
FOR ALL THE ABOVE MENTIONED DATES, IF A WOMAN DID A BEDIKA ON ANY OF THOSE DATES AND FOUND A QUESTIONABLE COLOR, IF HER PERIOD THEN BEGAN IMMEDIATELY AFTER NIGHTFALL (CONSIDERED THE NEXT DAY) SINCE SHE AND HER HUSBAND ABSTAINED FROM RELATIONS FOR THE PRECEDING DAY, SHE COULD USUALLY CONSIDER HER PERIOD AS HAVING STARTED ON THE DAY SHE FOUND THE STAIN. CONSULT A RAV FOR ANY SUCH SITUATIONS.
Before marriage a woman should try to keep a record of her periods for a few months so she can determine when she will be clean for her wedding. She must do a hefsik tahara exam and then count 7 clean days before her wedding and immerse in the mikvah as well. But a virgin bride should be careful when doing bedikas not to injure herself. Choosing a date for the wedding requires one to take into account when one thinks one’s period may begin and how long it usually lasts and then the counting of the seven clean days: the wedding date should be set after that timing as much as possible. Some girls take hormonal pills to try to make sure they are clean for their wedding night. But hormone pills have their own problems and not necessarily are a good solution.
For a bride, tevilah in the mikvah can be done during the daytime even on the 7th day if necessary (if her actual 7th day is her wedding day, for example). It is an exception to the rule that tevila can be done in the daytime and is a special law for brides. Nevertheless most brides immerse at night, when the mikvahs are open. A bride may immerse up to four days before her wedding but many have a custom to continue to make one bedika each day after her immersion until the actual wedding night. This is also an exceptional rule for brides as generally if someone immerses early (if her husband is out of town ) she does not continue doing bedikas. If after immersion a bride did not continue doing bedikas until the wedding day a Rav should be consulted but generally it would not affect her status of being considered pure for her wedding.
If a woman is Nida at the time of her chupa (the actual wedding day) then she must consult a Rav as to how to conduct herself during the wedding ceremony and thereafter. The couple is forbidden to be alone together even at night until the night that they are able to have their first intercourse. A virgin becomes Nida after the first intercourse but she only waits four days (whether sefardic or ashkenaz) and then counts her seven clean days after that first bridal night, because bleeding from the breaking of the hymen is different than bleeding due to the period.
It is normal to have bleeding from the hymen for the first few times having intercourse but one does not have to separate immediately after having relations the second time or thereafter unless actual blood is found. Even a small staining on the underwear (and colored undergarments should be used) would be reason to ask a Rav but would not usually render the woman nida in such cases. If there is still actual bleeding after the second or third time of intercourse, a Rav should be consulted to determine if the woman is nida or not. With the exception of the wedding night itself, other times that she experiences actual bleeding due to virginity she would have to wait five days and then count seven clean days before she can do her tevila. But again that is only if there is an actual flow of blood. If there is only slight staining a Rav should be consulted. It also may depend on when she expects her usual period.
If the woman has an actual flow of blood (not just staining) at any point in time then she obviously becomes nida again (even if it is in the middle of her seven day count after bleeding from the breaking of the hymen) and she must again begin tp count 7 clean days when the bleeding ends. However, if bleeding occurs during the time she is counting seven clean days, she does NOT wait five days before starting the seven day count. She can immediately being her seven clean days whenever the bleeding stops and she is able to make a successful hefsik tahara.
Some brides find that they have bleeding from the hymen for a few times in a row: if the first few times of intercourse is painful and is followed by slight bleeding then one can assume the bleeding is from the hymen although a Rav should be consulted in case of doubt.
But once there is no longer any pain during intercourse , if there is then any bleeding (even slight) after that, this must be considered as regular bleeding and the woman must wait five days (although if you are sephardic and it is your custom to wait only four in general, then you follow your custom) before beginning to count the seven days. A bride should be aware that it may take some time before going to the mikvah the first month or so, but all of that is normal for a new bride.
If there was only partial penetration and no blood came out after the first intercourse , a Rav should be consulted: she may not be nida and they may keep trying. If however the groom penetrated completely even if no blood is seen, the woman is still considered nida. She should do a bedika if no blood is noticed on the wedding night. Once a bride has marital relations without any pain or bleeding, then if she experiences bleeding immediately after intercourse she should consult a Rav.
PREGNANT AND NURSING WOMEN
A woman who is pregnant (after the first three months go by) or a nursing mother, need not worry about anticipating their periods. But a pregnant woman or nursing woman who does get her period or has an actual flow of blood must consider herself Nida, wait the usual five days and count seven clean days and go to mikvah as usual.
From the time that a woman goes into active labor she becomes Nida and therefore her husband should not massage her back or touch her during real labor. However, if her membranes rupture before labor starts, a Rav should be consulted as to her status.
After giving birth to a baby boy a woman is Nida for 7 days according to Torah law. After giving birth to a baby girl she is Nida for 14 days . Nowadays however most women are Nida for five to eight weeks after giving birth, sometimes even longer. After all bleeding stops she must count seven clean days and go to mikvah before resuming marital relations. However if staining continues for too long after childbirth, one should consult a doctor and also consult the Rav as he may have advice how to check oneself so as to enable one to become clean and count the seven days properly.
It is helpful after giving birth to be as relaxed as possible, as this aids in healing and proper hormonal balancing. Much staining is often due to hormonal changes which are aggravated by stress or worry or sometimes even plane travel. It is advisable not to do much exercise or run up and down stairs too much as that can delay healing from the placental site inside the uterus. It is also good not to do heavy work for about a month: ie. that includes a lot of vacuuming and so on. This may not always be possible, practically speaking, but the less heavy work one does, the quicker the uterus heals, particularly after having several children. It is not pleasant to see the house fall apart, but that is to be expected for a month or so after childbirth and husbands are asked to have consideration and understanding, particularly since this will help their wives to become pure faster and go to mikvah sooner, which certainly contributes to shalom bayit.
After, God forbid, a miscarriage a woman is Nida as if she gave birth to a daughter (for at least 14 days, or until all bleeding stops). However, that is only if the fetus is more than 40 days old. If it is less than that (ie. the pregnancy was only a few weeks) then she does not have to wait 14 days, only the usual five days (or longer, depending upon when all bleeding stops) before counting her seven clean days. However, generally it takes several weeks for all bleeding and staining to stop after a miscarriage of even a few weeks old fetus.
It is, in fact, very normal to have staining for quite some time after a miscarriage so do not panic about that. Sometimes one goes to the mikveh and when the next period starts, debris from the miscarriage which did not come out the first time will be evacuated and can cause the period to be heavier or longer than usual. It sometimes happens that a woman begins counting her seven days and even on the fifth day or later she may suddenly experience staining or bleeding which would again render her Nida, causing her to start counting her seven days over again.
This in itself can be frustrating and difficult, but it helps to keep in mind that extended staining and even some bleeding is normal after a miscarriage or after childbirth, particularly if a woman has had several pregnancies or children prior to that. However, if staining continues constantly for more than two months, a doctor should definitely be consulted. If a woman has heavy bleeding for an extended period of time after a miscarriage, she should also see a doctor as this may indicate retained fragments from the pregnancy or may indicate hormonal imbalancement etc.
If the fetus was more than 40 days old at the time of t he miscarriage, it is often necessary to do a D & C to remove all debris and to be sure bleeding stops properly.
If you are pregnant but never went to mikvah, please call your nearest Chabad house or orthodox Jewish synagogue to arrange to go to mikvah before the baby is born. If you do go to the mikvah before giving birth, your child will receive great spiritual benefits. This is a special gift you can give your child only once.
If you have already given birth , do not worry: you can still go to mikvah and this also has a positive affect on your baby’s soul.
A WOMAN AFTER MENOPAUSE
After complete menopause, even if a woman never kept mikvah before and does not have any further periods, it is important to go to mikvah in order to be pure for her husband from then on. She must separate from her husband for five days, do a hefsik tahara exam and then she must count seven clean days and immerse in the mikvah one last time to remove her status of nida. It is a great mitzva to do so. Her relationship with her husband will then be pure and filled with holiness.
And naturally if after menopause she still experiences at some point in time bleeding from the uterus (including staining which she cannot attribute to anything else and it is more than the size of a gris), she must again observe the above laws and then immerse herself again in the mikvah. However, a woman after menopause does not have to anticipate her period the next month unless she
experiences her period three months in a row. Otherwise a one time experience of bleeding or having her period after menopause means she must count her seven clean days and go to mikvah, but she does not have to keep the dates for the following month. Only if she has bleeding three months in a row would she then have to anticipate her period again.
It is true that at times keeping the laws of family purity may be challenging and even frustrating. Nevertheless the spiritual rewards are great and certainly the purity of the relationship between husband and wife brings its own benefits in terms of peace at home and a constant renewal of the marriage.
It brings spiritual, physical and psychological health as well for the husband, wife and their children. It elevates the marital relationship to a holy level: a level of sanctity which is apart from animalistic desires or simply pursuing lustful drives.
It brings about a feeling of purity and kedusha, which makes a couple feel very connected to G-d and to spirituality.
It is the key to happiness in marriage and to producing good, pure children. It is a tradition and commandment from God which is entrusted to the Jewish women to uphold faithfully; a unique blessing given to the Jewish family. This is the foundation of the Jewish home, the key to survival of the Jewish nation. This is the secret to the success of the Jewish family throughout history.
CONTACT THE RABBI
If for some reason you are not living in an area where you are blessed to have a Rav nearby, or you do not know of a rabbi who is really an expert in these laws of nida or in answering such shaylas, you may contact Rav Gershon Bess in Los Angeles, California. He is an expert in these laws and you can always consult him by phone and send shaylas via mail. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org You can send shaylas via mail. You can also contact your local Chabad house and ask who you can call for bedika or halacha questions.
If you live in a place without a Rav and you need an answer very quickly concerning a questionable color on a bedika cloth or underwear, speak with a Rav and sometimes he may advise you to take a picture of the shayla and scan it to the Rav for his determination.