I Had to Take My Dirty Panties to a Rabbi, and So Has Every Orthodox Jewish Woman

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By Katia Aryeh

Religion brainwashed me into doing irrational and emotionally self-damaging things that I would have easily recognized as primitive and harmful were it not for my indoctrination.  Of all the practices I look back on with horror, this was the worst.  By removing the veil of secrecy that keeps these practices from public knowledge, my hope is that women suffering within these communities will feel empowered to leave.

There are three key tenets of Orthodox Judaism, each associated with an array of laws that must be strictly adhered to. Of the three, people are generally familiar with two: the special dietary laws referred to as Kosher; and the rabbinical laws of the Sabbath, or Shabbat, that govern the do’s and don’ts during the day of rest between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday.

The third pillar of Orthodox Judaism, family purity or niddah, is one very few people outside of that insular world are aware of.  However, if broken, the laws accompanying it carry a far greater penalty in the next world than those related to the Sabbath or keeping Kosher. The laws of family purity apply to all spectrums of orthodoxy, including the modern ones that allow women to wear trousers and uncover their hair, like the sect Ivanka Trump belongs to, for example. Even the slightest deviation from these laws would compromise a couple’s standing as practicing Orthodox Jews in the eyes of a rabbinical court.

What are these laws, you ask?

The laws of family purity revolve around the color of a woman’s vaginal discharge.

You see, beginning on the days when she anticipates her period, a husband and wife are forbidden from having any sexual relations until seven days following the end of her period. Considering orthodox law states that a period’s duration is a minimum of five days, this typically spans about two weeks or longer, depending on whether her post-menstrual discharge cooperates. In short, this means that for about half of every month, all aspects of an orthodox woman’s life, relationship, sexuality, and emotional health, are dictated by her vaginal discharge.

Except for the far left minority, most orthodox sects go even further with their adherence to the ancient laws by completely prohibiting any physical contact. Couples may not sleep in the same bed, or even hand objects to each other directly (even a baby), all to prevent the increase of temptation to have sexual contact. These laws apply even after a miscarriage, during childbirth, months following childbirth, and even if a spouse loses a family member and needs a hug from their partner. 

While the woman is required to count seven clean days before she may immerse herself in a ritual bath (mikvah) prior to reuniting with her husband, it’s not only a matter of days or time waiting. The woman must take an active role to ensure she is “clean” by wearing only white underwear and conducting self-examinations of her vaginal canal with special white cloths twice a day, every day, before sundown. The white cloth is inserted into the vagina so that any fluid or discharge is absorbed. The first examination of the seven days requires the cloth to be left in for about an hour, even if the woman is out of the house, and it is usually quite painful. Here is an excerpt from a website detailing very specific examination instructions (http://www.yoatzot.org/taharat-hamishpacha/?id=603):

 “Insert the finger deeply but GENTLY into the vaginal canal as far as the length of your finger will allow. If this is difficult for you, try to go deeply at least for the hefsek taharah [first] examination and for one of the examinations during the seven blood-free days – preferably the first.”

If during the seven days any of the examination cloths contain even a tiny spot darker than tan, or a spot on her underwear bigger than a penny and darker than tan, she must take the underwear or cloth to a special rabbi for further evaluation. This Rabbi will then examine the color to determine if it is light enough for her to keep counting, or if it’s too dark or too red tinted such that she must begin counting the seven clean days over, even if it is day 7. Seeing a spot obviously induces massive anxiety for housewives longing for any affection from their husbands, many of whom also worry that their deprived husbands will start looking elsewhere. 

Q: How do boys and girls raised in a culture obsessed with modesty accept this practice when they are made aware of what they must adhere to? 

A:

1) They are told that these special rabbis are like male OBGYNs; that there is nothing sexual about them examining the discharge, and that if someone still thinks it is inappropriate, it’s because THEY have a dirty mind and do not understand the holiness that motivates these rabbis. 

2) Engaged couples are told that if husbands sleep with their wives too much, they will grow tired of them the way a person’s love of chocolate cake would dwindle if eaten for every meal. The girls are also told that without a forced physical separation, their husbands will only see them as sexual toys and will have no incentive to talk to them and connect on a deeper emotional and intellectual level. 

3) To paraphrase what Sam Harris has said, one guy cutting off a girl’s clitoris is called a monster; hundreds of men doing the same is called culture. 

Q: Why can’t women check the colors themselves? 

A: According to Jewish law, women can’t be judges and can’t make legal rulings. Once vaginal discharge is darker than tan, a legal judgment is required. However, the minority left-leaning sect has, in recent years, certified some women to make these judgments. The center and right-leaning majority, however, does not recognize their certification because they are female judges, for all intents and purposes. 

That’s right. Women encouraging other women and their daughters to painfully violate themselves for God, instead of listening to their bodies and protecting themselves. Further, these are the least extreme of the bunch! More here: http://www.yoatzot.org/taharat-hamishpacha/?id=603

Q: Is this in the Bible? 

A: Yes, sort of. The prohibition for a man to not approach a menstruating woman is one of the 613 commandments in the Old Testament. Like kosher and the Sabbath, the specific laws governing the execution of the commandment are recorded various rabbinical writings considered as binding as the Bible itself.

The scope of this article does not include the vast laws that govern what the woman must do to her body on the night of her ritual bath, the emotional stresses put on the marriage and on the spouses by these laws, and how men who are prohibited from spilling their seed deal with so much celibacy (Hint: In Jewish law, a married man sleeping with a single woman who is not his wife is NOT considered adulterous. Adultery is defined by the marital status of the woman). 

37 COMMENTS

  1. I didn’t know menstruation was contagious.

    How do people even function in day-to-day life with all of these ridiculous rules and governances? And don’t get me started on the even-more-ridiculous “work-arounds” they have to circumvent their own rules…!

  2. @OP – The laws of family purity apply to all spectrums of orthodoxy, including the modern ones that allow women to wear trousers and uncover their hair, like the sect Ivanka Trump belongs to, for example. Even the slightest deviation from these laws would compromise a couple’s standing as practicing Orthodox Jews in the eyes of a rabbinical court.

    Mmmm! Another Trump nuttery connection!!

  3. I find this incredibly sad. After reading the article I was able to find information about this online, but it would have never occurred to me to look for it before. Aside from the incredible invasiveness of the procedures for checking for blood, the entire concept of physically limiting all intimacy, even a simple touch, for potentially weeks at a time, is horrendous and must have some strong psychological repercussions. I read about a “condition” called halachic infertility – where women are only fertile during times when they are considered unclean and so are unable to get pregnant because they are never permitted to have intercourse at the right time. There were suggestions of infertility treatments to respond to this problem! The absurdity is mind-boggling and incredibly saddening. And once again, the women suffer most.

  4. Engaged couples are told that if husbands sleep with their wives too much, they will grow tired of them the way a person’s love of chocolate cake would dwindle if eaten for every meal.

    But did not the Lord’s voice speak from out of the cloud, “I command thee to love thy wife like a person who loves chocolate cake so that you may never tire of her but always go back for seconds.”

    (The Bible is so riddled with contradictions.)

  5. To paraphrase what Sam Harris has said, one guy cutting off a girl’s clitoris is called a monster; hundreds of men doing the same is called culture.

    There is an apocryphal parallel to this phrase attributed to Stalin: “The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of a million men is a statistic.”

  6. I think she has some options:

    leave the faith. She does not buy it.
    find a denomination that does not do this.
    humiliate the rabbi as a pervert by taking a recording video his demand to the press. Let him make excuses to the public.
    give him some freshly laundered panties.
    just refuse. Leave the ball in his court.

  7. Melissa K,
    I agree with you on all fronts. I never even thought to encroach on a woman’s dignity to this degree and as a by-product of this respect, it never would have occurred to me to even search this. AND, damn, I’d clear the history so quickly, hoping that my wife never saw the search!!!! It’s reprehensible.

    Roedy,
    I’d love to hear an updated post from Katia with her resolving to leave or walking away from this staggeringly invasive and oppressive regime of pseudo- religious, pseudo- human, pseudo-men .

    But, with a twist. Hopefully many people here have read my stuff for a while and realize that while i am content being a giant middle finger, what follows here is, in fact an attempt at being funny.

    Here’s what i’d hope she does….. It would be grand to see how many “substances” she could smear in undergarments and turn in for inspection before the “holy man” caught on. I’d relish the story of her getting one over on he sexist asshole and, by proxy, their entire sexist system.

    One final fuck you and then walk away with your finger raised.

  8. I feel bad that you had a bad experience and I understand that you want to share it and help others. for the readers of this article, they should be aware that there are millions of religious Jews who adhere to these laws, accept them and feel privileged to have them. It’s unfortunate that in every “system” there will always be some people that it does not work for. (think about school drop outs or just the way people have different tastes and music they like) and the writer of this article obviously had a bad experience. Hence the way this article is written it makes it seem that these laws are primitive and unhealthy for the women keeping them. I won’t go down the path to write why the Nidda laws can be beneficial to couples as I am sure there are many available online or at your local Jewish bookstore.

  9. Jacob Cohen #8
    Nov 30, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Hence the way this article is written it makes it seem that these laws are primitive and unhealthy for the women keeping them.

    That’s probably because they are!

    I won’t go down the path to write why the Nidda laws can be beneficial to couples

    I’m pretty sure you would struggle to make a coherent case based on biology, medicine or psychology.

    as I am sure there are many available online or at your local Jewish bookstore.

    I’m sure there are, but none of them are likely to written objectively by anyone who is an expert on psychology or health, or who has not been indoctrinated in primitive preconceptions!
    There are also many books which are written claiming the Earth is flat, or that the Moon-landings were a hoax!
    Their authors also have credibility problems when in rational company.

  10. Jacob Cohen,

    Spoken like a true “male of the religion”. Way to go. You have single handedly shown exactly why this is unacceptable. And, single handedly summarized my absolute disdain for so many religions. You couldn’t have done it better with a flaming star of david stuck in a child’s eye. The fact that you seem like a very nice and genteel human being only serves to highlight further how pernicious this collection of taboos and superstitions actually are.

    Her’s your post from my perspective:

    “I feel bad that you had a bad experience….but….” Some women like having their undergarments dug through like they are farm animals….. yeah, and some men get sexually aroused by being vomited on. And, are the “holy men” masturbating about this access to these myriad women???? Next will be, “how dare I” (self righteous indignation that I’d SAY such a thing — while your rabbis are ACTUALLY sniffing women’s soiled undergarments in real life). how about this? How dare this religion do such repugnant shit? Would you be ok with a ____________ coming up to you and asking for your daughter’s soiled panties? I WOULD NOT.

    You claim it has benefits that “you choose not to go into”… like that kid who has a girlfriend ….in Canada… at summer camp…. you wouldn’t know her. Typical mindless adherence and thoughtlessness. Reminiscent of Trump ending every statement with “everybody knows”.

    You also then cite biased insider source material… “available at a Jewish bookstore”…. Like “hey, man, EVERYBODY”S doing it”…. There’s this BOOK!!! One says that you can beat homosexuality out of your child. Another says that if you say the right prayers, their leukemia will clear up, another extolls the benefits of a vegan diet for newborns, hey, voodoo, santaria, animal sacrifice…. Oh, but they are all “wrong”, huh?

    It reminds me of when that man in Iran said that homosexuality was punishable by death in Iran….. but that’s ok because we don’t have any homosexuals here.”

    What a reprehensible thing to justify. And, again, you come off as a very nice man and I’d be glad to be your friend, coworker, neighbor even family member….. However, I’d seriously think about reconsidering when you condone such overtly heinous violating of women’s privacy rights and do so with such matter-of-fact cavalier statements and do it all in the name of some kind and loving being in the sky. It’s an offensive pile of shit.

  11. Jacob Cohen

    there are millions of religious Jews who adhere to these laws, accept them and feel privileged to have them.

    The big three monotheisms, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share the misogynistic strategy of controlling women’s natural reproductive strategy. It certainly doesn’t surprise me to read from a Jewish man who supports the bizarre level of scrutiny of women’s vaginal discharge that is explained in the article above. It also won’t surprise me to hear of the sadly brainwashed Jewish women who support this tactic as well. Every religion has its own gender traitors after all. Consciousness raising amongst them is needed immediately.

    On this website, when you post a claim you may be challenged to provide a source for that. Are you sure that it’s actually “millions” of supporters? You have stats? Of course we could never trust the answers of the women themselves. Some truly support this bizarre tactic but many will indicate support out of fear. And don’t tell me that all of the men in that community support this either. They’re all perfectly content with the practice of some Rabbi geezer sniffing their wive’s and daughter’s panties? Give me a break.

    These women are trapped in an abusive little world from which it is extremely difficult to escape. Some privilege, right?!

    Alpha males of the in-group who are absolutely brainwashed and intimidated by the prospect of women running their own lives in an independent autonomous way must find the rules and regulations of their antiquated religions to be very convenient when it comes to keeping their women on a short leash.

    …feel privileged… That is beyond the pale. The misogynistic statement of the century award.

  12. Laurie B,
    Great post. Your controlled burn is much more effective than my laser beams! I wish I had your writing style.

    But, posted to ask….

    First, are you sure that this wins the coveted “misogynist of the year award”? Because Some might proffer Trump as the current leader for the award.

    Second, and on a lighter note, what does this award look like? Is a sphincter shaped trophy too callous?

  13. crooked

    Trump as the current leader for the award.

    Well ok then, the point is well taken. I stand humbly corrected. 😉

    Is a sphincter shaped trophy too callous?

    Yes, that’s definitely too callous. The actually trophy is a six foot long dildo. The winner of the award will be bludgeoned with it at the award ceremony. For the record, just to put you in your place crooked, I can out-callous you any day of the week in three languages. So there. I could also take tea with the Queen. No problem. It’s good to be versatile in this life.

  14. @OP – like the sect Ivanka Trump belongs to, for example.

    http://www.ibtimes.com/ivanka-trumps-jewish-faith-11-things-know-about-donald-trumps-daughter-judaism-2393299

    Ivanka Trump’s Jewish Faith: 11 Things To Know About Donald Trump’s Daughter And Judaism

    2: Israel’s supreme rabbinical court recently rejected a conversion performed by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump’s conversion, but that decision does not affect her status as a Jew.

    3: Donald Trump did not attend the “bris” — ritual circumcision — of Ivanka’s son Theodore in April.

    4: The mother of three says her religion plays an important role in family life. “We’re pretty observant, more than some, less than others. I just feel like it’s such an intimate thing for us,” Ivanka Trump told Vogue magazine in 2015. “It’s been such a great life decision for me. I am very modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.”

    5: Ivanka and Jared Kushner reportedly keep kosher — that is, they follow the dietary restrictions in the Torah, eating no shellfish or pork and keeping milk products and meat products separate.

    6: Like other Orthodox Jews, Ivanka and her family observe Shabbat (the Sabbath). Kushner said the couple “turn off our phones for 25 hours.” Ivanka explained the benefits of abstaining from work for the weekly holiday. “From Friday to Saturday we don’t do anything but hang out with one another,” she told Vogue. “It’s an amazing thing when you’re so connected to really sign off. And for [daughter] Arabella to know that she has me, undivided, one day a week? We don’t do anything except play with each other, hang out with one another, go on walks together. Pure family.”

    10: Modern Orthodox Jews tend to adhere more closely than Conservative or Reform Jews to the commandments of Jewish law, said Rabbi Leora Kaye, the Director of Programming for the Union for Reform Judaism. “In general the biggest difference between the denominations, I would say, is the way they understand the weight of what we call Jewish law.” Kaye noted that, for example, it would be unlikely for a woman to be a rabbi in an Orthodox denomination.

    11: Ivanka and her husband live in “a world that is committed to the age-old practices of Judaism, but it doesn’t mean that those practices and observances prevent the person from being fully engaged,” said Rabbi Wildes.

    There is no mention of panties in the article, but there probably would not be anyway!

  15. Jacob,

    As a woman who lived under these laws for ~17 years, I think I am qualified to address some of your comments more so than those outside this world commenting. (Though I appreciate their voices as well!

    You wrote, “they should be aware that there are millions of religious Jews who adhere to these laws, accept them and feel privileged to have them.”

    You are correct that every Orthodox Jewish woman follows these laws. There are 2.2 million Orthodox Jews in the world (obviously a lot of children and men in that number.) It’s a slight exaggeration to say “millions” follow the laws.

    However, my argument is with this bit… that people “feel privileged to have them.”

    Umm, no. Not according to any frum women I have ever spoken with over my lifetime.

    Do they accept them? Yes. They must! They truly believe it is the word and will of god. They HAVE to follow the laws. (From their standpoint.)

    But privileged to have them?? I don’t know one mikvah-going woman who feels “privileged” to have these laws, unless you’re counting the kallah teachers that teach women the rules. They may say so. But I’m sure they must convince themselves of their good, otherwise how could they tolerate teaching it to others??

    I assume you are from or in the Orthodox world, so you know as well as I do that staying pregnant and breastfeeding is as much about “pru’vu”, or the commandment to have children, as it is about staying away from mikvah. When you’re pregnant, and when you breastfeed “clean,” you don’t go to the mikvah. So, stay pregnant or nursing, and you won’t need to go much. That’s just what most Orthodox women do.

    Do you know how many dedicated religious women I know who have CRIED to me that their periods came back while breastfeeding?? They cried because they did NOT want to have to follow these laws.

    I would say hundreds of thousand “tolerate” these laws. They may justify these laws… try to rationalize them. Make up “benefits” in order to tolerate them… But that’s as far as it goes.

    And all the bullshit about how “beneficial to couples” it is, again, no. The idea that it “improves” the relationship because they have to talk to each other and not have sex — well, it’s as if the assumption is that when they CAN have sex, that’s all they do. That’s ridiculous. It is completely possible to become emotionally connected to your spouse without forced physical separation for half the month.

    And during childbirth? And after childbirth? And after a miscarriage? To not be able to be touched or hugged or anything? That is emotional neglect. Now, I’m not saying the men are responsible for it — they are as suppressed and hurt by these laws as much as the women. But not ONE expert in psychology would say it was a “benefit” to lack any physical comfort during a deeply emotional or hurtful time.

    Yes, people make up reasons it’s “good” for a couple. But these laws are not followed for the “benefits.” It’s like what one Rabbi told me once: The Torah/Bible isn’t nice — it’s just right.

    They are followed because people believe it is the word of god — and that’s it. Not because they are good. There is not one good thing about them.

  16. LaurieB,
    Duly noted!!! (and you got a huge grin and even a bit of a snicker from me on your last post). Versatility protects against extinction.

    Oh, and i have enough trouble with English…. I’ve always envied brains that can accommodate multiple languages.

  17. Rachel,
    Thank you for your post. I find so much courage and honest intelligence in what you say. As one of the “offended outsiders”, it lends credence and validity to my opinion and let’s me see that, in fact, my kneejerk reaction (even though it is a kneejerk reaction) was “kosher” — pun intended!

  18. I feel like my wife and I can comment from an in-the-middle perspective.

    Regarding my viewpoint on Judaism in short: I see it as a cultural choice that is aimed at controlling one’s impulses instead of being controlled by them EG: Shabbat, I put down my phone, don’t drive, don’t do my normal work, and spend hours in meditation, Holidays: I perform rituals to remind me what I have to be thankful for and what I should remember. Prayer is a method of meditation etc.

    My personal method is fairly common in Judaism, it’s based on rational, psychological and scientific facts. Ah, but what happens when scientific facts collide with the bible? We find a rational psychological, physiological, or anthropological reason for them. Niddah – or the family purity laws do have some good points in them, but the corruption of these laws comes from within Judaism and a fair bit of “Sheeple,” behavior.

    Niddah is a period of separation for 8 days (I know 12 is mentioned here, but I personally disagree with 12 and so do many others). This time is a time of separation and rejoining to renew the sexual bond between husbands and wives – I dare you to look at the statistics of most marriages outside Judaism and the non-vibrant sex-life they boast. After the woman’s immersion in the Mikva (which I said to my wife, if she doesn’t feel like doing it or feels negatively about it, then water is water, take a bath), it is traditionally accepted to have sex. Once every 8 days? that’s pretty good for a few years down the line.

    The 12 days is keeping a law that makes the Niddah law fuzzy – Zava. Due to the fact that the Sheeple of the Rabbincal age of Judaism couldn’t distinguish between uncommon uterine bleeding and a normal period, they set all future religious Jews to follow the laws of Zava. Zava is the irregular bleeding after a period, a time in which most doctors will encourage you to not engage in sexual relations and to remain vigilant for signs of bleeding or spotting for more than a week. I personally don’t agree that we should keep Zava, as we are able to determine ourselves what a normal period is and what irregular bleeding is.

    Furthermore, if Zava is kept for a minimum of 12 days – this can cause a couple to not conceive and need to receive special permission to shorten the period of separation to allow for conception. Also, the psychological effects of the separation, physiological harm a woman can cause herself with frequent checking, and frustration with the complexities of keeping a law that is designed in the event of irregular bleeding and not to celebrate the rejoining of husband and wife (EG the writer of this article) are reason enough to return to the original laws of Niddah.

    Your frustration is shared by many and there are aspects of Judaism that are misogynistic. What I ask for is the appreciation for the aspects in Judaism that aren’t misogynistic – EG, contracts that guarantee a woman’s livelihood in the event of divorce, a law impeding the taking of concubines in warfare, the inclusion of women and their powerful roles throughout Jewish history, and the honor given to women which quite a few other religions don’t share.

    I won’t exonerate Jewish tradition, but I fully believe that misogyny in Judaism is the result of influences to our tradition that stem from other cultures or religions. One example is sex: The bible is pretty damn forthcoming about sex, the prophets are too – who believes sex is sinful? Christianity and Islam primarily. There is no basis in the bible or debatably afterwards to taboo sex – yet today in the ultra-orthodox communities, it is tabooed and considered impure. The laws of purity and impurity referred to a spiritual condition that only occurred in the times of the Jewish temple – they occur in situations when the mind is affected and it detracts from the service of God – EG. Coming in contact with a dead body, blood, sex, warfare, leprosy (in some cases). In these cases you need to undergo an ancient ritual of purification. Today – we don’t keep these laws, but our tradition is influenced from them (hand washing, kashrut) and in the case of the Ultra-Orthodox, are still kept.

    We agree that no woman should be forced to send her underwear to a Rabbi, and that Rabbis (unless they have medical degrees), are not qualified to determine health aspects as a result of examining dried blood, nor can they double as a financial adviser or medical adviser in the case of bearing children (unless, once again, they have a degree in Micro-Econ). We encourage couples who read this to be open with each other about this issue, and to research the plethora of debate surrounding this issue.

    Good luck.

  19. I have been to three bar mitzvahs and enjoyed sitting with two different men showing me who was shagging who in extra marital affairs. I personally listened in on a 76 year old rich guy telling a woman half his age how much he fancied her and watched them behave like naughty children all evening thinking they were the only ones in the know.

  20. Rachel, the point of my comment was for “outsiders” to realize that this article was written by someone who is upset and has had a bad experience. There are two sides to every story and specifically with these laws it has its benefits. It was not to argue the validity rather, to make readers aware that there are many hundreds of thousands of Jews who adhere to them and have a good experience.

    To learn more and come to an educated conclusion, readers should do their own research.

    As a side point I remember as a teenager listening to Dr. Laura and on many occasions, she would ask the caller “when was the last time you had sex with your spouse” I was shocked when many would respond with a period of longer than 6 months. Any religious Jewish couple will not have this issue due to the laws of Nidda. In addition, during the menstruating cycle couples are supposed to be schmoozing, dating, hanging out etc. and working on their relationship in a non-sexual way. If a woman does not feel emotionally well then it is her husband who is not doing his job as a caring spouse.

    You are correct when saying that “They are followed because people believe it is the word of god — and that’s it” I would add that for many, there are additional benefits.

    @crookedshoes, I lost you with the farm animals 🙂

  21. Jacob,

    You said: “I was shocked when many would respond with a period of longer than 6 months. Any religious Jewish couple will not have this issue due to the laws of Nidda.”

    There are Jewish couples who don’t have sex for months, who keep the laws of niddah. That’s a thing, and a myth that mikvah “prevents” this.

    In fact, there are women who just don’t bother to go to the mikvah for months due to friction in the marriage. This isn’t common, of course! (Not common in Jewish marriages, and not common in non-Jewish marriages either.) But it happens. (And yes, it is forbidden by Jewish law but it still happens.)

    I wouldn’t take callers on a talk show as a reference for the general public… I’m sure those people are more likely to have issues. That’s why they are calling into a talk show.

    I will also add that the “obligation” to have sex on the mikvah night is a huge stress for many women. While it is not “required-required” to have sex that night, there is a very strong push that it should happen… and many women don’t feel like it after all the preparation and stress of mikvah. That brings up strife in a marriage, too. This, “Well, it’s our mikvah night, we have to have sex tonight. It’s a mitzvah,” thing… How is that good?

    The “Jewish couples who keep taharas mishpacha have better sex lives” refrain is repeated often… but as far as I know, there’s been no actual research on the topic. (I imagine finding frum people willing to share with a professor how often they have sex would be difficult.)

    I agree people should do their own research… BUT that is going to be really difficult to find, if you’re looking for sources that are not already strongly biased towards keeping the rules. I actually don’t know of a neutral source to learn about these things.

    Rachel

  22. So far on this thread there have been appeals to accept and overlook, even appreciate the negative aspects of Judaism because there are a number of positive aspects of the religion that are supposedly serving a couple million believers well.

    Here are some of the aspects that are reported as positive:

    14

    Rules serve as a “blueprint” for family connectivity

    Phones turned off for 25 hours

    From Friday to Saturday do nothing but hang out with each other. Play and hang out with daughter.

    19

    Controlling impulses

    Rituals for giving thanks and remembering.

    Dietary Restrictions

    Niddah family purity laws based on ancient superstitions force couples to reject sexual contact. Forcing couples to only have sex on schedule, according to an arbitrary ancient, man-made schedule leads to postponement of marital ennui for decades.

    Ok, here’s the thing. Some of these are positive and some of these are not considered positive at all, even by members of the religious in-group, as commenters have indicated. But the point that the secular community would make, if I may speak for us here, is that these are all items that anyone could incorporate into their own lifestyle if they choose to do so! Why is it necessary to force these rules on a large group of people, two million if the figure is correct, when they could easily adopt them if they desire but reject the items that they find to archaic, perverted or harmful in some way?

    That’s the complaint here with orthodoxy, it forces many people to comply with the bad just so that a few good things will be observed as well. This is unacceptable and it’s too tied in with indoctrination of children when they have no ability to consider whether or not they want to comply. They must comply because they have no choice. They grow into adults who are either in compliance through force or through brainwashing. How can anyone defend this? It’s monstrous.

    Abe Truitt

    What I ask for is the appreciation for the aspects in Judaism that aren’t misogynistic – EG, contracts that guarantee a woman’s livelihood in the event of divorce, a law impeding the taking of concubines in warfare, the inclusion of women and their powerful roles throughout Jewish history, and the honor given to women which quite a few other religions don’t share.

    Secular law provides protection now for women in divorce. Many women want to access that for the protection it provides and reject religious “law” for being based on old misogynistic ideas that are predatory. I believe there are rules of war that are recognized by the international community and as for appreciating the role of women in Jewish history, I’m all for that but that’s something that everyone can do without giving in to old bad ideas that the rest of the religion forces on people.

    When we talk about the good things that religion makes us do, ask yourself if you could do it yourself without religion at all. If so, then what good is it to put up with the bad aspects of religion at all?

  23. Jacob Cohen,

    This is the writer. I am not angry and I didn’t have a bad experience. You saying so as a matter of fact is not only wrong, it’s an ad hominem attack meant to distract from the issue at hand as well. Falicious arguments abound in your world, but they don’t fly here.

    What horrifies me when I look back was that I thought what I was doing was good when I engaged in this uncomfortable, violating, and sad practice. Further, I find it horrifying that I almost brainwashed my two daughters to think this was normal and good for them. THAT is what is horrifying now that I have objectivity and have been out of the fog for some time. I wasn’t horrified at the time because I was brainwashed, which is entirely the point: I SHOULD have been, but wasn’t.

    It’s also quite sexist to assume that if a woman writes a blunt informative piece without dancing around the issue and sugar coating it like the demure damsel an orthodox girl is expected to be, you automatically think she’s angry. More misogyny.

  24. She’s right- no good reason that women can’t be trained to examine their own panties. Period.
    Sex abstention improves the sex life according to plenty of Gentile mental health professionals. Period.
    The ultra orthodox community has many idiosyncrasies that are bizarre. It’s not normative Judaism. It’s intellectually dishonest to characterize Orthodox Judaism according to what they do.
    Plenty of women love the Mikva experience. Especially converts. Many don’t. So what.
    The rules described here are not from Moses from Sinai. It’s mostly rabbinic. Feel free to follow what makes sense to you. TRUST ME– GOD DOESNT CARE. HE GAVE US THE TORAH FOR OUR BENEFIT, NOT HIS. Do as many mitzvot as you can. The only purpose of the mitzvot is to get close to God. Do what you can and what generates that closeness. It doesn’t help to make fun of anachronistic OCD obsesssed Jews.
    Instead of this rant, let the author go to a modern orthodox egalitarian synagogue and enjoy life.

  25. Ari #25
    Dec 1, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    Instead of this rant, let the author go to a modern orthodox egalitarian synagogue and enjoy life.

    Or they can just circulate socially in secular society, and enjoy life without rituals, quaint taboos, and superstitions.

  26. @ Jacob Cohen,
    You’ve gone on to clearly demonstrate how likable you are. If you were an actor, your “Q” rating would be way way higher than mine. The farm animal rant, although brusque and perhaps brutish, is simply words. I use them with force sometimes and sometimes I am right and sometimes I am wrong. These practices are actions and well… one speaks louder than the other.
    The idea that I “lost you there” is not surprising as it is true tangential thinking and I feel no compulsion to rehash any of it. It stands. If you care to reread it, I wouldn’t change a word.

    **** not true….. I regretted one word in the diatribe and that is when I said “even” (a family member). I wish I hadn’t said “even” there. It doesn’t convey what i meant and has the added crapful byproduct of being easily misinterpreted. Anyway, your posts are appreciated and I think, honest from your perspective and i thank you for them.

    @ SuperKatGirl,
    What is most heartening is when you say “Further, I find it horrifying that I almost brainwashed my two daughters to think this was normal and good for them.” This makes me feel great. Because of your strength of both character and mind, you have provided your daughters with the most important thing (IMO) a child can see: a strong parent. Further, you’ve made the “score” 2 million MINUS three. And, that’s remarkable. I do not know if this matters one iota in your world but Bravo from crookedshoes (and I am sure many many others here).
    Respectfully,
    Jim

  27. Thank you Jim. I appreciate that. 🙂

    For anyone who is interested, I’m good and well and my girls and I are living happy secular lives and have been for about 4 years. Needless to say it’s been the best four years of our lives and it just keeps getting better and better!!!

  28. It simply amazes me that anyone follows these ridiculous rules. I took a look around the linked web site and found one instance of breathtaking made-up idiocy after another. These are perhaps best represented by this:
    Wait required after bowel movement?

    Wait required after bowel movement?

    Question: With regards to finding a kesem on toilet paper, I was
    wondering if the rule of waiting more than 15 seconds only applies
    after urinating or for a bowel movement as well? Thank you Answer: It
    applies specifically after urinating, as urinating may mask a
    sensation of menses. A bowel movement’s sensations are in a more
    clearly distinct region of the body. In practice, a woman who has a
    bowel movement after urinating generally waits fifteen seconds for
    that reason alone.

    I thank my stars that I was never involved with any of this foolishness!

    Steve

  29. I’m coming late to this thread – sorry if everyone else has moved on, but I feel I need to say a few things. I learnt something new from this post. It was not, I can say, something I particularly wanted to learn but nevertheless …

    @Jacob
    A quick question, do you have actual blood in your veins? I’m asking because your reply, to a women recounting a deeply humiliating and traumatic time in her life, was the measure of cold, clinical indifference. When I read Katia’s post I felt sadness and compassion, but, I must admit, I felt just a little bit of rage reading your reply. You said you were “sorry (she) had a bad experience”. Really? As if it were a trip to the dentist, just a little more painful than it should have been. Perhaps you think most women are OK with all of this? Perhaps Katia is just being a little sensitive?

    In the context in which it was written, I would be hard put to recount a more callous and cold-blooded statement than this remark of yours.

    Funnily enough, despite the immense hurt she suffered, Katia’s reply to you was noble and dignified. I am neither of these things however, so I ask again, Jacob, do you in fact have veins full of icewater? And for a follow up question do you, in your sick little world, (@mods sorry – personal attack, I would hope you let this one go), do you, Jacob, actually believe that this is the will of God? That the Almighty, creator of all we see, the alpha and omega, that this omnipotent being has decided, in his infinite wisdom, it’s a good idea for a bunch of old men to go around inspecting young women’s undergarments? Again – really?

    Judaism is not the only religion to treat women shamefully and you Jacob certainly and sadly are not the only adherent who believes that this is all correct and proper, that God intended women to be second-class citizens. I am nevertheless greatly encouraged by brave people such as the poster, who despite the best efforts of others to brainwash them and inculcate them into going along with their despicable practices and traditions, summon up the courage and say “enough”. Katia you have my immense respect. Good luck, and thanks for having the guts to write this.

    (ps my wife is Colombian and Colombians have fire in their veins. She’s catholic, but if any priest ever asked to see her panties she’d kick him where it really hurts – and good job too!)

  30. @OP
    I read these posts just after lunch usually so I got as far as vaginal discharge.

    I can guess the rest reading the title.

    It does not actually matter about the detail or why for me.

    Its just another a mindless, tribal religious practice that subjugates, humiliates and takes away the dignity/privacy of women.

    That some rabbi or cleric may get a power rush or perverse sexual gratification from?

    Why am I not surprised? (but still disgusted)

    There are positives from each culture and maybe even a few from some religions but this is clearly not one of them.

  31. Just another example of how the men of religion have set their minds to dealing with what they see is ‘the problem’ of womankind and how to keep them in their place. There has been an obsession with virginity and menstruation in the abrahamic religions that is fanatical, bizarre and perverse.

  32. this BIG commandment too, to me, is a clear indication, that the Bible was written by a collection of people, possibly just men only. “I am your God and you shall have no other God but me”. Now if you think for a moment, if you were the God of everything, would there be any need to state the obvious? I mean, if there was a God of everything then everything would know, instinctively, who this God was. However, if you were not a God of everything then of course this would be the ultimate commandment to make, wouldn’t it?

  33. ray stasionis #35
    Dec 16, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    “I am your God and you shall have no other God but me”. Now if you think for a moment, if you were the God of everything, would there be any need to state the obvious?

    Ah! But this comes from the time before Israelite monotheism and the killing off of the other gods and their priests, if you read history rather than listening Bible ranters!

    El, who morphed into Yahweh, Jehovah, and “God”, was the chief god, and ruled along with his wife Asherah.

    http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Canaanite_Religion

    Canaanite religion describes the belief systems and ritual practices of the people living in the ancient Levant region throughout the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
    Until recently, little was known of these traditions outside of the Hebrew Bible, which denigrated them as idolatrous and licentious. Twentieth century archaeological excavations, however, unearthed several texts, as well as many artifacts, which provided previously unknown details and insights into the nature of Canaanite religion.

    Canaanite religious beliefs were polytheistic, with families typically focusing worship on ancestral household gods and goddesses, while honoring major deities such as El, Ashera, Baal, Anat, and Astarte at various public temples and high places. Kings also played an important religious role, especially in certain ceremonies, such as the sacred marriage of the New Year Festival, and may have been revered as gods.

    The Canaanite pantheon was conceived as a divine clan, headed by the supreme god El; the gods collectively made up the elohim. Through the centuries, the pantheon of Canaanite gods evolved, so that El and Asherah were more important in earlier times, while Baal and his consorts came to fore in later years.

  34. At the very least, every month a Rabbi should bring his dirty panties to a select jury of women within his community, for them to deliberate on the relationship between the color of his discharges and his fitness to serve as judge on the color of their discharges.

    It would be only fair.

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