Hasidic marital purity laws

Hasidic marital purity laws

A reader asks: Why do Hasidic couples sleep in separate beds?

Answer:

Because of the laws of niddah, which prohibit the couple from being together from the moment the wife has uterine bleeding until she completes a ritual bath immersion.

Before Hasidic couples wed, they are taught about the following Orthodox family purity laws. The laws are to be observed throughout the entire marriage, and they revolve around the woman’s menstrual cycle/periods of bleeding.

During the time of bleeding, the woman is considered impure, and the husband and wife must take care not to have any intimate contact. After her period has finished, the woman is made pure again through a bath immersion process in a special pool called a mikvah. Then the couple can be intimate again. You might think that this would be a monthly process for every Hasidic couple, but it is less frequent because pregnancy and breastfeeding disrupt the menstrual cycle and allow the woman to be clean for longer stretches.

As a result of these laws of niddah, Hasidic couples have two separate beds. The couple gets a wedding gift from their parents of an expensive bedroom set with two beds and a night chest in the middle. Here are some pretty jaw-dropping furniture sets from Chasuna Depot.

When a Hasidic woman has her period, her husband can’t come into her bed. In fact, he can’t touch her, pass anything directly into her hands, or even have a conversation that would lead to arousal. She is then a niddah—she is unclean. After her period passes, she needs to count seven days of no bleeding. During this time, she will change the linen set to all white for both beds, just so it looks matching (duh!), and she will sleep in a white nightgown and white underwear. This is to make sure that she is definitely not bleeding anymore. She will even check twice a day to make sure she is clean using this cloth:

If seven white days pass and all is well, the woman will go to the community mikvah/ritual bath. The mikvah house is usually an elegant but unmarked bathhouse (so the kids don’t know about it, as it’s related to the naughty birds and bees). Inside, the place is comprised of lines of tiles hallways with private bathrooms for each woman to clean up, thoroughly, in preparation for entering the mikvah.

The private rooms for preparation will usually be nicely furnished with soaps, shampoos, a robe, slippers, and towels. I once drew a naked beheadgeared lady in the mirror of this bathroom, hence the unnerving second picture of the bathroom prep room.



In the Hasidic mikvah I went to, they hung a sign reminding us of all the places to clean before we are ready for immersion. I took one home (ehrm, I just did!) and photographed it. On the list of things to remember is to wash the neck, face, clean the nose, and take out dentures and contact lenses.


When all the cleaning preparation is done, say in about an hour or so, the woman presses a button to summon the attendant. You can press four buttons: emergency, ready for inspection, ready to go down, and all done. The first time the woman is ready she presses “ready for inspection,” and the attendant comes to make sure her hair (or shaven head) and nails are prepared correctly. The attendant will also often wash the bathing woman’s back, before leaving her to take a final quick shower.

The attendant then returns and escorts the patron to the mikvah.

At the end of each hallway there will be the mikvah itself, which is pretty much a pool of well water. This is where the important immersion takes place. The woman must be naked, free of anything stuck to her body, and she must go under the water at least three times. The female staffer, usually an elderly no-nonsense lady, watches over her to make sure the bathing patron is indeed completely immersed. Each time the immersion is done successfully, the mikvah lady announces “kosher!” The bathing woman also recites a special blessing.

This is how the pool looks:

Mikvah with the prayer

After the woman finishes with the ritual immersion—about a two-hour affair—she goes home, and her husband is permitted to join her in her bed. They can now be “together.”

I was told before I got married never to go into my husband’s bed. This was because the man may come to associate his bed with arousal and feel this excitement even during the period of menstruation and separation. So the husband is always to congregate on the wife’s bed, but only if she has gone through the purification process in the bathhouse. And if the couple wants to be frivolous when they are allowed to be with each other, they can not only have sexual congress but also stay in the wife’s bed to sleep the night together! Oh la la. Assuming there are no babies wailing and the bed isn’t so narrow that one of them falls off in their sleep….

Bonus: some of my old cartoons:



Related:

Transcript of a Hasidic groom’s wedding night lesson

The Get (religious divorce)

Premarital genetic testing in insular communities

Mysteries of the Newlywed Couple’s Room

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