On Nida

 Posted by on June 26, 2012
Jun 262012
 
Paulino deliveries delivers a Hasidic woman's baby

Special Delivery

You may have heard about the Orthodox couple whose baby was delivered by a truck driver (reported here: http://www.vosizneias.com/108634/2012/06/25/new-york-ny-tow-truck-driver-delivers-orthodox-jewish-baby). The husband asked the truck driver to deliver the baby because the frum man couldn’t touch his wife. Obviously, as she was in labor she was a nidah and he couldn’t touch her and deliver the baby, even while lives were at risk.

I don’t know any details of this family; how old the couple is, if this is their first child or which branch of orthodoxy they belong to. But despite the little I know, I find it hard to judge the husband per se for his behavior. I think his inability to “reach in” himself to get that baby born can hardly be faulted to him alone. I think it is a larger societal issue. I know too many frum men who would in all likelihood get lost and freeze at such a time. I also think it is not unusual for men who have learned the ways of the birds and the babees through religious “marriage prep” courses to understand that they are to keep these rules at all times, even while the water is flowing and the placenta is emerging and the child is exploding between the mother’s legs. Several societal factors breed such cowardice: 1. marriage at a young age. For all you know, this father-to-be may be nineteen and freaking out and in the worst position to get a baby out of a vagina 2. dogmatic and rigid education of laws of niddah, as in, touching her will make your child a bastard, and do not ever hand her the baby so put the baby on the pavement and have her pick the baby up with a snow shovel, all to avoid, god forbid, any touching during nida! And there’s 3. men’s fear and ignorance of the female body. The third is especially understandable. A man who has been taught never to look at a woman’s privates will naturally find it hard to do so for the first time somewhere on the highway with his unborn child speeding in between.

Anyone could panic and run for help.

But of course, my sympathy goes so far as seeing this man’s clutziness as the religious sexuality problems at play here. Because religious problems aren’t hereditary, you see, so that scenario would be better for the world, now with Baby Clutziness around. But more seriously, because I think the nida laws aren’t so far from suggesting pretty unreasonable behavior during delivery either. That women who deliver twelve babies in their life should never hold their husband’s hand while pushing? Not a back rub or even a comforting pat on the arm? Or even if they have five children, or three or one. Why should a woman give birth to her child while her husband stands with his back to her, or is outside of the room, or if he’s a cohen, outside of the hospital and maybe at home? Isn’t that outrageous in itself? All of these seem strikingly inconsiderate, even heartless and mindless. Isn’t a little bit of physical support and comfort when the woman goes through so much pain for childbirth only humane?

I cannot attest to the overal norm, but it was pretty normal among the Hasidic women I knew to deliver the babies alone, while the husband either left the room or turned around. I also think many people are very, very strict about not touching a nidah partner during the first few years of marriage. The wife is untouchable, even while she is in most desperate need to be touched. With all of these rules, I ask you: is it only a road-side baby that is hair raising, or is it the overall way frum women are supposed to give birth?

Frieda Vizel

Frieda Vizel left the Hasidic community, the Modern Orthodox community and the Formerly Orthodox (OTD) community. She now lives in Pomona and is actively looking for a new community to leave. She deals with the perplexities of the communities she left by drawing cartoons about them, a habit that gets her into an excellent amount of trouble.

  16 Responses to “On Nida”

  1. “…..or is it the overall way frum women are supposed to give birth?”
    Isn’t this what the posuk means “Ki Chuyois Hayna”? That they can give birth on their own.

  2. Would the man not have jumped into a lake to save his drowning nidah wife or pull her from a burning building? It is unlikely, assuming his knowledge of Niddah laws and myriad other halachos, that he did not recognize this situation, and any situation involving a pregnant or birthing woman, as a sakanos nefoshos (lit. life-threatening situation, in which all laws except murder, adultery, and idol worship are suspended). Therefore I don’t think he didn’t ‘jump in’ for the sake of violating Niddah laws.

    My guess is that what likely was at play was more basic. Some men (and women) respond better and more soundly in different situations. A woman pushing out a baby, on the side of highway no less, is a pretty harrowing scenario. Why does the archetypal cabbie (or whatever NY post headline) pull the baby out when the non hasidic husband is there? Some men are more deft at handling some situations, at any age.

    Is it heartless and mindless to withhold physical support from your baby mama during child birth? Probably. And lately more fathers in society-at-large are present during birth. However, until very recently (and birthing in hospitals is also pretty recent) father and the boys, hasidic, jewish and other were sent to the field or the neighbors to await news. They were sent there by the midwives, who were women that may or may not have based their decision to send out the men on the influence of nida thumping rabbis and/or their own respective patriarchal/religious leaders.

    Whether holding to any number of nidda standards is cruel and unusual to women (and men!) is definitely a discussion. So is how we educate our children about properly relating to the opposite sex. Whether this story is an indictment of either, I think, is a stretch.

    Oh, and to answer Paulino: “Right over there by the box that won’t be unpacked for another 18 years. It’s marked ‘dreams of unfettered freedom.’ “

  3. Just to point out, in many cases it’s the “woman” who are enforcing this stupid Nida roles, I remember my wife when giving birth to our first child, while being in incredible pain, she was making sure that I am out of the room when delivery started.

  4. It could well be that his wife insisted he should call someone else to do the delivery.

  5. Umm, I’m no doctor (ok, I do happen to be one), but babies deliver themselves (that’s how all other mammals are born). You certainly shouldn’t “reach in there and pull it out”. When in doubt (and without trained professionals around), let nature take its course.

  6. A lot of people practice what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Why not what happens in the delivery room, etc.? I never heard that someone got too much gehennom for giving his wife a lower back rub.

  7. Hilariously excellent cartoon, even surpassing the excellence of the commentary πŸ™‚

    To play the devil’s advocate, it is/was common across many cultures for husbands not to attend the births of their babies, and from a certain psychological perspective it makes sense. Back in Temple times, a postpartum woman was required to bring a sacrifice as atonement for “breaking a promise” because it was common for women to swear during labor that they would never have sex with their husbands again. Dave Barry humorously and harrowingly describes his wife giving birth, unleashing an astounding variety of curses at him in her agony. There is even a tribe where the husbands do some kind of “empathetic birth” ritual, that even though they do not attend the actual birth, while the wives are giving birth they self-torture.

    You omitted one more reason why the husband might not have been able to deliver the baby: my husband would probably have been close to passing out and needing medical attention himself πŸ™‚

  8. “Where do you want this baby, Rabbi?”
    “Actually, Mr. Paulino, SHE was the one who wanted it!”

  9. More details are needed to judge this particular case. Anyone can use help at such a status.
    So although the Hasidic “system” if far from (and will never be) the way I think should be, the initial Nidah laws are not THE problem. It is easy to get used to it. The reason why young couples make a big deal out of it is because thats the only thing they know about marriage.
    When I was a chusen I went for 8 chusen-leasons, only 1/8 was about the holiness of marriage, the rest were rules and prohibitions on Nidah days.
    As I grow up, I make my own research – whiten the Torah – what marriage (and life) is all about, what I can say is that all the rabbis who thought us yiddishkeit with there black glasses will never see light after hell.

  10. Wow! wow! wow!, shpitzele i dont know where to start, should i start by saying mazol tov to reaching the number hundred of your cartoons, should i start by saying that u are almost so creative as the creater of the world, ok i guess i will just start writing without thinking what i should write first, first of all MAZOL TOV! MAZOL TOV! Der iebershter zol helfen ……!, now i would like to tell u shpitzele that your present cartoon touched a thing that is really much much a bigger and deeper craziness in the chasidish community then the way you described it because u only wrote about all the chimres and extreme holuchas that are common while your wife is a nidah but what i would like to talk about now is the way the chasidish community lives with there wives even when they are clean, first off all all chasidish chosen teachers are saying that u are not aloud to have any physical contact with your wife during the day or even at night before you reach the bed that means no kissing or hugging during the day! can someone explain me how in the world can a couple have true love to each others if the only thing that they know about love is the half hour twice a week laying in the bed with the quilt covering almost till the head in a spooky dark room and the only think they know is that they need to make sure to think from tzadikim while doing the big MITZVAH! There is no such think as romance by most chasidish couples! Is this normal!? And if the he or she is a little more open minded (read normal!) And they wana give him or her a kiss or a hugg while siting on the sofa and talking then he or she looks on him like he fall off from the moon and he or she sas: my chosan\kalah teacher said that u are not aloud to do it and he or she looks on him or her like she or he is a shiegetz or shiksa and no wonder there is no respect for each others, i can tell u one thing all those choson kalah teachers will go straight to hell for that! But for sure u are right shpitzele that when it comes to nidah the thing gets ten times worse like for exmple, just take a walk one night on the streets in williamsburg when all couples are walking home from supper and in a minute u will know which vieble is clean and which one is not because the one who is not clean makes sure to walk at least two feet away from her husband so her skirt shouldnt touch his suit ( maybe it would be more oisgeholten if the chasidish women will wear thight jeans so they wont be so afraid that the wind will blow there long tzashlocheta skirt on there husbands suit! Lol!) And i can go on and on but i am sure that everyone here got the picture already of what the chasidish married life style is like.

  11. Dr. Anon, human childbirth (like that of domestic mammals) need intervention. Certainly it’s “possible” to do it alone, but humans have evolved to have their births assisted. It was a medical emergency, pikuach nefesh. He should not have left her alone to go ask for outside help just to comply with halacha (a puerperal woman is not a nidah, rather a yoledeth, but the same rules apply). But it wasn’t just halacha, as Shpitz mentioned. He might have simply freaked out in face of the situation.

    I agree with previous commenters that it’s not always the guy who is the fanatic. It’s not always that cartoonish of a woman craving an embrace and the husband turning his pious head away. It’s stereotypical, but not accurate, and not fair.

    SB, the sacrifice is not for “breaking” the promise, because she brings the offering before she has even had a chance to break it. Rather swearing is sinful in and of itself. And it’s only one opinion (R’ Shimon) and it doesn’t help that Rav Yosef repudiated the logic. Weird quotes have a tendency of being requoted.

  12. Could u pls make a cartoon abt this woman who deliverd at home on shabs cuz she didn’t wanna break her taanis dibur…
    I’d suggest that yes when there’s noone around to help the husband is allowed according to halacha to help deliver the baby by any means. Its those kind of things that the ppl just don’t get and are considered a chussid shoite.
    But from my experience: I was inside the room when my wife gave birth, I gave her chizuk by talking to her, never was a touch needed. Talking and caring. There are some guys who just can’t be there cuz its too much. Also non jewish. Also heard that for some reasons some women prefer their mothers being there(my wife says her mother is the last person she wanna see). Of course I can understand shpitzles point of touching but if ur just not allowed u gotta find other ways

  13. Actually if lives are in danger, he must save her. The mishna describes a chossid shota as a man who declines to save a drowning woman vail mir tor nisht.

  14. While my hub stayed in the room, this niddah shit renders them absolutely useless. Except bringing me ice chips and watching me writhe in pain there’s nothing he “can” do.

  15. FBCD i guess it depends…maybe he just doesnt have a clue what other options there is…maybe you wouldnt let him…all i said was my experience by 3 birth till now…

  16. Oh, I let.. doesnt have a clue is more like it. just being awake would have been good. lmao.. (yetst lach eech)

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