Customs Concerning Sexual Relations
By Rachel Harris
Many of the traditional customs of the sexual behavior of the Jewish couple are based on the taboo of having sexual relationships when the woman is having a menstrual period. This is based on the biblical injunction in Leviticus (18:19).
In order to achieve a spiritually lofty life, which means closeness to God, a holy sex life is a must. An explanation being that a flow of menstrual blood causes spiritual impurity to the woman. This is explained that because of the woman's ability to give birth to a child, she is able to reach a lofty level of holiness that a man can not reach. This is because a man, who provides the seed for creation of a child, is unable to give the seed an environment to grow to become a living person.
Due to the woman's G-d given ability to actually give life to this seed, she has a heightened level of spirituality, because she is a partner sharing in creation with G-d. When the period of time that her body can accept her husband's seed has periodically pasted, as indicated by her menstrual flow, she now becomes temporally in a lowered state of spirituality.
A woman must overcome this lowered state of spirituality and be able to rise to a heightened state of spirituality in order to conceive a spiritually pure child. Since a child that is conceived when the mother is not spiritually attuned will be lacking, the woman must purify herself. The purification is carried out by immersing in a body of water that has not been pumped, such as a lake, but not a bathtub. (Ritual immersion baths, (called a mikva) are constructed in a manner to meet the traditional requirements that the water not be pumped.)
On the onset of signs of a woman's menses, she separates from having sexual relations with her husband. To aid the couple in their separation, they will not embrace, kiss, touch each other or even sleep in the same bed. All things that will bring the couple into intimacy are avoided. Many women will not go into a synagogue for services during this period because of this impure spiritual state.
The time of menstrual bleeding is reckoned to be a five-day minimum. After the cessation of the flow of blood during this initial period, she must wait an additional period, during which she will check her self to make sure that the flow has ceased for seven consecutive days. After this time, she will go to a mikva and immerse.
This process will remove the spiritual impurity caused from the menstrual flow and refresh her spirituality. She is now permitted and encouraged to have sexual relations with her husband. In this manner, the sexual relations between her and her husband will be in a spiritually uplifted state and that the child being conceived will be born as a spiritually uplifted child.
There is much more involved in these traditional customs. In order to follow these customs, guidance and training from some one who is knowledgeable in the Jewish tradition is a must.
from theIssue Number 21, May 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine