Taharat Hamishpacha

Question

Hello Rabbi,

I’ve been learning about taharat hamishpacha and my lessons say that when a woman finds a spot of questionable color while counting the 7 clean days, she must take it to a rabbi for him to look at it. That seems incredibly uncomfortable, and even immodest. How could it be that a man cannot see my upper arm, but he is expected to see my bodily fluids – something I’d even be embarrassed to show to my husband?

Also, what gives the rabbi the ability to make the call whether a spot is liable to make a woman considered still in niddah or not? Is it simply traditional methods passed down, is there medical speculation involved, and could different rabbis potentially say different judgements about the same spot?

Can an experienced, halachically informed woman not do so for herself?

On a side note, I was wondering about the white underwear. If spotting occurs on white underwear, it almost invariably stains. This means that each pair of underwear is unlikely to be purely white foe more than one cycle. Are we just supposed to go through underwear and keep buying new ones? If not and it’s okay to re-use the stained underwear, then why is any off-white color garment unacceptable when it is essentially the same if the white garment is no longer white?

9 months

Answers

  1. I truly empathize with your question and I understand how having to show a stain to a Rabbi might be a cause of great embarrassment.

    However, I think that the embarrassment can be alleviated by regarding the Rabbi in the same way that you relate to your gynecologist. An appointment with a gynecologist should not gender any embarrassment. The gynecologist is a professional who is trained to look at your medical condition and not to pay any attention to any other details. So, too, a Rabbi who is an expert in the Laws of Taharat Hamishpacha.

    He has spent many years studying the subject in great depth and he is now an expert who is qualified to give his “professional” opinion about what he has just been shown. The Rabbi is ruling solely on what he has seen and he is not looking beyond what he has been asked. That means that any personal issues that the the question may contain (for example, if the question presented to the Rabbi revolves around something as acutely personal as whether the wife can immerse in the Mikve that night) are used solely by the Rabbi to reach a definitive decision.

    It is entirely possible that two different experts in Taharat Hamishpacha may disagree with each other about similar situations. That is not a phenomenon that occurs only in the realm of Taharat Hamishpacha. Rather, it is something that occurs throughout Jewish Law. In truth, it is not something that should be a cause of concern. As long as the person is taking their question to an expert in the Laws of Taharat Hamishpacha, they are following the ruling that they were given by a reputable expert – and it really does not matter if another expert rules differently.

    If there is no other alternative, a woman who is Halachically experienced and an expert in the Laws of Taharat Hamishpacha can rule for herself. However, it is normally preferable to let another expert rule on the issue at hand to avoid any hint of subjectivity.

    It is absolutely permissible to use laundered white underwear and there is no reason to continuously buy new sets of underwear for counting the Seven Clean Days. The Halacha dictates that white should be used because it is by far the easiest color to highlight any staining. Fresh stains do not share any resemblance to laundered stains and they are easy to identify. What is true, however, is that if a pair of white underwear is heavily stained and the marks do not come out in the wash, it would be better to not use that particular pair for the Seven Clean Days.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team

  2. Thank you very much for your thorough answer.

  3. It’s a pleasure. I am happy that Just Ask! was able to be of assistance.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team