The ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’ leads to a search for common ground in the customs of the various ethnic communities * Despite the advantages of referring questions of niddah to a rabbanit, when necessary, a woman should not be ashamed to ask a rabbi * A person’s physical side requires purification in order to connect to the source of his life * The spring of purity that will come out of the Holy of Holies and heal the world * Sweetening of the Dead Sea: carnal lusts will be corrected, and bring life and blessing in return * The abolition of the impurity of niddah in the future
The New Book ‘Taharat Ha-Mishpacha’ (‘Family Purity’)
Baruch Hashem, nearly three weeks ago, my latest book ‘Taharat Ha-Mishpacha’ on the laws of niddah (menstruation) was published as part of the ‘Peninei Halakha’ series. In the introduction of the book, I wrote:
“The general rule that guides me is that the mitzvot of the Torah should be understood by all of Israel, so that every Jew can observe them without entering into doubts, and have to constantly ask a rabbi a question about the halakha – questions which should be intended only for rare cases. Then again, precisely in these halakhot, there is more of a need to ask a rabbi, especially in the first year of marriage. On the other hand, however, specifically in these halakhot, understanding is especially important, for it leads to their observance out of a sense of identifying with them. In this way, keeping these halakhot will elevate and sanctify a marriage. The more the world is filled with knowledge in the various sciences, even more so it must be filled with spiritual knowledge – through Torah study, and understanding. For indeed, Torah knowledge uplifts and gives inspiration to every Jew, enabling him to execute his full talents in all areas he pursues, for the glory of the Torah, the nation, and the Land. This is how the nation of Israel can fulfill their destiny – to reveal the word of God in the world, and shower blessing to all families of the earth.”
“In some areas of study, it was necessary to delve deeper into the fundamentals of the issues, and thus reveal how the halakhic disputes diminished greatly. Similarly, having merited the ‘Ingathering of the Exiles’ of millions of Jews from the four corners of the world, the various tribes are marrying one another, and now we have the privilege, and even the duty, to learn the minhagim (customs) of all the communities and poskim collectively, to understand the halakhic foundation common to all, and while preserving the various traditions, to strive to bring the halakhic “branches” closer to each other, in the way of the Talmidei Chachamim of Eretz Yisrael, who are gracious to one another in discussions of halakha” (Sanhedrin 24a).
Our Minhag in the Rabbinate
“From the first day of my rabbinate, my minhag in the community was to have the women ask my wife, the rabbanit, questions concerning niddah. In this way, my wife became a partner in clarifying the questions, to the point where in many cases, I preferred that all complex questions in the laws of tahara (ritual purity) come through my wife. Thus, if necessary, she could teach the questioner how to check, or, thanks to her sharp eye, delve deeper to ascertain and assess if the stain may have come from other reasons, and if necessary, refer the questioner for a medical examination, and sometimes to encourage and comfort her.”
Nonetheless, I wrote in the book (7: 4), “When it is not possible for a woman to ask a rabbanit, or for her husband to ask the rabbi, a woman may ask the rabbi, since in this matter the rabbi serves as a professional who deals matter-of-factly with the question before him. And just as, when necessary, a person must overcome embarrassment and go see a doctor, so too, when necessary, a woman should overcome the embarrassment of asking a rabbi.”
The Conclusion of the Book
The last chapter deals with the laws of the mikveh. Out of prayer to increase purity, holiness, and joy among the Jewish nation, I concluded the book by summarizing the matters of purity explained in it. The words are so dear to my heart that it is difficult for me to read them without tears in my eyes. I will present them here, with additional headlines. May they also be for an uplifting of the soul of Rabbi Hanoch HaCohen Piotrkowski ztz”l.
Tumah and Tahara (Impurity and Purity) are Connected to the Land, and the Body
“As a result of the sin Adam Rishon, tumah, which seals ones heart and impairs his ability to connect his thoughts, actions and feelings to the source of his life, clung to man. Since his connection to Hashem was impaired, death consequently clung to him, as well. The system of mitzvot that deals with all types of impurity and purification from them, mainly associated with the Beit Ha-Mikdash (the Holy Temple), is intended to elevate a person from the impurity that clung to his physical sides, and connect him to the source of his life. By immersion in a mikveh, an impure person returns to the primary foundation of life. As a result, he is able to connect to Hashem the source of life, ascend to the Mikdash and draw life to Eretz Yisrael, his body, imagination, and emotions, and all human talents, to be connected to Hashem, and draw blessing and tikun (rectification) to the world.”
The Torah is Required for Midot Tovot (Good Virtues)
“However, for the purpose of Torah study and other mitzvot connected to the spiritual side of man, tevila (ritual immersion in a mikveh) is not obligatory. The preparation required for them is emunah (faith) in Hashem, and good midot (virtues), without the need to prepare the physical body for this purpose, as our Sages said: “Words of Torah are not susceptible to tumah (ritual impurity), as the verse says, ‘Is not My word like as fire, says the Lord’ (Jeremiah 23:29). Just as fire is not susceptible of tumah, similarly, words of Torah are not susceptible of tumah“(Berachot 22a; see Rabbi Kook’s ‘Orot Ha-Techiya’ 35).”
Abolition of Tahara, Except for Family Purity
“From the time the Mikdash was destroyed, and Israel was exiled from their Land, tahara was abrogated from Am Yisrael. Only one type of tahara remained for us, to some degree similar to the kedusha (sanctity) of the Mikdash – in a woman’s immersion to purify herself, in order to reveal the life and holiness in the body, in love and joy between a married couple, the pinnacle of the fulfillment of “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which is equal in weight to all the mitzvot. For the main purpose of immersion and purification is to purify actual life, with the body and flesh, the imagination and the emotion, so they can connect to the source of life, and intensify limitlessly.”
A Prayer for the Return of Purity
“May it be that as a result of our return to our Land, we merit growing in Torat Eretz Yisrael and its guidance for the world’s tikun, and out of the purity and joy of the connection between husband and wife, blessing will spread to all areas of life, and we will merit the building of the Third Temple. Moreover, from the Kodesh ha-Kodashim (Holy of Holies), the purity of Jewish faith will spread to the entire world, in order to purify all beliefs revealed in physical life, in all its components. As our Sages have said: “The spring that comes forth from inside the Holy of Holies is at first very narrow and resembles grasshoppers’ antennae in width. Once it reaches the opening of the Sanctuary, it becomes as thick as the thread of the warp; once it reaches the Entrance Hall of the Sanctuary, it becomes as thick as the thread of the woof, which is wider than the warp thread. Once it reaches the opening of the Temple courtyard, it becomes like the mouth of a small jug” (Yoma 77b). The continuation of its flow is explained in Ezekiel’s prophecy: “And I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the Temple” (Ezekiel 47: 1-12), and the waters of the river constantly increased: after a thousand cubits, they reached the ankles, after another thousand cubits, they reached the knees, and after another thousand cubits, they reached the waist.
After another thousand cubits, no one was able to cross through them, and so they continued to increase and intensify “Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I arrived there, I saw a great number of trees on each side of the river… where it enters the Dead Sea. When it empties into the sea, the salty water there becomes fresh. Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows, everything will live… fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food, and their leaves for healing.”
Purity Rectifies Physical Lusts
In other words, since we will be privileged to purify ourselves from impurity, and connect to Hashem with all our might, the place where the people of Sodom sinned in the lust of money, and all their other carnal desires, until it turned into a place of death, will return to life. The fish in it will multiply, around it will grow wonderful trees that bear fruit all year round, because every month new fruits will grow, and their leaves will be medicinal leaves.
In the prophecy of Joel, as well: “Then, when that time comes, the mountains will drip with sweet wine, the hills will flow with milk, all the streambeds of Judea will run with water, and a spring will flow from the house of Hashem to water the Shittim Valley” (Joel 4:18). Water of the Shittim Valley, hints at the sin of lust for prostitution, as written: “Israel was staying in Shittim when the people began to behave immorally with the Moabite girls” (Numbers 25:1). The spring that will flow from the house of Hashem, will purify and rectify this lust as well, which will transform into a desire of love between a husband and his wife and all things holy, and in this way, blessing will increase throughout the Land.
Also the Mediterranean and all the World’s Oceans
However, the spring flowing out of the Mikdash will purify and heal not only the Dead Sea, but as implied in the prophecy of Ezekiel, and explicitly in the prophecy of Zechariah, half of it will turn to the Mediterranean, thereby creating an overlapping between the spring coming out of the Mikdash by way of the Mediterranean Sea, to the Ocean surrounding all continents, and out of contact with the spring emanating from the Mikdash, all the water in the world will be purified and sanctified, as written: “On that day, living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea, and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. Hashem will be king over the whole earth. On that day, there will be one God, and His name, the only name.”
Elimination of Impurity from the World
The impurity of the niddah will also be abolished, as our Sages said: “There is no greater prohibition than niddah; a woman sees blood, and Hashem forbade her to her husband, but in the future, He will permit her, as written, “I will also remove impurity from the earth” (Shocher Tov, Psalms 146). Even the impurity of death will be removed from the world, as our Sages said (Tanchuma, Metzora 9): “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Israel, “In this world you became clean, but returned to uncleanness; but in the world to come, I Myself will cleanse you so that you shall not ever become unclean” as written, “I will sprinkle pure water upon you, and you shall be pure; I will purify you from all your uncleanness and from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25). And death will be abolished from the earth, as written:
“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid… and the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and a young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11: 6-9). It is also written: “When he has swallowed up death once and for all, the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every face and remove his people’s disgrace from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25: 8).
This article appears in the ‘Besheva’ newspaper and was translated from Hebrew.