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Hebr. niddah (‘one set aside’). According to Jewish law, it is forbidden for husband and wife to have marital relations during the time of the wife's periods and for seven days after these have ceased. The practice is for the wife to examine herself for seven days after her flow has ended. If the examination during these seven ‘clean days’ shows that there is no longer any flow of blood, the wife immerses herself in the ritual bath, the mikveh, after which marital relations may be resumed until just before the time when the next period is expected. This means that usually husband and wife can only be together for sixteen days in each month, making the laws of ‘family purity’ among the most difficult to observe, especially since strict observance of these laws involves no physical contact at all between husband and wife during this time. The majority of Orthodox Jews follow these laws and there is evidence that they are observed nowadays even in some Reform circles. As with the dietary laws, the keynote in the sources for the observance of ‘family purity’ is holiness. The Karaites were extremely strict in keeping a menstruant away from contact with sacred things. Against this, the Talmud states explicitly that ‘the Torah cannot contaminate’, so that the widespread notion that a woman in her periods should not handle a Sefer Torah finds hardly any support in the Codes.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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