“Cultic impurity bears no relation to modern notions of dirt and cleanliness. In the mishnaic system, only those bodily fluids that Scripture enumerates as sources of cultic contamination give cause for concern. These happen to include menstrual blood and other genital discharges, but not (for instance) urine or faeces, which to our way of thinking may seem far more ‘dirty’ than an emission of blood”
Wegner J.R. 1988 Chattel or Person? Oxford University Press; Oxford 1988; p. 242, n.251
Ritual impurity, by definition, is associated with those phenomena that are barred from the sanctuary [of the Temple]. Sacrifice, also by definition, involved many activities that – especially according to the priestly traditions – can take place only in the sanctuary. […] The two ritual structures of purity and sacrifice are virtually inseparable”
Jonathan Klawans Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple p. 4
היה ר"מ אומר: מפני מה אמרה תורה נדה לשבעה - מפני שרגיל בה, וקץ בה, אמרה תורה: תהא טמאה שבעה ימים, כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה כשעת כניסתה לחופה
Babylonian Talmud Niddah 31b
Rabbi Meir used to say: Why did the Torah ordain that a woman should be niddah for seven days? Because being in constant contact with her, he might develop a loathing towards her. The Torah, therefore, ordained: Let her be unclean for seven days in order that she shall be beloved by her husband as she was on the day of her marriage.
Rav Yitzhak ben Sheshet (Rivash) 14th C. Spain:
You asked me to explain to you that which is written in the Torah: “And to a menstruating woman do not come near to uncover her nakedness” is it said about every menstruating woman, be it his wife or be it an unmarried woman? …. And according to our sages, how did they leave any kedeshot in the world? For it must be true that the women did not purify themselves.
And how did they not make a decree – no corrective or fence of purity for single women; so that the many [men] not stumble since after all the punishment is Karet, and one who touches the little finger of a nidda incurs lashes?
The answer is clear: Sex with a menstruating woman is forbidden whether she is his wife, whether she is his friend’s wife, whether she is unmarried and this is clear. And no-one ever doubted it. And even speaking about it is unnecessary. The verse even said simply “To a menstruating woman do not come near. And it made no distinction between one’s wife and an unmarried woman for it did not say “to your wife”…..
“Modernity also opened up new options for Jewish female sexuality. Jewish women began to have the possibility of being sexual subjects, rather than elevated objects of male desire. With these new possibilities came an enormous Jewish silence. No longer limited to the role of Temptress, Jewish women looked to their tradition for a more broadly defined sexual wisdom, but found little direction.
Some women became “free thinkers,” […] But the majority of Jewish women just quietly stopped going to the mikveh, stopped covering their hair, calves, and arms, and looked to secular culture to advise them about sexuality” (Litman, Jane Rachel 1997 “Sexuality and Ritual Purity” pp.188-196 in Lifecycles v.2 (ed.Orenstein and Litman) Jewish Lights Publication; Woodstock, Vermont; p. 192).
“Why do I observe niddah and go to the mikveh? It would be less than honest of me to say anything other than I do so because I am commanded”. (Greenberg, Blu, January 1980 “Integrating mikveh and modernity” pp.37-38 in Sh’ma; p.37)
“Tumah is the result of our confrontation with the fact of our own mortality. It is the going down into darkness. Taharah is the result of our reaffirmation of our own immortality. It is the re-entry into light. Tumah is evil or frightening only when there is no further life. Otherwise, tumah is simply part of the human cycle. To be tameh is not wrong or bad. Often it is necessary and sometimes it is mandatory."(Adler, Rachel 1976 “Tumah and Taharah: Ends and Beginnings”pp.63-71 in Elizabeth Koltun (ed) The Jewish Woman, New Perspectives Schocken Books, New York; p. 64)
“Twenty years later, as a feminist Reform theologian I continue to be faced with an essay I wrote, an essay that continues to be quoted, cited, and reproduced, promulgating opinions and prescribing actions that I now cannot in good conscience endorse. […]
The only rationale the sources did not offer was the rationale that motivates all sincere piety, the one held out to men: that observing the commandments would make one holier and bring one closer to God. [...]
When Jewish women who were not Orthodox appropriated my reframing of immersion in the mikveh to mark occurrences for which no ritual expression had existed, they taught me an important lesson about the possibility of salvage. They began using the mikveh to purify themselves of events that had threatened their lives or left them feeling wounded or bereft or sullied as sexual beings: ovarian tumors, hysterectomies, mastectomies, miscarriages, incest, rape. In waters whose meaning they had transformed and made their own, they blessed God for renewed life. The makers have imbued these rituals with a different understanding of what purity means”. (Adler, Rachel 1976 “Tumah and Taharah: Ends and Beginnings”
” (Adler, Rachel 1993 “In Your Blood, Live: Revisions of a Theology of Purity “ pp.38-41 in Tikkun Vol. 8, no.1)
We reject its principal import as a tool of marriage and we open up other avenues for meaning…dip on Rosh Chodesh (the new moon)…open the mikveh during the day… turn the mikveh into a Jewish women’s learning center….”
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein ReVisions: Seeing Torah Through a Feminist Lens. Key Porter Books, 1998, p. 127-128
A mikveh is a ritual tool that should be accessible to all. The mikveh always remains pure no matter who immerses in it, how he or she immerses, or when he or she immerses. That is one of the unique aspects of mikveh, one of its purposes. It changes the status of the person who immerses in its Living Waters but is not itself changed in the process. This characteristic of mikveh allows for it to be, in my opinion, the ultimate tool for pluralism and openness in the Jewish community. All is allowed, and everyone is allowed, and we can all share the same mikveh. What a beautiful thing! Yet the Rabbinate attempts to control this arena as well. Rabbi Haviva Ner David 2013