Contemporary Issues In Halakha: Laws Of Family Purity

In the final subject of our course we will examine the laws of family purity, specifically the positions in the Conservative Movement. We will begin by examining the laws as outlined in the Torah and see how these are shaped through the Rabbinic lenses in the Talmud.

Traditional practice, since Talmudic times, is for a couple to refrain from sexual contact during the period of menstrual bleeding, minimally four or five days, and for seven full clean days thereafter, a period ranging for at least eleven or twelve days, if not longer. Three different responsa were submitted to the Committee for Jewish Law and Standards in the year 2006. All were in favor for maintaining the laws of family purity but two called for a shortening of this time period where no sexual contact was allowed. They addressed additional aspects as well, but in the context of our course we will focus in on the issue of the number of days where man and wife must avoid sexual relations.

The full teshuvot by Rabbis Miriam Berkowitz, Susan Grossman and Avram Reisner may be found on the website of the Rabbinical Assembly.

Some parts are a bit technical but of course I encourage participants to read them or at least the summaries/conclusions in order to have a more complete understanding and fruitful discussion.

The first source sheet contains basic background material regarding Niddah in general and the second will deal with the crux of the dispute between the different positions.

Source Sheets

Source Sheet Part 1

Source Sheet Part 2

Family Purity Summary