Daily Archives: November 9, 2009

Are you talking to me?

abraham-and-isaac-on-mount-moriahFriday night at the table, my son was talking about Avraham and how he was commanded by God to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. My son said ‘if that were me, I would say, Dad, you hearing voices again? They told you to do what? You seriously need professional help.”

While we all laughed and I shared the story with friends because it is funny and cute – how did the people back then believe that these leaders / prophets were communicating with God and not just hearing voices?

If Avraham were alive today – would he be incarcerated in a mental institution for having delusions, and medicated for schizophrenia, locked up for attempted murder? What about the other prophets? Moshe talked to a burning bush – in this day and age we wouldn’t look at these events in the same way as they did.

What changed? How could we trust that nevuah (prophecy), and not trust someone who today says they spoke with God?

(Asking the question because it’s bothering me, I am not looking to be a kofer at all)

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Kallah Classes – Did They Help?

After a lively discussion yesterday with members of the Twitter JewCrew about Mikvah, Taharat HaMishpacha and its personal significance, I was asked if the Kallah Classes I had taken before my recent marriage made a difference in how I saw the mitzvah of Mikvah and how I view the mitzvah of Taharat HaMishpacha. My answer was way too long to be squeezed into 140 characters, so I promised to blog it.

Firstly from Kallah Magazine – “What are Kallah classes? Kallah classes are given one on one or in a small group to teach Jewish brides the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha (Family Purity) including laws concerning preparation for and immersion in the mikvah, laws of Niddah, Jewish views on topics concerning intimacy and Shalom Bayis.”

(Men are also supposed to learn the laws with a revered Rabbi).

Secondly, let’s define Niddah – A woman is said to be a Niddah when she is menstruating, or has menstruated without yet completing the associated ritual requirements. Childbirth also renders a woman Niddah.

My first go around with kallah classes was when I was 20 and getting married for the first time. From what I remember from that long ago the one on one class was more of an instruction manual, how to go the mikvah and when, when you can touch your husband, when you can’t. I do not remember being given any hashkafah (religious philosophy) at all about the significance of the mitzvah. It was a how-to class. Nothing more.

This time around, even though initially I resisted the request by the rabbi to take classes again, it was a different story. I told the rabbi that I had been married for 12 years, been to the mikvah over 100 times, knew the laws inside and out, what more could I possibly learn. How wrong I was! Yes I knew the basics, but I needed the hashkafah big time!

It was precisely the fact that we didn’t have to dwell on the minutiae of the laws for too long because of my familiarity with them, that we were able to focus on the spirituality of the mitzvah, of the holiness of the marital bond. I was able to take my experiences from my first marriage, learn from them and use that toward strengthening my experience with this marriage.

It helped that my teacher is an awesome woman. A woman who has been married to her husband for well over 20 years, someone whose face glowed every time she talked about him. I wanted that. I wanted to still love my husband and talk about him like that 20 years from now. Teach me, I said, teach me to still look at him the same way after all that time.

There were many things that we discussed that are not appropriate for me to air in this public forum, but I will say that our talks opened my eyes and gave me a perspective that I cherish now, and will cherish forever.

Let me just give one example. We talked about the importance of the Harchakot. What are the Harchakot? Distancing behaviours observed when a women is Niddah and forbidden sexually to her husband. In my view I had thought these practices ridiculous. Why would passing a plate directly to my husband turn him on? Or fixing his collar? Holding his hand as we walk down the street – where is the harm in that? It isn’t sexual. Why are we punishing the woman for having her period?

The way this awesome teacher explained it to me that it isn’t about forbidding all these things because the woman is “impure”. It is about keeping these things special for a time when the couple can be together in all ways. Its purpose is to prevent simple touches from being mundane and boring. The purpose is to make every physical interaction between the couple very special.

Put it this way. You kiss your husband goodbye every morning when he goes to work. And every evening when he comes home. Every day it’s the same. After a while the feeling isn’t special any more. When you haven’t kissed him in 12 days, trust me, that goodbye kiss in the morning is more powerful than anything.

The minimum amount of time that a woman is Niddah / spiritually impure is usually 12 days. After those 12 days she goes to the mikvah to immerse herself and purify her body and soul. It is not about being dirty and getting clean, as in fact a woman has to be squeaky clean before she immerses. It’s about washing away the previous month, and being renewed for a new month.

When a couple has not been together sexually in that time, the anticipation of mikvah night is huge. A husband will be told by his wife when she plans on immersing. It’s a reunion that is so beautiful and so precious and so right and so very private. It would not be that way if there had been no physical separation for a certain period of time. It’s like a honeymoon all over again.

It isn’t easy. No one will lie to you and say that it is. No one will tell you that you are not allowed to spend time alone together either. You just have to be aware of your limits. We are all human, and we hopefully want to be with our spouses in every possible way – but the rewards of observing these laws are huge. Marriage is about intimacy which isn’t just sex. It’s about being in the moment with someone you love. It’s about sharing your personal physical and emotional space. The Niddah period gives a couple time to work on their emotional connection.

To be honest with you all, I learned about a whole different side of marriage with my Kallah teacher. She taught me how to appreciate the Harchakot, and how to make the most of my marriage in many ways. I doubt that I would have been able to learn all of that if her own marital bliss had not been evident and if I would not have felt comfortable discussing all aspects of a marriage with her. Maybe because I was previously married I had a level of comfort speaking about these things.

Taharat HaMishpacha, Niddah, Mikvah – many young people think it is all about sex. It is not. The purpose of these mitzvoth are to enhance one’s marriage and to keep that marital bond strong and sacred.

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Review of CoverYourHair.com products

I recently was lucky enough to win a gift certificate to CoverYourHair.com. I ordered two hats and a tichel / scarf. I had trouble ordering through the website, but soon after I had emailed customer support, I received a phone call, so that my order could be processed in a timely fashion. My order was taken over the phone. I was very impressed with their professionalism.

I had everything shipped to my NY address – saves on taxes and shipping. My order arrived within 3 days. KoD brought the box up with him this past weekend.

I had a lot of fun opening it – I am still like a little kid when I get deliveries. I love the anticipation of having new things. The first thing that struck me was how nicely wrapped the hats were – in gold tissue paper. Presentation is very important to me, and I was nicely surprised with this.

The hats were the ones I had ordered, with foam circles in them to keep their shape. The scarf was nicely folded in a plastic sleeve. I opened up the scarf, and was a bit disappointed as to the quality. I had expected something a little thicker – it seemed very sheer to me. KoD wasn’t thrilled with how it looked on me, either. But I think it is fine for hanging out in, on dress down days. This tichel is actually perfect to braid the way I like to do.

I love the hats. My kids call them lampshades – but they mean it in an affectionate way. I am very fussy when it comes to hats – not too tight, brim not too big, hat not too fussy. These seem to fit the bill perfectly. I can wear them with all my hair tucked under, with my hair out, or with a fall, they do not hurt the head if you wear them all day – they are really soft. I suffer a lot from headaches and if hats are too tight on my head, it exacerbates the symptoms. I doubt I will have a problem with these hats. They will also keep my head warm this winter while helping me look stylish.

In a nutshell, I am extremely happy with my head coverings.

Here are some pix:

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Coming within the week – a CoverYourHair.com giveaway. Stay tuned.