Wisdom of Kahana: A Woman's Curse
When the question was raised to me recently regarding the ‘uncleanliness’ of women during their monthly period and how as a result of this natural occurrence not only are they shunned amongst the orthodox rabbinical culture, but if they do not submit to total submersion in a ritual bath then they are also considered outcasts from the community. How totally misconstrued and distorted this ancient concept has been rendered by those men that have governed rabbinical orthodoxy with a perspective that is not only forbidden in Judaism but for which they should have been cast out from any position within the community for promulgating their sexist, archaic, and tyrannical ideals upon the people. Just as unfortunate, many Karaites have also adopted the rabbinical interpretation of a women’s ‘Curse’ and equally insist on subjecting their wives to their own failure to understand Yahweh’s intentions.
The Spiritual Laws
Firstly, we must distinguish between the two types of tum’ah , or what I consider “a departure or descent” that is referred to in the Torah. The question that any learned scholar in the Torah should have asked was, “a departure or descent from where or from what?” There is the tum’ah that naturally occurs as part of God’s wonderful creation and for us to even have the audacity to judge God’s actions as being indicative of a potential sin is morally inconceivable, but the second tum’ah which we ourselves create when we intentionally decide to ignore God’s presence and push him out of our lives, then that is to be definitely considered a sin. Some will argue that the word should be translated as unclean when it is combined with taharah interpreted as meaning clean. Others will say these words translate as pure and impure. But I suggest that you read them as a ‘departure or descent from holiness’ and an ‘approach or ascent to holiness’ to fully appreciate their meaning. When tum’ah is extended to the laws of niddah and Family Purity then by seeing this as a departure from holiness then we can totally rid ourselves of the incorrect notion of ‘unclean’ and ‘impure’ which only reinforces the negativity created by the Rabbis. If Yahweh wanted us to label women as impure than He would have used the word tamei , but by His intentionally not using that word, then why were these gaggle of men sitting collectively on their misogynist back-ends permitted to make a woman feel both guilty and inferior about a natural God-given processes of her body?
Protection of the Woman
It is not a case of linguistic misunderstanding or misinterpretation. I would suggest that these men knew completely what they were doing and instead of viewing tum’ah and taharah in the spiritual sense in which they were intended they intentionally chose to apply to them a completely physical concept which permitted them to exercise their dominance of the sexes. For a better understanding of the descent of tum’ah that is part of niddah then we should appreciate this loss of holiness was a reflection of the woman being gifted by God with the greatest gift he could offer any living creature. The cherished gift of creating life which in the total abstract we associate with the Lord, but in the day to day reality of our world can only be attained by the female of our species. It is we men that God has rendered inferior, not the womenfolk, and this is a concept that those Rabbis of the past could not tolerate. We only have to look at the Torah reference to childbirth as being tum’ah and then we know that in no way was it Yahweh’s intent to label the birthmother as unclean or ‘untouchable’ in the negative connotation in which we have been mislead to believe. The reality is that there is nothing but holiness that surrounds the act of childbirth. From virtually nothing, a woman has created a new life, a power only possessed by God. But once the child is born, that holy spark is now removed from her body and that is where the spiritual state of tum’ah begins. Post partum, the mother knows that this beautiful sensation, this feeling of creating life, this ultimate holy experience has departed from her body. She is in as aptly described a state of descent and subject to negative influences and therefore it is the mother that requires protection from being made unclean by outside influences during this susceptible period and not the other way around. Even the rabbinical interpretation of the woman being rendered ‘unclean’ for twice as long when she gives birth to a female child is incorrect. It is only because she gave birth to another female, another human capable of experiencing this God-like power of creation once grown to womanhood, that she must be protected even longer because her descent is even further from experiencing holiness than when she bears a male child. God foresaw the longer period of niddah necessary in order that the woman has time to fully recover from being elevated during her pregnancy to such a high holy state when a female child was carried.
This spiritual concept of holiness is no different when it comes to the consideration of menstruation. Each month the woman possesses the ability to become pregnant and attain as a result this state of high holiness. But when her potential to fulfil her God-like power is not realized, then she descends from that higher state as she flushes the remnants of ‘potential life’ from her body. Spiritually, it is a sadness which again renders the woman susceptible to negative outside influences and she must be protected. She needs this period of rest and recovery in order to prepare for her ascent to the higher state once again and therefore she should be considered honoured and blessed during the week of niddah and not shunned and unclean.
The Mikvah or Ritual Bath
Some may argue that if she weren’t unclean then there would be no requirement for the submersion in the mikvah or ritual bath. Oh ‘ye Rabbis’ of little understanding, can you not comprehend that the mikvah had a much higher spiritual concept and had nothing to do with the actual bathing to cleanse her sins. Just as the Lord rested on the seventh day after creating for six days, in His wisdom He has ordained that the woman has rested for six days and now on the seventh day will prepare herself to ‘create’. In order to ascend to that holy state necessary for the creative process, God has ordained that we should celebrate this opportunity for life on the seventh day. Like the holy Sabbath, this is a day of grace and beauty for women and has nothing to do with the laws of men. On that day she is reinvigorated, renewed, restored to her elevated position of a higher union with God that we men can never and will never experience. This culmination on the seventh day is not the result of identifying the end to a week of degradation, inferiority or shame but instead is a celebration of her ‘ascent’.
How men could have even envisioned they could provide a logic to the blessings possessed by women alone is beyond my comprehension. I can only sit back in awe and wonder at the powers possessed by the female gender and recognize that they are in possession of powers that we ill never fully experience or appreciate. The legal reasons for the laws in the Torah for the tum’ah and niddah are never provided as no rationale can be provided by the rabbis since they have none to offer. These were never intended to be comprehensible to the minds of men because a ‘descent from holiness’ is beyond comprehension for most. These are laws that are beyond reason, beyond our earthly sphere, and for us to have placed labels such as ‘unclean’ and ‘untouchable’ upon them is as I mentioned a sin of the rabbis that dared to think of themselves able to interpret and govern over the commandments of Yahweh.
When trying to comprehend the ritual bath, it is not the bathing as I mentioned previously that is the significant act but the rising from the waters which signifies the woman’s readiness to ascend to a state of holiness. Just as all life was brought forth from the primordial waters during the creation, the woman re-experiences this event at the beginning of time. Science can spend billions of dollars in search of their god-particle, and even as a scientist myself I consider this a colossal waste of time and effort in the pursuit of knowledge we will never master or comprehend, especially when at the end of this niddah week, God has given us the ability to witness this particle spiritually as the woman arises from the mikvah if only we open our eyes.
RAMBAM or Maimonides, whom those that have read my other articles know that I have often condemned for his stand against Karaites to the point that he actually recommended our execution, writes in his code of Jewish Law, the Mishneh Torah, that this immersion requires the intent of the heart, the intent to purify oneself spiritually from all wrongful thoughts and bad traits, to bring one’s soul into “the waters of pure understanding.” And once again I will disagree with this so-called Rabbinical sage only because he thought the woman had something within herself that she must purify. Once more, like his colleagues, he viewed the woman as the source of sin and potential evil. I see the mikvah serving no other purpose than the woman being able to wash away any of the contamination she may have been exposed to in the preceding six days when she was at the lowest point of her descent and subject to the negative influences of the outside world. If this is the case, that the bath only serves as spiritual symbolism of restoration to divine holiness, then it is not the physical act of bathing that is the requirement. As long as a woman acknowledges that she is prepared to ascend back to her state of holiness then the metaphorical re-enactment of the mikvah would be sufficient for God’s observation and consideration.
We must rid ourselves of this archaic labelling of woman being unclean or untouchable because of physical properties given to them directly by Yahweh. More so we should appreciate that what God has given to them was denied to all of us that our male. We were not considered spiritually clean enough, or capable of achieving a state of purification that would enable us to experience the God-like power of creating life. Within our communities we must learn to appreciate that there is a significant difference between laws ordained by Yahweh for the social structuring and sustaining of communities and societies and those laws that have a purely spiritual justification and reasons that may be beyond our comprehension. That being the case then the worst situation imaginable is for men to attempt to make interpretations based upon laws solely expressed for the purpose of our women.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana