*Note from Whitney: This post is from our friend, Laura. Her desire is to give a new perspective on a sometimes confusing and misunderstood part of Scripture, and to share an interesting part of life for Jewish women. This post in no way demonizes sex while getting a visit from Aunt Flo, it’s purpose is to simply present a new way to view how God made our bodies.
Recreating Ritual and making IT holy
As I’ll talk about in another post, I’m from a line of strong German women. As an adult, I’ve been exploring my Jewish background and have learned so much that has colored my Christian perspective brightly! Some of these things I have put into practice because I find them very significant and so today I’m going to share a little Jewish history and culture with you.
The meaning of Shalom Bayit …
Most of us know that “shalom” means peace. Well, your “beth”, “beit” or “bayit” is your home. And as a single woman, wife or mother your responsibility includes maintaining your house as a place of “shalom”.
One way to do this is to practice laws of family purity. If you have happened to read Leviticus 15:19-24, I bet you said, “Eww, why is the bible talking about my period? And why does it make me unclean? I didn’t ask for it. Boys do way more unclean things than girls. This is unfair.”
It’s weird. I’ll admit it. And there are all kinds of ways in Leviticus that males can become unclean as well, but today, I’m going to look at the modern tradition that developed out of this, and hopefully give you a new perspective.
Most of us get tired of dealing with “that time of the month”: feeling achy, craving bad foods, having to shoo away your husbands advances, feeling ugly when he recoils as he finds out why you’re denying him sex (or not!). It’s not fun. Sometimes, I do feel unclean.
Why would this be something God cared about enough to put into scripture?
In a culture where sex was often used in worship to pagan gods in all kinds of crazy ways, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob asked us to abstain. He asked us to wait until His approved time. He even wants our sex lives to be something that we check in with Him on.
And think about the science of it. If you start counting seven days from day one of your cycle, abstaining from marital relations, then bathe and … with a sense of anticipation … get it on with your husband, you know what you’re likely to do? Well, you’ll probably have more frequent sex than usual for the next few days. More so than if you were just having it consistently on and off all month (anticipation is a beautiful thing). You will probably also be ovulating over the next week or so. God is helping you get preggers! He wants you to have a big, happy family and this rule is to assist in that.
Crazy, right? So now what?
Modern Jewish women have a whole routine where they go to a “mikvah” to dunk in a ritual bath at the end of their unclean days. They check their belly buttons for lint and floss their teeth, clip their nails and remove their nail polish. They want to be as clean and fresh as they day they were born. Then they immerse in a sort of mini swimming pool and emerge as if from a womb, ritually pure.
Do these waters really purify?
Well, no, it’s certainly not going to remove anyone’s sin, and skipping the Old Testament instructions about the mikvah isn’t going to add to your sins. But it is a beautiful picture of the peace and freshness that God wants to keep in your marriage.
A popular Jewish mikvah in the Boston area called “Mayyim Chayyim” (Living Waters).
Spa Night …
I don’t go to the mikvah here in NYC on a monthly basis. (Although I would love to! Some of the fancier ones are like spas. I went to one the day before my wedding and it was beautiful.) I do however count the seven days and bathe.
I think after the wear of cramps and bloating, God wants us to feel special. He wants us to have the opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to our husbands each month, with each new cycle of potential life. So I take a bubble bath and exfoliate. I say a prayer thanking God that he made me so wonderfully. That I have a healthy, functioning reproductive system. That I have a husband who loves me very much. That I have a God who cares about my purity and a Savior who has made me spiritually pure. And I slide myself under the water, feeling weightless.
I remember being a little girl, floating in the tub. As I emerge I usually hug my knees and soak in the moment. For just a bit, my bathtub has become my place of spiritual ritual and retreat. And I know, from this icky verse in Leviticus, my loving God cares about the peace of my union with my husband.
Do you love ritual and tradition? What kinds of rituals have you instituted in your family? Leave your comments below!