Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Niddah: On Achilles, Magic Springs & Temper Tantrums

When I was learning about Niddah, I was particularly reminded of two different concepts. One was the myth of Achilles. Basically, Achilles needed to be bathed in a special spring to provide him immunity from all weapons so that he would be invincible and could not be harmed or killed. However, his mother held him by the heel, so that when he was immersed, that one part of him was not covered by the special healing water. Therefore, his weakness was his Achilles heel and that is how he eventually was murdered. This story also appears in Norse myth by Sigurd, who was bathing in dragon's blood that would make him invulnerable to all weapons and indeed make him immortal; however, a leaf fell on his back so that one spot became vulnerable to the touch of steel. The same concept, I believe, applies to our concept of chatzizah and how there cannot be one.

Secondly, I think that the two weeks of separation from one's husband leads to a very important lesson in understanding and compassion for our children, especially our toddlers. A child who has had his toy taken away from him, either unfairly by a sibling or friend, or deliberately by a parent, will get red in the face and scream loudly and unceasingly, "But I want it! I want my toy; I want my dolly!" This could be exasperating to a parent, especially if one has to sit through five hours of this. But when someone has to physically separate from one's spouse for a period of two weeks every month, they understand what their child feels like. They too have had their spouse unwillingly taken away from them by a higher power (God). They too feel like throwing temper tantrums and screaming, "But I want my husband. I want it." And thus this experience affords them compassion for their child and thus the needed understanding and patience to comprehend what the child is going through even as you realize the necessity of depriving him of that toy at that particular point in time.


Anonymous said...

moshe says
Now you understand the curse of chava and what a terrible punishment it is.

Anonymous said...

Gradually, it will get easier to make it through the asurah weeks. Don't worry!

Gavi said...

Great analogies. I wish someone of your eloquence would have explained them to me when I was in high school... Instead, I had to learn a bit on my own, talk to a few wise people, and get married to figure these things out.

To build on them:

a) tevila in a mikveh is one of those few mitzvos that can only be performed with the entire physical body - the other that comes to mind is sukkah. Both represent enveloping holiness (or allowing holiness to completely surround us).

b) the time of separation is designed to teach us that even in our most intimate relationships, God controls how we express ourself, by restricting the "when."

As a dear friend told me at our last sheva berachos, "welcome to real life: enjoy every little second, because it's great!!"

A freilechin chanukah!!

rivkayael said...

I agree with Gavi about real life being great--real life with my spouse was far far better than any simcha. The best part of the wedding and sheva brachot was going home with my husband. And it really does get easier to get through the 11 or so days with time. The longing says GREAT things about your relationship!

Noam said...

Judaism is all about the building of self control, in all areas.
The soul's mastery over the body.

Anonymous said...

Just a really cool story about the mikvah, from the mom of the family I live with, who heard it from Rebbetzin Golshevsky in Yerushalayim.

There's this Kabbalist named Rabbi Shani (not sure how it's spelled because I heard this orally) in B'nei B'rak.

One time (I'm sorry I can't provide more details, I just know the cool parts) there was a rabbi going around who could hold an object and know its history. That is, he could tell where it had been, who had handled it, what it had been through, etc. He would even give performances onstage and read the history of random objects.

Rav Shani was of the opinion that people were focusing too much on this crazy ability and not as much as they should be on learning Torah. So he went to a performance, and he brought a very old, battered ring.

Rav Shani gave the ring to whoever was taking objects to bring onstage, and when the rabbi onstage received the ring, he held it...looked puzzled...held it some more...and then asked,

"Who gave me this ring? I can see that physically it's very old, but I'm not getting anything from it."

Rav Shani stood up and said, "I gave you that ring."

The man onstage asked, "What did you do to this ring?"

And Rav Shani replied, "I put it in a mikvah. If a mikvah can do that do a ring, imagine what it can do to a person."

YAYYY MIKVAHS. They're beautiful.

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