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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim 5778

Ein Ayah: Limiting Disgust to Its Proper Area

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 6:83)

Gemara: [The Rabbis allowed a woman to have some adornments when she is a nida,] so that she not be disgusting in her husband’s eyes. It is as it says in a baraita: “The woman with a flow –  b’nidata (should be pushed off)” (Vayikra 15:33). The early elders said that a nida should not apply eye makeup or rouge and should not wear colorful garments. This continued until Rabbi Akiva came and taught: If so, you will bring her to disdain in her husband’s eyes, and it may turn out that he will divorce her. So what do we learn from the above pasuk? She shall remain in her state of nida until she goes into [the] water [of a mikveh].


Ein Ayah: Because external unsightliness is connected to the material world and coarse senses, it is not expected, by itself, to turn into a thing of beauty and grandeur. Rather, the negative state will linger until the imprint of that which is disgusting is removed. 

Spiritual unsightliness is different. It is something that has to do with the form of the spirit, with powers that are integrated with a polluted spirit. When the spirit is still polluted, the forces are so compromised that they are filthier than any physical unsightliness. However, when they are in a proper state, the same forces can provide light and growth; everything is then full of beauty and is wonderful. Those same forces that caused spiritual weakness turn into a good, powerful, and sustaining spiritual force.

The impurity of a nida is not only an aesthetically unpleasant thing, but it is even more unsightly in its internal spiritual sense. It would be horrible for a holy nation to allow those affected by this impurity to abound within it. Rather one has to deal with the physical unsightliness in a way that it will not have a negative spiritual impact. This requires much vigilance to avoid. When one is careful from the external perspective, it can leave behind negative reactions of disgust to the source of the impurity, which can ruin the proper course of life and the family. This can impact a relationship of love that should exist in the Jewish home, sometimes literally with the husband seeking to give a get because of his disgust.

Therefore, the picture of external disgust must be transferred into something more fundamental – spiritual unsightliness, which is a matter of a special type of form, which penetrates to the depths of the holy spirit. When this unsightliness passes by means of a very special mode of purification, it reinvigorates that which had withered in the past and turns everything into grandeur, which brings consequences of peace and happiness of the heart.

There were different approaches in different eras in Israel about how to distance oneself from the impurity of a nida. The early elders guided people to make the separation from nida happen on the external level [by withholding adornments which made the women attractive]. But later, there was an approach based on internal light which penetrated to the depths of the heart at the appointed time and did not require an external coating which leaves darkness after it. Rather it is connected strongly with a unique form of spirituality (i.e., the mikveh), which returns the light of the spirit and grants it grandeur and spiritual freshness. This can cause the flowering of gentle and holy life and holy charm. When the positive goes about enveloping the impure, the impurity ebbs away, and there is a new sense of life and elevation based on purity. That is why the woman is a nida only until she goes to the mikveh.

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