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Do you happen to have any ideas, or any sources, detailing why women first became required to bathe in the evening as in current practise, as opposed to the recorded biblical requirement to wash garments and bedding by day and to be declared clean in the evening? I am not referring to Niddah uncleanliness specifically, but am highlighting any uncleaness which a woman may come into contact from daily life including the uncleaness of men or women from an abnormal running discharge but in particular the uncleaness requiring daily bathing from the uncleaness which occurs from man and wife partaking in normal sexual relations.

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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10976/472 –  Monica Cellio Apr 7 '13 at 21:04
    
    
I am not aware of any "recorded biblical requirement to wash garments and bedding by day". All we know is that there is "leftover" impurity until the next sunset. That doesn't tell us when they dipped it. –  Double AA Jan 10 at 5:26
    
Examples to wash garments and bedding after an issue of uncleanness, by day, following an event of uncleanesss is determined by the count. Counting for yourself the seven days, of purification following the cessation of the condition, with emphasis on the 8th day of sanctification, where after the 'washing, a suitable offering made by fire would be required, as a sin offering and a burnt offering. A normal seminal emission, required the washing of skin, garments and bedding. Please read: chaver.com/Torah-New/English/Text/Leviticus/… –  Digitaria Jan 10 at 18:53

2 Answers 2

Welcome to judaism.stackexchange.com!

I apologize if this is confusing, but often there's some difference between what you'll get if you just open up and read a Bible, compared with the standard practices observed by Jews today.

Many of the Biblical laws of impurity aren't really of concern to us in our normal daily lives as we're not planning on entering the Temple, consuming sacrificial meat, or the like. Thus any time the Bible calls for "immerse in the day and pure at nightfall", well pretty much we don't worry about it today. We assume we're all ritually impure for now. And that doesn't affect too much at the moment. (Even in Biblical times, a person could be a very righteous and holy person, but employed as an undertaker and thus "ritually impure" almost all the time. They'd just have to take a break from their job and get "decontaminated" a few times a year to visit the Temple.)

The Second Temple was destroyed around the year 70 (i.e. about two thousand years ago); within about two centuries of that (we don't have an exact date, though I've seen some scholars trying to pinpoint it better), it's clear that people stopped trying to maintain ritual purity. Keep in mind that by that point:

  • There was no Temple around so "purity status" only affected an odd handful of laws, e.g. 1% of your produce had to be given to the priest and he had to consume it while ritually pure; today, as no one of priestly descent is ritually pure, we just separate the 1% and leave it to decay.
  • Eventually (I assume?) we ran out of the current supply of Red Heifer Ash needed for decontamination after contact with a corpse. Someone who touched a dead lizard (or had normal relations) could simply immerse in a ritual bath, but someone who touched a corpse was stuck until sprinkled with dissolved Red Heifer Ash.
  • Back when the center of Jewish life had been Israel, the rabbis had decreed anyone spending any time outside of Israel to be automatically impure. By about the year 300 the center of Jewish life had shifted to Babylonia, making almost everyone automatically impure; hence it wasn't feasible to keep worrying about one's status.

The sage Rabbi Akiva (who died around 135, and had an expertise in the laws of ritual purity -- though it's unclear how practical those laws were at what point in his lifetime) stressed that theologically we need not worry about this too much: "Lucky you, people of Israel! Who purifies you? Your Heavenly Father!"


The law that has been as relevant then as it is now is that regardless of "ritual purity" status with regards to sacrifices and the like, there are the laws of Nida: when a woman starts menstrual bleeding, relations with her husband are prohibited; and they're not permitted again until bleeding stops, (then often a pause of clean time in between, that's a different question), then a night immersion whereupon, she can immediately resume relations. She could touch a corpse, dead lizard, every day throughout this entire month, that has no bearing on the laws of Nida.

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I recently found the answer: Talmud Niddah 67b (soncino translation follows) in that women started bathing in the Evening following Rabbinic ruling that they should not bathe on the 8th day, lest their daughter see them and think they are bathing on the seventh day.

Rab ruled: If a menstruant performs immersion at 'the proper time she may do it only at night but if she performs it after the proper time she may do it either in the day time or at night.1 R. Johanan ruled: Whether at the proper time or after the proper time a menstruant may perform immersion only at night, on account of the possibility of her daughter's following her lead. Rab, moreover, also withdrew his ruling; for R. Hiyya b. Ashi citing Rab laid down: Whether at the proper time or after the proper time a menstruant may perform immersion only at night on account of the possibility of her daughter's following her lead…

Said R. Papa to Raba, Consider: At the present time the Rabbis have put all menstruants on the same level as zabahs, why then should they not allow them to perform immersion in the daytime of the seventh day? — This cannot be allowed on account of the following ruling of R. Simeon. For it was taught: After that she shall be clean, 'after' means after all of them, implying that no uncleanness may intervene between them; but R. Simeon stated: After that she shall be clean implies that after the act she shall be clean, but the Sages have ruled that it was forbidden to do so in case she might thereby land in a doubtful situation.

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Do you have any evidence they didn't bathe in the evening prior? All you have shown is when they stopped bathing in the day as well. –  Double AA Jan 10 at 3:11
    
Seriously, evidence? How about common sense? I provided the source of informtation which detailed that prior to rabbinic changes the practise was that women, were accustomed to bathe by day, probably because the washing of fabrics, and the washing the body normally takes place in the day, due to ambient temperatures being favourable, and so one can see without torch light and to do so safely, avoiding obvious dangers at the waterside. Whenever examples are given in the bible of ritual bathing its always by day. –  Digitaria Jan 10 at 18:19
    
@DoubleAA they may have done both. It's just to get out of "Tvul Yom" status, one has to wait until the next sunset. If you don't care about Tvul Yom, why not bathe at night? –  Shmuel Brin Jan 10 at 23:07
    
If an individual, doesn't care whether they bathe in the pm. or am. of the 8th day, then I suppose, it's a case of no harm, no foul. They would miss out on declared clean though? Furthermore, if she returns home and resumes marital relations, both in theory could be subject to 'cutting off,' because the man may have become niddah, and if he has not cleansed himself, and he remained niddah, relations would be unlawful for them? If resuming relations, pm. of the 8th, then she would be unclean by relations and not attain cleanness, at all? Then negated by rabbinic ruling forbidding am. bathing??? –  Digitaria Jan 11 at 0:15
    
If an individual, doesn't care whether they bathe in the pm. or am. of the 8th day, then I suppose, they think its a case of no harm, no foul. However, until the pm. of the 9th day they would not actually be 'clean,' so technically, relations before this time would be unclean for them? Although unclean for them, I don't think this warrants defilement/cutting off, as she would be free of her blood. If the man is niddah, then he must bathe also, otherwise the use of mikvah would be counter productive. If resuming relations the pm. of the 8th then the woman would not attain cleanness at all ???? –  Digitaria Jan 11 at 0:31

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