Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

A man cannot touch, stare, kiss or have relations with a woman he is not married with.

On the days when the laws of impurity do not apply, what exactly can a man do with his wife?

Assuming extra precaution is taken to avoid wasting the seed of the man, is everything else allowed?

share|improve this question
related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/25603/… –  Ramin Aug 11 '13 at 1:23
This is definitely the most appropriate formulation of this question we've seen here on Mi Yodeya. I'm going to leave this open for now until others can comment. –  Double AA Aug 11 '13 at 1:38
how about gemara havruta ? –  eliavs Aug 11 '13 at 7:47
see :נדרים כ, starting ''אמר ר' יוחנן'' –  moses Aug 11 '13 at 14:37
More like 14 or so days of impurity. (Definitely at least 12) –  Daniel Aug 11 '13 at 23:41
show 6 more comments

2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

"Seven days of impurity."

Actually it's more like 12-ish. The Torah states that if a woman experiences an unusual flow, she needs to wait for it to end, and then count seven clean days. For the last ~1600 years, we operate with the rule of thumb that we don't know what's called "usual" or "unusual", and thus it's duration of bleeding, or 5 days, whichever is more; followed by 7 clean days. AND then an IMMERSION IN A MIKVAH (ritual bath). Without the immersion she's still impure.

But to answer your question. The Talmud quotes a Rabbi Yochanan ben Dahavai -- "as holy as G-d's ministering angels" -- that if you look there, you'll die; if you kiss that, your children will be crippled, all sorts of awful stuff. The Talmud acknowledges this ascetic opinion, and then simply states: "but the majority of rabbis opine otherwise, and the law does not follow Rabbi Yochanan ben Dahavai."

At first glance, thus, everything would be permitted. Some later rabbis, however, read the conclusion as "everything -- means everything except for one or two things." Meanwhile, an ascetic tradition -- whose influences may have been Kabbalistic and/or Christian -- certainly influenced several major later codifiers of Jewish law. The Karo/Issreles code from the 1500s doesn't seem too thrilled with intimacy as anything other than a necessity, and proscribes several acts accordingly. (Though fascinatingly, their code addresses the subject twice -- once in the section relating to an individual and his personal ritual obligations, using very stern language; the other in the section on laws of marriage, and suddenly as there are now two people in the room, the language isn't nearly as harsh.)

Similarly, the Talmud speaks of a prohibition called "don't do gross things", for instance, while certain kinds of locusts are kosher (at least in theory) and they don't require ritual slaughter, you shouldn't swallow a live one as it's wiggling -- "don't do gross things." Certain rabbis applied this language to certain intimate acts, which raises the question of subjectivity and whose definition of "gross" if it wasn't already described by the Talmud.

Today, there are contemporary rabbis with opinions running the gamut from a very ascetic view to a very permissive one -- with similar discussion whether the more ascetic language of some texts was intended as law, custom, suggestion, or an appropriate act of piety for those on the right spiritual level.

Contemporary authority Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin sets out his opinion in Bnei Banim 4:16 (and the next few essays), for those who read rabbinic Hebrew. He has declined to publish his stance in English, however if you email someone at www.yoatzot.org, they will privately describe his ruling.

share|improve this answer
As someone who is unfamiliar with Rabbi Henkin, can you tell me what "flavor" or Orthodoxy he is part of? –  Shraga Aug 13 '13 at 6:24
@Shraga he's a major Centrist Orthodox (or Center-Left, depending on your perspective) posek. The yoatzot halacha go to him for psak. He was an Israeli municipal rabbi for some time and is in good standing with the rabbanut, though considered on their left end. For instance, he maintains when the Gemara says it's a bad idea for women to lein, that means it's a bad idea; not that it's outdated and we're so much more enlightened and can get around it (left-wing), nor that there's an outright ban on it (right-wing). Fascinatingly his sefer has a haskama by far-right-winger R' Menashek Klein ztl. –  Shalom Aug 13 '13 at 12:58
Where do you draw the line for what's considered "gross"? –  Ramin Aug 13 '13 at 22:37
"The Torah states that if a woman experiences an usual flow, she needs to wait for it to end, and then count seven clean days." -- Actually, if we're calling dam nida the "usual flow", the Torah states (Lev. 15:19) that she merely needs to wait seven days total (assuming she's clean by the end of them). Only for the unusual flow (dam ziva) must she ever count seven clean days (Lev. 19:28). –  jake Aug 14 '13 at 3:44
@Jake -- "an usual flow" -- woops, I meant "an unusual flow." Thank you! –  Shalom Aug 14 '13 at 6:09
show 3 more comments

In Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim Siman 240 and Shulchan Aruch Even Hoezer Siman 25 are the address for these laws.

share|improve this answer
"Laws" or "customs"? –  Double AA Aug 11 '13 at 20:06
The latest mishne berura 'oz vehadar' has redone the whole lot except this siman. –  user2800 Aug 14 '13 at 8:24
@Annex Rabbi Henkin expresses his frustration that a certain sefer discusses every medically-related siman in shulchan aruch -- except for this one. –  Shalom Aug 14 '13 at 15:07
Looking at this rabbis tshuva I can only say I dont think much of it. Maybe because he is 'left' and that is the way they write. The chazon ish is supposed to have said by reading a sefer he can see how much yiras shomaim the mechaber has. –  user2800 Aug 14 '13 at 19:59
@Annex I have to differ with you, and I read his tone as taking the subject quite seriously. His Hebrew is certainly influenced by modern vernacular, if that's what you're seeing. Suffice to say that neither of us is on the madrega to pass judgment on the personality of Rabbi Henkin shlit'a. (Discussing and evaluating his halachic arguments, however, is something he would not find offensive, and is part of our tradition.) –  Shalom Aug 14 '13 at 22:40
show 6 more comments

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.