Let me start by saying that I understand the general rules of niddah. However, I was initially very confused why the niddah period is still observed at all, even among Orthodox Jews, since the other forms of purity and impurity are no longer upheld. According to this article, Why Is Impurity Not Observed?, niddah seems to be the only purity rule that matters anymore to everyday folks.

I did find a reason why men cannot have sex with a woman in niddah.

Rabbi Avram Israel Reisner says in "Observing Niddah in Our Day: An Inquiry on the Status of Purity and the Prohibition of Sexual Activity with a Menstruant:"

With regard to sexual relations with a woman during her menses, the question to be investigated is, given that a menstruant cannot now defile non-existent sancta, is the ban on sexual relations with a menstruant still in force? Plainly, the answer to that question must be yes, for the Torah clearly prohibits cohabitation with a woman during her menses as a category of illicit sexual relations, without reference to matters of purity, in two separate verses, Vayikra 18.19 and 20.18.15

And this makes perfect sense. However, both of these verses refer just to sex.

Leviticus 18:19

Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.

Leviticus 20:18

If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.

Going back to the first article:

The laws of purity are indeed technically in effect; it is just that for the most part we are presumed to be in a state of ritual impurity.

So for instance, we can touch dead people without worrying about how it affects our ritual purity (x). Why then, do we still worry about touching a woman during niddah, since the mere touch would theoretically only affect our ritual purity, not incur the penalties associated with sex with a woman in niddah? Why should a husband not touch his wife in a non-sexual manner during niddah?

  • 3
    The issue with touching is not that the husband contracts impurity, but rather out of concern that it might lead to intimacy. Notably, this concern only exists between husband and wife. There is no prohibition for a man to touch a niddah who is not his wife in a manner from which he derives no pleasure/enjoyment. judaism.stackexchange.com/a/84263/14850
    – Joel K
    Commented Jun 25 at 6:28
  • There are two types of impurity in the Torah. One prevents a person from entering the Temple or touching holy objects (such as Terumah). That is the kind of impurity that no longer applies today. The other types of impurity is the things that an individual person is not able to interact with (in various ways, depending on what it is). For example, non-kosher animals are called "Impure Animals". Even when there is no Temple, we are still not allowed to eat them.
    – Menachem
    Commented Jun 26 at 2:19

2 Answers 2


You are right, from a strictly biblical standpoint it would seem that touching isn't a problem, other than impurity*, but this isn't an issue in our days and also isn't the reason behind the prohibition.

Our Sages can impose stringencies for various reasons, one being the concern that without stringencies people will come to transgress the biblical command.

For this reason our Sages prohibited touching a wife while being a niddah and also other actions, the details of which are discussed in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 195

A Google search about "Harchakot" will provide resources explaining this concept.

I will post some here

The shulchan aruch in YD 195:1 writes

דברים האסורין בזמן נדותה. ובו י"ז סעיפים: חייב אדם לפרוש מאשתו בימי טומאתה עד שתספור ותטבול (ואפילו שהתה זמן ארוך ולא טבלה) תמיד היא בנדתה עד שתטבול (ב"י בשם פוסקים) ולא ישחוק ולא יקל ראש עמה (אפילו בדברים) (טור וב"י בשם רשב"א מאבות דרבי נתן) שמא ירגיל לעבירה אבל מותר להתייחד עמה דכיון שבא עליה פעם א' תו לא תקיף יצריה (ל' עצמו): Matters that are prohibited during her time of menstruation, including 17 paragraphs: A person is obligated to separate from his wife during the days of her impurity until she counts and immerses (even if she waits a long time to immerse).  She is always in her Niddah status until she immerses (Beis Yosef in the name of halakhic authorities). He should not joke or engage in levity with her (even with words) (Tur and Beis Yosef in the name of the Rashba from Avot d'Rabbi Nasan) lest he become accustomed to sin. However, he is permitted to be alone with her since once he has had intercourse with her one time, his urger will no longer overcome him (his own languag

in the next Seif (195:2) the SA then discussed the actual prohibition of touching

לא יגע בה אפילו באצבע קטנה ולא יושיט מידו לידה שום דבר ולא יקבלנו מידה שמא יגע בבשרה (וכן על ידי זריקה מידו לידה או להיפך אסור) (ב"ז ס"ס קנ"ד והגהות ש"ד בשם מהר"ם): He may not touch her, even with his little finger, nor may he pass anything from his hand to her hand, nor may he accept from her hand, lest he touch her flesh (similarly, by throwing from his hand to hers or vice versa, is also prohibited).

In this lesson it is well put


This article adds a bit

Couples tend to have a certain level of familiarity, routine, and habitual rapport, therefore, the Sages - with their psychological understanding and insight - saw the need for these additional restrictions. Accordingly, these precautions only apply to married couples and does not pertain to interactions with women whom a man invariably may not touch

* Many of the issues caused by impurity have not been applicable for a long time, as we no longer have the service of the Holy Temple. This includes the issue of touching while Niddah, which will resume only when the Temple is rebuilt.

  • 1
    Added some context about the laws of impurity as I suspect new comers to these laws will be confused without it. Feel free to improve upon my edit
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 25 at 13:45
  • 1
    Thank you for your answer! Reading about harchakot helped a lot.
    – Jackie KR
    Commented Jun 26 at 11:02


Why are married couples not allowed to touch during niddah?

The laws of the Torah aren't only based on verses. The Torah was given together with it's explanation (Rambam, Mishneh Torah; introduction).

Hilchos isurei bia 21:1 states:

1 Whoever shares physical intimacy with one of the ariyot without actually becoming involved in sexual relations or embraces and kisses [one of them] out of desire1 and derives pleasure from the physical contact should be lashed2 according to Scriptural Law. [This is derived from Leviticus 18:30 which] states: "To refrain from performing any of these abominable practices," and [ibid.:6 which] states: "Do not draw close to reveal nakedness." Implied is that we are forbidden to draw close to acts that lead to revealing nakedness.3

א כָּל הַבָּא עַל עֶרְוָה מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת דֶּרֶךְ אֵיבָרִים אוֹ שֶׁחִבֵּק וְנִשֵּׁק דֶּרֶךְ תַּאֲוָה וְנֶהֱנָה בְּקֵרוּב בָּשָׂר הֲרֵי זֶה לוֹקֶה מִן הַתּוֹרָה. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ויקרא יח ל) "לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת מֵחֻקּוֹת הַתּוֹעֵבֹת" וְגוֹ'. וְנֶאֱמַר (ויקרא יח ו) "לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה". כְּלוֹמַר לֹא תִּקְרְבוּ לִדְבָרִים הַמְּבִיאִין לִידֵי גִּלּוּי עֶרְוָה:

If it's without any pleasure at all, it's still forbidden, but no lashes are given, as mentioned in Ibid:6:

6 When a man embraces or kisses any of the women forbidden to him as ariyot despite the fact that his heart does not disturb him concerning the matter,14 e.g., his adult sister, his mother's sister, or the like, it is very shameful. It is forbidden15 (Nevertheless, if one has no pleasure or desire, the act is not punished by lashes [the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 7:3)].) and it is foolish conduct. [This applies] even if he has no desire or pleasure at all. For one should not show closeness to a woman forbidden as an ervah at all, whether an adult or a minor, except a woman to her son and a father to his daughter.16

ו הַמְחַבֵּק אַחַת מִן הָעֲרָיוֹת שֶׁאֵין לִבּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם נוֹקְפוֹ עֲלֵיהֶן אוֹ שֶׁנִּשֵּׁק לְאַחַת מֵהֶן כְּגוֹן אֲחוֹתוֹ הַגְּדוֹלָה וַאֲחוֹת אִמּוֹ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין שָׁם תַּאֲוָה וְלֹא הֲנָאָה כְּלָל הֲרֵי זֶה מְגֻנֶּה בְּיוֹתֵר וְדָבָר אָסוּר הוּא וּמַעֲשֵׂה טִפְּשִׁים הוּא. שֶׁאֵין קְרֵבִין לְעֶרְוָה כְּלָל בֵּין גְּדוֹלָה בֵּין קְטַנָּה חוּץ מֵהָאֵם לִבְנָהּ וְהָאָב לְבִתּוֹ:

The same reason why it's forbidden to have relations with her is the same reason it's forbidden to touch her (during the time): because that's what the Creator decided.

  • What about touching one's wife incidentally when she is a niddah, without deriving any pleasure at all? That doesn't seem to be forbidden according to what you have quoted...
    – Joel K
    Commented Jun 25 at 6:30
  • @JoelK those are two conditions: 1) incidentally, implying not intending to, but it happening accidentally. Question would be the same for any sin done accidentally, like if one picked up and ate a piece of meat that he thought was kosher but ended up being not. And 2) without deriving any pleasure at all, but that would imply that the question would still apply if it was intentional, even if not deriving any pleasure at all. The question also isn't about just his wife, but any erva. The answer to that is given in halacha 6. Commented Jun 25 at 6:33
  • Let's make this concrete. Can you tap your wife on the shoulder to attract her attention when she is a niddah? The two halachot you quoted (21:1 and 21:6) would seem to say that is fine. (Hint: it is in fact forbidden, but you're looking in the wrong chapter - try chapter 11.)
    – Joel K
    Commented Jun 25 at 6:37
  • @JoelK I'm not a rav so I can't give legal advice. I can't think of any reason why tapping would be different than embracing. Is embracing only with two hands, or even one? Seems like it's referring to any kind of touching to me. If you have a source suggesting otherwise then lmk. Commented Jun 25 at 6:38
  • I can't prove it formally, but it seems pretty clear to me that chapter 21 is discussing actions which in the ordinary way of things are דברים המביאים לידי גילוי ערוה (examples of which are חיבוק ונישוק) and therefore fall under לא תקרבו. I would find it hard to understand how tapping on the shoulder could fall into that category.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jun 25 at 6:47

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