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I understand that in the past it was not hidden from the public that a Nidda was a Nidda, as they wore special clothing.

As we see the רע"ב's explanation in the Mishna in Kethubot 7:6

וּמְשַׁמַּשְׁתּוֹ נִדָּה. כְּגוֹן שֶׁהֻחְזְקָה נִדָּה בִּשְׁכֵנוֹתֶיהָ שֶׁרָאוּהָ לוֹבֶשֶׁת בִּגְדֵי נִדּוּת, וּלְבַעְלָהּ אָמְרָה טְהוֹרָה אֲנִי:‏

This is also codified in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 185:2

ב וְאִם הֻחְזְקָה נִדָּה בִּשְׁכֵנוֹתֶיהָ, שֶׁרָאוּהָ לוֹבֶשֶׁת בְּגָדִים הַמְיֻחָדִים לִימֵי נִדּוּתָהּ, חֲשִׁיבָה כְּוַדַּאי טְמֵאָה.‏

And that now there is a custom of modesty to hide it from the public .

as is seen nitai gavriel, nida 1, 13, 15

and from foot note there end of drackai teshuva, 195, 9

When? and Why? did this change.

  • I'm not sure i get your question. There is a basis in the Talmud for the custom that a woman should not be seen when coming out of the mikveh. The reasoning goes that since everyone knows that she will be intimate with her husband that night it may arouse others, that's why it's done privately. But if she is a Niddah, why would a public announcement of her Niddah status be immodest, on the contrary since she is prohibited to everyone there is no prospect of arousal by anyone! So if your referring to this custom i'm not sure what your asking! – Bach Sep 28 '17 at 1:11
  • @Bach this is new to me (the connection mikvah and arouse) if you can source it , it will be an answer – hazoriz Sep 28 '17 at 1:15
  • But what is your question first? – Bach Sep 28 '17 at 20:40
  • @Bach my assumption (which from your statement seems wrong) was that originally there was no privicy regarding nida status, and that now it is recommended to have privicy, (why the change and sources that this is the minhag now) Gmar Hasima Tova – hazoriz Sep 28 '17 at 21:01
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There is the issue of intimacy being "meshed" with tumah today, as mentioned in a different answer. We don't want to broadcast the fact of going to the mikveh.

There are a couple of other factors. One, back in the day we wanted people to know that a woman was tameah. it was important that everyone be aware of her status so they don't accidentally become tameah or make any item tameah.

There's even a teshuvas hageonim discussing women having entirely different sets of household utensils- chairs, dishes etc. for when they are tameah. (It's referenced in Shu"t Binyan Tzion, and it comes up when discussing the Raavad's shita in Y.D. 193 regarding dam besulim. In the Shita mekubetzes hachadash, in the footnotes in the raavad on that topic, they quote the teshuva.)

The point is, being tameah was well known and was relatively difficult to keep hidden even if she tried. This is why we had the issue of סרך בתה the daughters learning from their mother's immersion as discussed in Y.D. 195.

One additional aspect of the tumas nida is mentioned in the famous Rabbeinu Bechaye regarding Lavan and Rachel in sefer Bereishis 31:35. When Rachel says that she can't stand up for Lavan because "the way of women is upon her" (presumably referring to nidus) Lavan doesn't say anything but leaves the tent.

Rabbeinu Bechaye explains that even the non-jews stayed away from nidos at that time and wouldn't even talk to them because of how powerful the tumas nida was.

Besides the tumah aspect, there's the practical aspect. Before modern female hygienic products were available, menstruation was a messy item.

In Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 73:1, when it describes the obligation for a husband to provide clothing for his wife, the be'er hagolah explains based on the gemara that it means he gives her new clothing during the rainy season and the old worn out clothing remain hers to use while she's a nida.

Practically women didn't want to wear nice clothing which would get stained and ruined. So they kept their shmattes to wear monthly. Seemingly this applied even after the time of the Shulchan aruch.

Today, things are changed on all three fronts. 1) Tevilah is now almost exclusively done for intimacy. 2) We are not concerned about women making things tameah 3) Especially with feminine hygiene products, women are capable of hiding their nidus entirely.

Thus, we have reason to hide it (tznius), no reason not to hide it (tumah's not an issue) and the option of hiding it (hygiene).

[edit: these points were what came out while learning hilchos nida in kollel in Yerushalayim and discussing these topics with various morei Horaah. I don't remember which rabbonim discussed which points, but these points were all commonly assumed to be the reason for the switch. The last point is especially true- it only really became relevant to discuss hiding menstruation once hygienic products made it possible to hide. That eliminated the practical need for "bigdei nidus."]

It's worth noting that Rav Moshe Feinstein famously discusses this in his teshuva(Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:77) about a couple publicly carrying a baby carriage on a bus while she's a nida. The questioner wanted to be lenient, even though during nidus the couple is not supposed to carry things together (per Y.D. 195) because of kavod habriyus. If everyone sees them not carrying, it will be obvious to the bystanders that she's a nida and she'll be embarrassed.

Rav Moshe responds that there's nothing to be embarrassed about having one's period. He brings proof from the fact that in the olden days women wore bigdei nidus to publicize the fact that they were tameah. He uses that as a proof that even nowadays there's no problem of publicizing her tumah (this is not the same as the need to hide one's tevilah, as he discusses.) For more about the teshuva from Rav Moshe see this answer

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  • A lot of people apparently are arguing on R Moshe Feinstein and no one puts their name to it on paper? Hmmm – Double AA May 7 at 22:25
  • Can a practice this recent really be called a binding custom? Obviously any couple can choose to not share something if they want, but to say halakha has an opinion on the matter takes a bit more than some people choosing one thing – Double AA May 7 at 22:26
  • @DoubleAA You ask a good question; why not ask it as its own question? (I'm only half joking; it's worth discussing this in the context of hilchos minhagei isurim and seeing what halachic strength it has.) Check out the darkei teshuva cited by the OP; the minhag of some communities by kevater seems to predate rav moshe. Also- it's general tznius concept. If women don't need to publicize it, they shouldn't. (Similarly R' Yaakov Kaminetsky is quoted as saying gedolei lita went to the mikva for takanas ezra but they hid it from talmidim because it's not tzanua. Why publicize what can be hidden?) – Binyomin May 7 at 22:42
  • I don't need to ask it because this question already asks it and the dearth of real sources anyone can bring to their svaros already proves my point. This is just modern Victorian prudery/superstition masquerading as Judaism, reinforced as an overreaction to contemporary western amorality. R Moshe knew what he was talking about. – Double AA May 7 at 22:44
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    @DoubleAA forget 25 years. Hopefully we can bring a parah adumah tomorrow and start eating terumah and kodshim next week – Heshy May 7 at 23:17
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The cause for the change was because in the time of the Talmud both single and married women went to the mikvah after becoming a nidda, thus it was the norm to be in that state of impurity, and had no connotation of intimacy, it simply was a process to purify oneself in order to either partake of Terumah or to enter into the Temple to bring a sacrifice, thus there was a "plausible deniability" as to why a woman was going to the mikvah.

However today, since we do not observe the laws of ritual impurity, and going to the mikvah became exclusive for married woman who went to become permissible to their husbands, it became that going to the mikvah and intimacy have become enmeshed as one; therefore, for modestly purposes it became the norm to act discreetly so as not to publicize the fact that in all likely hood this woman will be having relations with her husband. Despite the fact that we may know it intellectually that most couples are together on a monthly basis nonetheless to activly draw attention to it is a grave sin as the Gemara in Shabbos 33a:

א"ר חנן בר רבא הכל יודעין כלה למה נכנסה לחופה אלא כל המנבל פיו אפי' חותמין עליו גזר דין של שבעים שנה לטובה הופכין עליו לרעה

The Sefer Ikkrei Dinim (Yoreh Deah Siman 21) in discussing the question of a Chuppas Nidda - a bride who is in Nidda. May the Chosson place the ring on her finger which will inevitably lead to touching her? Or must he slightly place it on her finger being careful not to touch her (as is the opinion of the Maharil quoted in Be'er Hetev Even Haezer [61:8]) writes that the minhag is not to be concerned as we do not want to publicize that she is in Nidda.

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    I don't see how this answers the question. This talks about hiding going to the Mikvah, not being a Niddah. – Double AA Dec 2 '14 at 5:23
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    because since nidda nowadays has become direclty linked with intimacy (since single woman dont go anymore) because of tznius we try our best to hide it. its just an exstension of the pre-existing hakpada to not be overt abot going to the mikvah. extremely relevant – Shoel U'Meishiv Dec 2 '14 at 5:28
  • We hide Mikva night to hide when we have relations (something that often happens that night). Telling someone you are a Niddah one day doesn't tell them anything new; they already knew you were having relations about half the time and they don't know where in the Nidda-time you are. There's nothing intimate or un-tzanua about it. – Double AA Dec 2 '14 at 5:30
  • making an 'explicit" mention is different that leaving it to assumption. You assume, albeit it is a strong assumption, that 99% will , but if a couple told me they were in Nidda, now I KNOW they will. Big difference. – Shoel U'Meishiv Dec 2 '14 at 5:53
  • That's 1% is such a big difference? Even if they are in Niddah maybe it'll be 4 or 5 weeks because of spotting from some medication or procedure. You never KNOW at 100%. Going from 99.6 to 99.8 is so big? Why so? If they told you they weren't in Niddah would that also be not-tzanua? Then they might be intimate tonight! There are people who pretend to be Niddah in public always, but everyone else clearly disagrees with you. – Double AA Dec 2 '14 at 5:55
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If I might just clarify something here (which has been alluded to above).

Since it is assumed that a couple is likely to have relations on the night the wife goes to the Mikva, there is a strong issue not to let it be known, out of privacy. (One does not broadcast sexual matters.) At the time of the Talmud, and before, the matter was different, since matters of ritual purity had more widespread effects, so the difference was more obvious.

The question here is in regard not to the mikva night, but the entire period during which the couple is permitted to each other. This issue appears to be a stringency that is less universal. (I would also like to know more about it.)

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Presumably when we stopped concerning ourselves with the laws of purity, sometime around the year 200. Until that point I needed to know if someone was a Nida, as it would affect whether I could eat a sacrifice or the like. Since then, unless it's my wife, it's really none of my business.

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  • -1: The idea of eating חולין על טהרת הקודש lasted way longer than that (as late as the 19th century in Bagdad). – Yishai Dec 2 '14 at 13:35
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    @Yishai that's fascinating. Did they just ignore the rule of tum'at eretz amemim? (The al taharat hakodesh pretty much becomes unworkable when the center of Jewish life is outside of Israel, for that reason.) – Shalom Dec 2 '14 at 13:53
  • Shalom, that is a good question. I heard that information in a shiur and it was kind of a side point in that context, so no one stopped on it. – Yishai Dec 2 '14 at 14:05
  • @Shalom Isn't the whole point of eating "al taharas kodesh" all about the way you eat? I think we see from the discussions in the g'mara that officially a person's tahara is not affected even when they impose this stringency on themself. – WAF Jan 1 '15 at 12:17
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    Then why does the ShA (YD 195:8) in the 16th century mention the custom of wearing Niddah specific clothing? This answer, despite the claim of "presumably", is presumably wrong. – Double AA Jul 4 '16 at 18:25

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