A Whole Lot Worse Than a Car Crash
Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
One of the basic building blocks and foundations of Jewish life revolves around the subject of “Taharat HaMishpachah” or family purity. The following is an essay by the devout Torah scholar, Rabbi Yaakov Adas, from his book “Hitkaravut L’Hashem.”
SINCE we are presently in the period of “Shovavim,” it is proper to direct our attention to what our Sages have taught us, that now is the time to awaken ourselves to the crucial importance of two matters: the first of which is the gravity of spilling semen in vain and the need to rectify the damages it causes; and secondly, and the prohibition of violating the laws of Niddah.
(The laws of Niddah are known also as family purity or “Taharat HaMishpachah.” For a detailed look at the many laws of Niddah, please click to another essay and follow the links posted there).
Presently, we will focus on the transgression of the Niddah laws. It is important to know that the prohibition of having sexual relations with a woman while she is in her Niddah period (the menstrual period including the obligatory days that are added according to Jewish Law) applies to both married and single women. All women before they marry are considered Niddah (in a spiritual state of menstrual impurity). The Chofetz Chaim, in his article on the prohibition of Niddah, writes: “Everyone knows that the sin of Niddah is not merely a Torah prohibition such as eating pork, and the like, rather, it carries the severe penalty of ‘karet,’ being cut off from life before one’s allotted time, G-d forbid. The penalty applies both to the man and to the woman. Even if their meritorious deeds should multiply, affording them an extension of their days, their souls will be cut off from the ‘Bundle of Souls’ - the pool of souls in Heaven - which is an everlasting loss of the soul, and this is what the Torah verse infers by saying, ‘This soul will be exceedingly cut off from before Me.’ Even should Hashem fill up the world again with souls, there will be no room for this soul (if the person does not repent in tshuva). How terrible is the punishment! It is one thousand times worse than the punishment of death, which is only death in the temporary physical world, whereas this is eternal death. And all of this comes only after the person has received punishment in Gehinom (hell) where unfortunate ones first descend to the pit to undergo bitter sufferings over each and every time they transgressed the prohibition of Niddah.”
These are the words of the Chofetz Chaim who continues in greater length on the dangers of violating this prohibition in its negative effect on the children of those who fail to guard the laws in this matter.
The Chofetz Chaim further writes that people must know, what is familiar to all those devotees who adhere to the Torah, that the prohibition of Niddah is among the forbidden sexual relations (Aryiyot). Concerning these prohibitions, one must be willing to be killed rather than engage in the forbidden deed. So severe is this transgression that one must be ready to give up one’s life not to commit it.
The Chofetz Chaim proceeds to explain a great foundation of Torah, teaching us that when the Torah requires a person to sacrifice his life rather than to violate the prohibition of Niddah, it is not merely commanded us to give up our lives rather than sin, it is also telling us that the damage caused by having sexual relations with a woman in Niddah is so very great that it is preferable to die rather than commit the transgression.
To understand this warning of the Chofetz Chaim, we can use the metaphor of two people who were driving in a car from one city to the next when an accident occurred. One was killed and the other escaped unharmed. He continued on his way, and when he reached the other city he transgressed the prohibition of Niddah. In doing so he caused himself much much more damage and loss than the damage and loss incurred by the one who was killed in the crash.
It is also proper to mention here a matter in which people err, and that is, although the punishment of ‘keret’ applies only to those who engage in sexual relations (intercourse) during the Niddah period, nevertheless the law to give up one’s life rather than sin applies even to hugging and kissing a woman who is Niddah. Even over this one is obligated to sacrifice one’s life and not commit the action (see the essay of the Chofetz Chaim in the book, “Geder Olam,” in the concluding article). Furthermore, in the metaphor of the two passengers, if the survivor of the crash was to reach the city and even just hug or kiss a woman in Niddah, he causes more damage to his soul by hugging and kissing a Niddah than the damage caused to the one who died in the crash.
It must also be noted that a woman is not only classified as being Niddah during her menstrual cycle (including the additional days accorded to the halachah) but even though her menstruation has stopped, she remains in her Niddah state until she has properly immersed herself in a kosher mikvah. Until such time, all of the Niddah restrictions apply with all of their halachic details. A wise man will take these matters to heart in order to save himself from the paths of death, and to chose instead the way of life.
Anyone who has erred in any of these matters should make haste to turn back to Hashem in repentance over his deeds, and he shall be forgiven.
(From “Hitkaravut L’Hashem,” Pgs 342-345)