Why Can’t Orthodox Couples Even Hold Hands During The Period of Separation?

Dear Jew in the City-

Thanks a million for your video, “Jewish Women…Dirrty?” which explains a lot. However, after watching it, I still have a question, which maybe you can answer for me. A friend of mine (an observant Orthodox Jew) told me, that during the time of the month that she and her husband don’t touch, they literally don’t touch at all or even pass each other any item directly (when she needs to pass an item to her husband she needs to put it in front of him on a desk or something. He can only take the item when she’s not touching it any more).

I understand, what you told us in the video (which I love, thanks for that). But what exactly is the harm in touching or kissing before a woman goes to the mikvah? It should not be a problem – I mean, as a man, I could touch and kiss my wife and not freak out just if things stopped there. Hugging and kissing her should be a good thing as I show her my love and affection, so what is the point of not even be able to touch as a married couple?

Thanks for an answer,


Dear David-

Spouses not touching – not even being able to pass objects to one another – admittedly sounds crazy at first and maybe even at second, but there’s something that I always kept in mind as I learned more about observant Judaism: just because I wasn’t used to something from my upbringing didn’t make it automatically wrong – it just made it unfamiliar.

In terms of where such strictness in separation originates – it comes from the Torah itself, which says that a husband must not approach or come close to his wife when she’s in a state of “niddah” or separation (i.e. the time of her cycle plus seven additional days).

I know you said that you personally would not “freak out if things stopped at hugging and kissing,” but not only is the realm of physical intimacy one of the slipperiest slopes out there, when touch is suddenly *forbidden* it makes resistance even more futile. “One thing just led to another” anyone?

Also, the complete separation is there as more than just a fence. If kissing, hugging, and hand holding gets cut off every month it allows kissing, hugging, and hand holding to be exciting over and over again, even years into a marriage. A couple gets to experience the magic of that first embrace each and every time the wife immerses in the mikvah.

And finally, in terms of wanting to express your love and affection to your wife, that’s a wonderful thing, but taking touch off the table forces both men and women to find other ways of expressing love to their spouses, things that probably would have never been discovered or attempted had touching been allowed.

Not being able to touch one’s spouse for half the month is certainly a challenging feat. But it’s far better to want to touch your spouse all the time, and not always be able to, than to be able to touch whenever you want, yet rarely care to (a state that far too many married couples find themselves in).

All the best,

Allison (AKA Jew in the City)

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  • Avatar photo 954gail says on April 25, 2009

    What a great explanation for something I have had a hard time understanding. My son, a recent Baal Tshuvah, has tried explaining this but your post made it very understandable. Thanks.

  • Avatar photo Leslie Clay says on August 4, 2009

    Thank you so much for this posting! I am a non jew and have lived with orthodox/hassidic jews for 45years. Growing up with them we had fairly close relationships but as we all grew up we grew apart. Hearing about the mikvah and understanding the reasons for not touching actually brought tears to my eyes. It was so romantic and caring and I honestly know look at my neighbors a whole lot differently. I wish it was easier for people of all religions and backgrounds to take the tine to learn about each other than to figure each other out from what we see on tv or hear from rumors passed on through the years. Thanks so much for this and I look forward to learning more!!!


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