Why keep the Halacha of Sexual Relations?
Although our observance of the Torah is irrespective of our ability to
fathom the reasons of the all-wise Creator in directing us in a
particular way, nevertheless, there is a need to explain why a wise,
rational, loving God would impose such restrictions on something so
“natural.” What are the benefits? Why did God command this behavior? What
insights are to be gained from these laws?
The divinely commanded periods of sexual abstinence should prompt us to
consider that there is much more to marriage than sex. The most
meaningful part of the marriage is the loving, considerate relationship
between two people who care for one another and assist one another on
their life’s journey–sharing happiness and grief; together experiencing
life’s ups, downs and in-betweens; communicating deepest emotions and
highest aspirations. The loving relationship is so much more important
than sex–existing even when sexual expression of this love does not. The
periods of sexual abstinence shut out the overwhelming thunder of sex, so
that the subtle, soft music of relationship can be heard. Once the music
is heard you know it is always there even when the sexual expression of
love is again permitted.
In general, the laws concerning controlled sexual behavior can be
subsumed under laws of holiness. Holiness in man is founded on the deep-
seated belief that there is more to man than the physical and that man’s
behavior should aspire to the highest ideal of God-like behavior.
Holiness of the marriage takes the position that there is much more to
marriage than the physical sexual relationship between husband and wife.
The physiological and emotional power of the sexual relationship
threatens to overwhelm what is ultimately and logically the most
important part of the marital relationship–the mutual respect,
sensitivity, concern and giving of two people who have become as one.
(Upon going to the doctor a pious person of Jerusalem said: Doctor my
wife’s foot is hurting us.) Holiness of the marriage requires the putting
of the sexual aspect of the relationship in perspective by having periods
where it is non-existent. The onset and the duration of these periods are
not determined by one or the other partner, a situation which could lead
to resentment, but by a non-volitional “natural” event–menstruation. The
periods of abstinence are a time for the couple eager to express there
continued relationship, to focus on and develop other means of
expressing the depth of their relationship.
Another, physiological, basis for the laws of niddah might be culled from
the recent work of biological theorists who have proposed the following
“reason” for menstruation. Being as the uterus is subject to intrusion of
elements foreign to the woman’s body, the lining of the uterus is
sloughed off periodically in order to flush out foreign elements which
might have entered the woman’s system. Since the sperm can be a vehicle
for the entrance of foreign elements (bacteria, viruses and the like) it
makes sense biologically for the couple to prevent the entrance of sperm
during this changeover period.
While these might be some of the reasons for the laws of niddah, it is
unlikely that we could even begin to understand the will of our Creator.
Ultimately it is our belief that Hashem is “abundant in loyalty and
faithfulness” (“rab hesed ve’emet”) which demands an absolute adherence
to even the smallest nuance of His Law.