A question menstruation, blood and being unclean - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-13-2011, 08:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, In the Gospels there is a story of a woman who had an "issue of blood for 12 years".  It is generally understood that this was a menstrual problem.  As a Jewish woman, what would this have meant for her?  I know menstruating women were considered unclean but what did/does that mean exactly?  Were there exceptions to the rule?  What were the social and spiritual consequences of having 12 years of constant bleeding.  How would this have effected her ability to worship corporately and be a part of the religious community?  How would this have effected her from daily life?


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 04-13-2011, 10:08 PM
 
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From the pretty conservative Jewish roommate I had in college (and her books I read), a woman had to be separate from her husband (not sure about other male members of the family) whenever she was menstruating, plus a certain number of days after she stopped bleeding. They weren't supposed to share the same bed, weren't supposed to touch at all, for example. During Jesus' time were the same sort of actions required? If so, I guess you could say the woman was something akin to a leper. She was an outcast because of her constant bleeding. Ritual purity was a VERY important thing, and in light of that, she was unclean.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Old 04-14-2011, 05:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was contemplating the other day how absolutely horrible her life must have been.  And what a bold thing it was for her to push through the crowd (had she not distracted everyone by being healed what would her punishment for this have been?) and perhaps did she only touch the hem of his garment in a effort to not make him unclean?


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Old 04-16-2011, 05:14 AM
 
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Hi,
I just read your post. This is a topic I believe people look into too much as a feminist right sort of issue, when it is not. Generally this is due to hygiene reasons, since most work is done with our hands, and especially so back then, women were dependent upon for everything. The reason why women are not supposed to do much work or enter a temple, prayer area is not a hygiene issue and it does not mean they are known as being'" dirty' it is because of the reason menstruation is happening instead of preparing for the route of pregnancy which, god would of course be more pleased with. Most of this thinking is so age old and at a time when women would never consider just living out of their character, which included living to have a fortunate family life and an abundance of children and wealth. That was the goal only. No other thought to it. I doubt that that woman would have ever touched anything except the hem of his robe in fear people would think she was a forward, loose woman for doing so. In India where I am living today the woman get help from their husbands and other family members when they are menstruating because everyone eats with hands, not because women are "unclean". Also they understand the spiritual activity going on at that time and the reflection and loss that it intails, how are energies can become stagnant at a point in our chakras and certain exercises to avoid because of this. I'm not sure about the Jewish religion and it's outlook on this, but I think in general it is a spiritual consideration for the woman in general.
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Old 04-16-2011, 05:23 AM
 
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I think this rule is implicated for health reasons. I think this was written so women could have a "break' so to speak. Women could hardly open about PMS or menstrual cramps back then. Men had a say and ruled the roost in every way. I'm sir they had to write this down so it would be understood by all.
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess what I am looking for is what it would have meant for her to have a continuous flow of blood for 12 years.  How would this have effected her life?  What would she be subject to?  What would her daily life look like?  How would these rules have effected her if her period never had a period at the end of it.


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 04-19-2011, 08:54 AM
 
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If you look at Lev 15:25 this woman life would not have been great. If she was not married who would marry her? If she was married then it would be a un-touchable marriage(Lev 18:19) Her whole world would have been like a Lepers in a way. I think about the woman from (Matt 9:20 Mark 5:25 Luke 8:43) She tried very hard to be healed and it was only her faith that healed her. She had faith that if she could only touch Jesus' Tzitzit(Num 15:37-41) she would be made whole!!! YES her life was hard and I'm sure that the RELIOUS of the day made her life harder. I'm having computer problems so I might want to come back and write more later. LEV 15:25-30

 

 

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Old 04-19-2011, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Church Tradition teaches she was married (She is known as St. Veronica) and came from a powerful family with much influence.  However had spent her wealth on dr.s and such.

 

As I sat in the ER the other night with the worlds worst period I was meditating on her.  There I was, incapable of helping myself, scared, humiliated.  The Dr. would not take me seriously (he said it was probably a little stress...like I didn't know the difference between a heavy period and "omg get to the ER even though you have no money to pay for it, and need to be somewhere right now").  i know if I call into work with this problem (and it would be impossible for me to leave the house if this continues) I will lose my job.  This could be disabeling, expensive, humiliating and lead to long term heath issues.  

 

I think about how much faith and courage it took, her level of desperation,  for her to just leave her house, much less to push through the crowd.  Its really amazing to me.  besides being unclean she had to tell people "I am sorry, I can't, still bleeding".  


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 04-19-2011, 11:52 AM
 
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I'm still having computer problems but I just wanted to add one more thing........Other people wanted to touch Jesus Tzitzit(tassel) In Mark 6:56 They begged him to let them touch even the Tzitzit on his robe. So this was not something that she just came up with. One more thing that I think about is that Jesus is the pefect rabbi making un-kosher things kosher. That is how Jesus can be touched by her and still be clean. One of my favorite pastors says and it is so true "JESUS IS TOUCHABLE" we as believers can touch him and it is so cool!!!!! We can be in relationship with Him and that is so wonderful. Hope that helps with your question.


 

 

 

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Old 04-19-2011, 11:57 AM
 
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I just read your post-we were posting at the same time....I will pray for the Lord Jesus to heal you.

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Old 04-21-2011, 05:54 PM
 
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Wow, there are a lot of misconceptions here.

 

First of all, the notion that a menstruating woman was or is considered 'unclean' is simply false, as it relates to Judaism -- either in the past (including Biblical times) or now. Menstruation, as well as any number of other things (touching or coming near a dead body; a seminal emission; etc.) rendered a person unfit to practice certain sacrifices in the Temple. But the spiritual notion of 'tahor' (the only translation is 'purity' but it is not a good translation -- it's more like 'in a spiritually optimal state') has nothing whatsoever to do with uncleanness.

 

Moreover, menstruating women were not (contrary to fictional fantasies of Anita Diament or anyone else) relegated to solitude or ostracised in any way whatsoever from normal life, touching other people, etc. They were (and are) not sexually permitted to their husbands during that time; and as I said, not permitted to bring certain sacrifices in the Temple.

 

No other person besides the husband would have had to know about her status. Not even the kohein (high priest) -- she just would not have brought those sacrifices. Not everyone did all the time, anyway.

 

A menstruating woman is permitted to be near, touch (except for men who aren't her husband and that holds true regardless), communicate with, bump into, serve food, receive food, etc. with other people. They can be in synagogue, they can touch the Torah, they can touch holy books, they can and do participate in EVERY. ASPECT. OF. SOCIAL. LIFE. No restrictions whatsoever with the sole exception being intimate relations (and certain other touches) with her husband during menstruation and for several days after.

 

I have no idea what the gospel says. And I'm sure it would be exceedingly unpleasant to bleed for 12 years straight, not to mention hard on a marriage. But as to her social/communal status, it would have had no impact whatsoever. No one would have known, or had to know.

 

ETA: As for touching the tzitzit, well, the tzitzit are a man's garment that has to do with reminding him of the mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah. It would not be considered very modest for a random person (of either sex) to touch someone else's tzitzit but there would be no a priori reason why she couldn't in terms of her status as a menstruating woman (or not).

 

After childbirth, although the timing of going to the mikvah (the immersion in living waters which signifies the return of the spiritually optimal -tahor- status) is different between whether you have a boy or girl, in reality because of how women bleed and the fact that most aren't ready to resume relations anyhow for at least 4-6 weeks, the practical effects are pretty much nil. This is left up to the woman to determine. In fact, all questions of menstruation/postpartum bleeding are left to the discretion of the woman, with the understanding that should she have a specific question as to status, she would consult a knowledgeable rabbi. And yes, there are rabbis who specialize in this -- and it is a very holy and powerful mitzvah.

 

But I must stress, emphasize, and re-emphasize -- this has nothing to do with ANY perception of uncleanness. Not even a little bit. And no one would have had to or should have known as it was an entirely private matter.


 "Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible." (William Shakespeare -- Julius Caesar)

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Old 04-21-2011, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for that information.  That is what i was looking for.

 

The Gospels do not say anything about what this bleeding condition meant for her, which is why I was wondering (it doesn't say anything about menstrual bleeding, that is just an assumption really.  But really, where else could a person ooze blood for 12 years and live?)   Nor is it specific about where she touched Him except for the "hem of his garment".  The only reason that part of the story is important is because He was in a crowd and people were pressing against Him.  However, he noticed specifically that someone had touched the hem of His garment.  And because she had such great faith she was healed.

 

In our Tradition a woman (or man for that matter) cannot receive the Eucharist while they are bleeding.  It has nothing to do with any sort of uncleanliness.


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 04-21-2011, 06:32 PM
 
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Lilyka, wishing you a speedy and complete recovery. I am sorry you are suffering. hug2.gif


 "Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible." (William Shakespeare -- Julius Caesar)

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Old 03-27-2012, 06:30 AM
 
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This topic has been one that has intrigued me for years. Ever since I've read the scriptures about the "woman with issue of blood". I've felt a personal connection to the story because I have a disorder called endometriosis. This means that the blood that normally develops inside the uterus also develops outside of the uterus, on my colon, bladder, overies, and other places in my abdominal cavity. In some cases it has been found in other areas of the body as well. This disorder causes horrifyingly painful periods that last an indefinite amount of times. greensad.gif Sometimes it can be on, very heavily, for months with no signs of relief. This has been true suffering, and I truly can't imagine going through a period that lasted 12 years. Maybe she had endometriosis too... They didn't have that diagnosis back then. It can only be discovered by exploratory surgery. Which I've so far had two.

Just a thought, maybe her period wasn't 'on' the whole straight 12 years, you know, small breaks, but just that she had this issue of blood for the 12 years going through all that. I just say this because during my longest periods, I was SOOO anemic that my doctor wanted me to get a blood transfusion. It's, I guess a little different for me, than many other people, looking at the story having experiencing a similar issue as the woman. I don't see how this could keep a woman from being able to pray when, if not anything else, praying should the first thing, last thing , and more praying after that. God is the only one that can heal this affliction. There is no cure for it even now. All they do is pump you full of Birthcontrol hormonal therapy. And they'll try anything just to shut your period off... Not fix the problem. Just shut it off completely if they could. I've even heard them mention a removal of the uterus which I stopped them before even finishing the sentence. I wasn't even 30 yet, and I plan to have children. My aunt did and she has the same disorder.

But back to the Bible and what it said about mensturation, I personally don't understand it. If a woman doesn't have an affliction, why is she unclean when God created our bodies to do this. And according to him he makes no mistakes what so ever. With out periods women can't have children. Why do they have to give an offering to atone for something that is natural and God made. I read somewhere in the Bible that said that after giving birth a woman is considered unclean as well, and the amount of days of being unlean differs between whether it was a boy or girl that was born. It said that the days of purification was far more if it was a girl that was born. I don't understand. I guess I have a lot of questions to ask God when I see him face to face.... Many many many years from now God-willing. smile.gif
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Old 03-27-2012, 06:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nickarolaberry View Post

Wow, there are a lot of misconceptions here.

 

First of all, the notion that a menstruating woman was or is considered 'unclean' is simply false, as it relates to Judaism -- either in the past (including Biblical times) or now. Menstruation, as well as any number of other things (touching or coming near a dead body; a seminal emission; etc.) rendered a person unfit to practice certain sacrifices in the Temple. But the spiritual notion of 'tahor' (the only translation is 'purity' but it is not a good translation -- it's more like 'in a spiritually optimal state') has nothing whatsoever to do with uncleanness.

 

Moreover, menstruating women were not (contrary to fictional fantasies of Anita Diament or anyone else) relegated to solitude or ostracised in any way whatsoever from normal life, touching other people, etc. They were (and are) not sexually permitted to their husbands during that time; and as I said, not permitted to bring certain sacrifices in the Temple.

 

No other person besides the husband would have had to know about her status. Not even the kohein (high priest) -- she just would not have brought those sacrifices. Not everyone did all the time, anyway.

 

A menstruating woman is permitted to be near, touch (except for men who aren't her husband and that holds true regardless), communicate with, bump into, serve food, receive food, etc. with other people. They can be in synagogue, they can touch the Torah, they can touch holy books, they can and do participate in EVERY. ASPECT. OF. SOCIAL. LIFE. No restrictions whatsoever with the sole exception being intimate relations (and certain other touches) with her husband during menstruation and for several days after.

 

I have no idea what the gospel says. And I'm sure it would be exceedingly unpleasant to bleed for 12 years straight, not to mention hard on a marriage. But as to her social/communal status, it would have had no impact whatsoever. No one would have known, or had to know.

 

ETA: As for touching the tzitzit, well, the tzitzit are a man's garment that has to do with reminding him of the mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah. It would not be considered very modest for a random person (of either sex) to touch someone else's tzitzit but there would be no a priori reason why she couldn't in terms of her status as a menstruating woman (or not).

 

After childbirth, although the timing of going to the mikvah (the immersion in living waters which signifies the return of the spiritually optimal -tahor- status) is different between whether you have a boy or girl, in reality because of how women bleed and the fact that most aren't ready to resume relations anyhow for at least 4-6 weeks, the practical effects are pretty much nil. This is left up to the woman to determine. In fact, all questions of menstruation/postpartum bleeding are left to the discretion of the woman, with the understanding that should she have a specific question as to status, she would consult a knowledgeable rabbi. And yes, there are rabbis who specialize in this -- and it is a very holy and powerful mitzvah.

 

But I must stress, emphasize, and re-emphasize -- this has nothing to do with ANY perception of uncleanness. Not even a little bit. And no one would have had to or should have known as it was an entirely private matter.



I had to respond to this message. People have to realize that this was also in a time where when a woman got married and lost her virginity to her husband, he hung their sheets outside their house for the world to see that he had a virgin. As much as being discreet sounds nice, it rarely happened. When a person was considered unclean, whether it be leprosy or other they had to make it known to the people around them so as to not touch them and make them unclean too. It rather specifically says in the Bible, as well as other religious books, that if any unclean person touches another person or even touches an object, they are considered unclean as well and have to go through a ritual of cleansing themselves, and waiting a certain amount of days before being considered clean again. I personally don't understand it at all, but that doesn't change what they believe in the past. We can't change history. It's the way things went back then when health issues weren't understood as they are today.
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Old 03-27-2012, 04:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I cannot comment on the past but why do you automatically see the offering as an act of atonement?  Perhaps it was just an act of acknowledgement.  Perhaps even thanksgiving.  or just another step in the cycle of days.  I do not receive the Eucharist while I am on my period.  It has nothing to do with uncleanliness (when I started this thread I was just looking for an inside scoop on what that was actually about) in the Christian church.  Nor anything about being a woman.  Any flow of blood would prevent someone from recieving the Eucharist (this is a pretty lose rule these days). It has to do with receiving the real presence of Christ in us.  And how we take it into our body.  and how our body uses it.  I don't mind abstaining.  There are lots of reasons people must abstain.  Things within our control and thing outside of our control (illness or natural body functions).    If one is forced to abstain because of illness it is considered a cross to bear.  (people who absolutely cannot have gluten comes to mind.  We do not offer gluten free communion.)   The church is also full of mercy and pretty flexible in some ways.  I think a woman with a constant flow of blood would not be denied.  But it certainly does not hurt to fast from communion for a week or two.   and actually can be quite a blessing.  I think of St. Veronica and ask her to pray for me.   I thank God for the gift of my period (I do want to have more children and month Aunt Flow comes for a visit is  pone more month for hoping and praying.)  It IS a sacrifice to make but one I am happy to bring before God and lay at the alter.  Everything about my femininity glorifies God.  Including my period.  We do not consider women unclean but rather this is just one more season of fasting in our cycle of feasting and fasting.  but seasons of fasting and feasting are a part of our daily worship.   


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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Old 09-20-2012, 07:06 AM
 
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"Everything about my femininity glorifies God.  Including my period.  We do not consider women unclean but rather this is just one more season of fasting in our cycle of feasting and fasting.  but seasons of fasting and feasting are a part of our daily worship."

 

lilyka, I love the way you narrate this. I am a Muslim, and we similarly abstain from certain aspects of ritual worship when we're bleeding (anyone, not only menstruating women). I hear a lot of misconceptions about people thinking Muslims view women as "dirty" while on their period and that is not accurate. Being in a state of ritual impurity says nothing about someone's status or worth--and I view it similarly to how you describe--there are times when we do not make Salah (the five times daily prayer), and we can use that time for other forms of worship, praying for others, serving others, and also--resting. Praying five times a day and waking up early can be difficult (however rewarding it is) and it is a mercy to menstruating women (and postpartum women) to be able to rest more and get a "break" from this. 

 

I didn't realize that Christianity had similar understandings of "ritual impurity" and rules about abstaining from the Eucharist at times. Very interesting. I used to hold some of the same stereotypes I think we as Christian, Jewish and Muslim women hear often, about women being dirty or evil, etc...and I guess some of those I do see in Christianity that maybe I just haven't had explained to me sufficiently, but I feel confident that those ideas/beliefs are not from God. Your statement "Everything about my femininity glorifies God," beautifully illustrates the truth of women's status before God, different but not unequal to men. 


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Old 10-14-2012, 04:38 AM
 
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The restriction Lilyka mentions appears to apply among Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians, but not in the Western Church. In my church (Anglican/Episcopalian) there is no restriction on women receiving or serving the Eucharist when menstruating. 

 

Back in the pre-17th century (and perhaps later?) there was a tradition that a woman would not go to church until a certain period after childbirth and then she would take part in a rite called "The Churching" - but that has not gone on for at least a hundred years.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churching_of_women

 

 

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I didn't realize that Christianity had similar understandings of "ritual impurity" and rules about abstaining from the Eucharist at times.

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Old 10-14-2012, 05:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Right.  This is an old custom and applies mostly to pre-reformation churches (Eastern Orthodox and Catholic).  And not all women are expected to abstain (depends on the priest).  


The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it.  We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.

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