Women and Water

Menstruation in Jewish Life and Law

Edited by Rahel Wasserfall

The term Niddah means separation. During her menstrual flow and for several days thereafter, a Jewish woman is considered Niddah — separate from her husband and unable to practice the sacred rituals of Judaism. Purification in a miqveh (a ritual bath) following her period restores full status as a wife and member of the Jewish community. In the contemporary world, debates about Niddah focus less on the literal exclusion of menstruating women from the synagogue, instead emphasizing relations between husband and wife and the general role of Jewish women in Judaism. Although this has been the law since ancient times, the meaning and practice of Niddah has been widely contested. Women and Water explores how these purity rituals have affected Jewish women across time and place, and shows how their own interpretation of Niddah often conflicted with rabbinic views. These essays also speak to contemporary feminist issues such as shaping women’s identity, power relations between women and men, and the role of women in the sacred.

E-book: $30
ISBN-13: 9781611688702
Pages: 290 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: November 1, 1999

About the Author

Rahel R. Wasserfall

Wasserfall is a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. She has wide-ranging experience in the evaluation of educational programs in complex multilingual and cross-cultural settings. Her work in the world of evaluation focuses on the pragmatic approach to knowledge that continually queries: “knowledge for whom and for which purposes.” Previous assignments include: director of evaluation and liaison to schools of The Center for the Advancement of …