The Scholars and Physicians Who Are Bringing the Most Intimate Areas of Jewish Ritual to Social Media

In the past few years, a number of popular accounts have appeared on the photo-sharing platform Instagram that are dedicated to educating a mostly-Orthodox, female audience about the finer points of taharat ha-mishpaḥah (literally, “familial purity”)—a set of halakhic regulations centered around married women’s monthly immersion in mikveh, or ritual bath, and that govern the most private aspects of Jewish life. Some of these accounts are run by physicians who specialize in gynecology and obstetrics; others by yo’atsot halakah, female halakhic advisers trained to render decisions of particular relevance to women. Lindsey Bodner analyzes this phenomenon:

With the words “mikveh,” “pregnancy and postpartum,” “male and female infertility,” “taharat ha-mishpaḥah,” “consent,” and “PCOS” flashing on the screen, a woman lip-syncs the song, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, deadpan. . . . Infertility and postpartum [depression], among the others, are rarely among people’s favorite things, but the tongue-in-cheek video “reel” on the Instagram account is part of a pioneering effort to educate through humor and validate practitioners of taharat ha-mishpaḥah, Jewish laws of family purity.

Those who practice taharat ha-mishpaḥah, mostly Orthodox married couples, have traditionally been instructed to be highly discreet about their practice. Typically, people learn the mechanics of taharat ha-mishpaḥah when they are engaged to be married in several hours of private or small-group [brides’ or grooms’] classes in the weeks or months leading up to the wedding. For the average person observing the laws, supplemental learning takes place mostly ad-hoc when questions arise. Specific questions that come up in the course of practice are directed to the couple’s halakhic authority, though some couples are uncomfortable asking. Of the books available, [few] include scientific explanations or sex education, and fewer still address women’s lived experiences.

Over the past several decades, efforts have been made, in no small part by Nishmat, a Modern Orthodox educational institution that rigorously trains women in taharat ha-mishpaḥah and women’s health, to increase learning and transparency in these matters. Synagogues, organizations, and high schools sometimes provide foundational courses, “refreshers,” or classes addressing special topics. However, Instagram provides validation largely missing from taharat ha-mishpaḥah education, and it is more public and far-reaching than any of these endeavors. In fact, it likely reaches a wider audience than all of these efforts in the aggregate.

Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: Mikveh, Niddah, Orthodoxy, Social media, Women in Judaism


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy