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 Nishmatyoatzot.us 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

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security