From Embarrassment to Empowerment
Lev 15:19 “When a woman has a discharge, her discharge being blood from her body, she shall remain in her impurity seven days; whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.”
Jewish tradition has mixed feelings about what it means to come into adulthood. On the one hand, there is a ceremony put together to celebrate when children become b’nai mitzvah as they are now legally adults.
On the other hand, when young men and women begin emitting bodily fluids that mark the formal beginning of their puberty they are said to be ritually impure. Discharge from boys leads to impurity till later that evening, discharge from girls leads to impurity for seven days.
Mikveh is necessary for all to wash themselves off.
To some extent, they are being reborn. They will re-enter the world as different beings. Should this moment of arrival be a point of dignity or of disgust?
In 2009 a book called ‘My Little Red Book‘ was released. This was also a time when some parents were throwing their daughters “period parties”.
‘My Little Red Book’ is a collection of short stories from women recalling their first periods: “the accounts range from light-hearted (the editor got hers while water skiing in a yellow bathing suit) to heart-stopping (a first period discovered just as one girl was about to be strip-searched by the Nazis).”
The tension between this body-skeptical philosophy of Leviticus and the vision of universal human divinity from Genesis presents modern religious beings with a range of options for how to relate to our bodies. We have a choice.
‘My Little Red Book’ says that it is “more than a collection of stories. It is a call for a change in attitude, for a new way of seeing periods. In a time when the taboo around menstruation seems to be one of the few left standing, it makes a difficult subject easier to talk about, and helps girls feel proud instead of embarrassed or ashamed.”
Amen to that.
The reflection on this chapter is part of the broader 929 project where you read a chapter-a-day (weekends excluded – so only 5 chapters per week) of the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible.
We are working our way towards February 2, 2022.
Where do you hope to be in your spiritual journey by then?