Title: A Woman’s Mitzvah: A Fully Sourced Guide to the Laws of Family Purity
Author: Meira Svirsky
The mitzvah of taharat hamishpachah (family purity) can be a source of great marital fulfillment and vitality, yet can also – especially for the female partner – cause significant stress, confusion even misery.
A Woman’s Mitzvah speaks directly to the Jewish wife on this most important subject – woman to woman, if you will. The author, Meira Svirsky, is a ba’alat teshuvah who learned at Aish HaTorah and is now an educator, lecturer and outreach professional. Svirsky, who lives with her husband and children in Jerusalem’s Old City, holds a master’s degree in philosophy.
In the genre of taharat hamishpachah guides, A Woman’s Mitzvah is unique in several respects. These qualities, I believe, have a lot to do with its being written by a woman.
First, the book addresses not just the “what” of the various laws but also the “why,” explaining, wherever possible, how and why Halachahdeveloped as it did.
Second, the author provides enriching philosophical context, devoting chapters to the meaning of “purity” and the framework for the Jewish approach to marriage and sex.
Third, while many books on this topic speak in the third person and convey information in a cold, detached manner, A Woman’s Mitzvah uses the second person and maintains a sensitive, down-to-earth tone – while still being clear and decisive.
Fourth, the author makes a concerted effort to present the most favorable and helpful halachic options for women experiencing difficulty in certain areas, such as staining or performing bedikot.
Regrettably, though not unlike other writers on this subject, the author is overly prudent – I would say prudish – in her choice of language. The use of euphemisms for all things sexual makes the book seem less than comfortable with its subject matter. This can only serve to contribute to the persistent lack of comfort among Orthodox men and women in discussing these issues.
As the subtitle indicates, footnotes accompany every statement of Halachah. As with any work of Halachah, readers should always contact their own rav when in doubt as to any aspect of taharat hamishpachah observance even as presented in a well-sourced guide; contemporary authorities differ on the applicability of certain customs and practices.
The book is based upon classes Svirsky took with Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits under the auspices of Aish HaTorah; Rabbi Yirmiyahu Kaganoff, Rosh Kollel of Yeshiva Beis Yisroel in Jerusalem, reviewed and annotated the contents.
A Woman’s Mitzvah may be purchased online at www.awomansmitzvah.com and will soon be available at your local bookstore.