A nida (a woman who has menstruated and not yet purified herself by going to the mikveh) is obligated to recite all the berakhot and prayers and may study Torah, for words of Torah cannot become impure, as it is written: “Indeed, My word is like fire” (Yirmiyahu 23:29). Just like fire cannot become impure, the words of Torah do not contract impurity (Berakhot 22a).
There are women who customarily act stringently at the time of menstruation by refraining from entering the synagogue and touching the Torah scroll. Although in principle there is no explicit prohibition against this, these women customarily separate themselves out of respect for the synagogue. Nonetheless, the widespread custom is that women enter the synagogue during the time of menstruation, but only refrain from looking directly at the letters of the Torah scroll when it is lifted (hagbaha). 1
As an aside, we shall mention that there are various customs regarding women going to a cemetery. Some say that it is not proper for women to go to a cemetery at all, some say that women who are nidot and have not yet purified themselves in the mikveh may not go to a cemetery, some say that only during menstruation women should not go, and others permit going any time. Some women refrain from going to a cemetery when they are pregnant, whereas others do not. Every woman should practice according to her family’s or her husband’s family’s custom. Even those who are customarily stringent may practice leniency in times of need. For example, permission to be lenient and go to a cemetery is granted to one who will regret not going to her parents’ graves on their yahrzeit (the anniversary of a death). Also, one who is concerned that her absence will upset others, or a woman who is afraid that people might deduce from her absence that she is menstruating, may be lenient. If possible, though, she should make an effort not to get close to the graves. 2
- See Beit Yosef and Rema §88; Tzitz Eliezer 10:8, Yeĥaveh Da’at 3:8; Taharat Ha-bayit vol. 2, pp. 202-206. The above-mentioned practice of entering the synagogue but refraining from looking at the Torah scroll during hagbaha is cited by MB 88:7 and Darkhei Tahara p. 57. The time of menstruation refers to the time that blood flows from a woman’s body, but does not include the seven clean days of purity, as noted by Rema there. Some poskim (AHS 88:2 and Kaf Ha-ĥayim 11) maintain that when women are menstruating, they do not recite berakhot and prayers and do not enter the synagogue. However, in practice, as long as the blood does not emit a putrid smell, there is no prohibition. Likewise, the Vilna Gaon (Ma’aseh Rav §58) rules that it is unnecessary to be as stringent regarding menstrual blood as we are concerning urine, for menstrual blood is similar to blood from a wound. See Halikhot Beitah 11:1-10 and MB 76:15. ↩
- Darkhei Tahara p. 57 states, based on kabbalistic literature, that that it is improper for women to enter a cemetery. MB 88:7 rules, based on Ĥayei Adam, that women should not go to the cemetery until they are pure. However, the fact that single women and widows, who do not go to the mikveh when they are nida, regularly go to the cemetery validates the custom of married women, who only refrain from going to the cemetery while they are menstruating, but not during the seven clean days. See Taharat Ha-bayit, vol. 2, p. 76. Also see Berakhot 51a regarding women who return from visiting the deceased. ↩