OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
It’s Not Sexist
The zav discharge described in the previous aliyah is not semen. If a man has a seminal discharge, he must immerse in a mikvah and he will be unclean until nightfall. Any garment that gets semen on it must likewise be immersed and will be considered unclean until nighttime. When a couple has sex and the man emits semen (as is typically the case) both of them must immerse in a mikvah and they will be unclean until sundown. (You may be aware that nowadays we do not generally act this way, as this is a form of ritual impurity that has no practical application in our day and age. We don't have a Temple and we don't have sanctified food, so there is no ramification to remaining in this state of ritual impurity. This is in contradistinction to niddus – menstrual impurity - which has a huge ramification, as we shall see. There are communities, however, where men are accustomed to regularly use the mikvah.)
When a woman has her period – or discharges any blood from her uterus – she will be considered ritually unclean for seven days; she will transmit a degree of uncleanliness to others, who immerse in a mikvah and remain in this status until night. As with a zav, touching her bed or sitting where she sat is sufficient to transmit this impurity to a person and his clothes. If a man has sex with a woman in the state of niddus (which is forbidden, as we will see in next week’s portion, Acharei Mos), he will be unclean for a week and his bed will transmit impurity, just like hers.
If a woman experiences a flow between periods, she is what’s called a zavah, as opposed to a niddah. Her bed and the things she sits on have the same status as they do during her period. When the discharge finishes, she must wait seven days, then immerse in a mikvah.