This Shabbat, we read about Balaam’s blessings to Israel. Among them, the Gentile prophet, who is simply relaying Divine word, commends Bnai Yisrael, “How beautiful are your tents Jacob” (Bamidbar 24:5). Rashi and other commentators explain that this is a reference to the modesty of a Jewish home and the Jewish community in general. Each Jewish family has their privacy and “tzniut” or modesty when it comes to matters of intimacy and family life. This is the specific “beautiful” quality that Balaam is praising here.
On a more basic level, the Torah is extoling every aspect of the Jewish home. When there is love and shalom bayit between husband and wife, extended to children, when a home is filled with Yiddisha values (Torah, middot tovot, Shabbat, Kashrut…) and when married couples keep the laws of family purity (nidda and Mikvah) – it is indeed a beautiful Jewish home. Truthfully, there is nothing more beautiful.
3,295 years after Balaam’s prophecy Jews are still keeping the laws of nidda and building beautiful Jewish homes.
Not everyone agrees.
Recently in Israel, there has been a “Family Purity Scandal” involving different public figures. Guy Pines, host of a popular TV entertainment news show in Israel, has publicly attacked women who are involved in a family purity campaign. These women, among them Shay Mika, are outwardly sharing their observance of the laws of family purity and going to the Mikvah.
Shay Mika, a successful Israeli actress who married less than a year ago, has shared with the public her “Mikvah party”, experience going to the Mikvah for the first time before her wedding, what it’s like to keep separation from her husband during the menstrual cycle and how she has benefitted from keeping the laws of nidda. Mika said in an interview, “what wisdom!” referring to the Torah laws connected to family purity and mikvah.
Mika is not doing this pro-bono. She is being paid no less than 20,000 Shekel by an organization called “She’asani Isha” to promote “the Mikvah and purity.”
Guy Pines responded to Mika’s Mikvah activism by calling it, “missionizing.”
Pines continued and tweeted,
I think that anyone who believes in the secular Israeli religion and its good values, and who doesn’t suffer from guilt pangs regarding their Judaism, should come out against the very essence of this idea. There is no such thing as ‘impurity’ with regard to people. Therefore, there is no need to purify oneself. That is just a lie.
Others have also attacked Mika and the women involved in this project for taking money to promote a religious, ritual practice.
Here in front of our eyes we see the outward confrontation between the “secular Israeli religion” and the Jewish Israeli religion.
It goes without saying, in these very sensitive matters, everyone is entitled to their opinion.
But apparently, according to Pines, one is allowed to advertise and promote everything under the sun – for pay – but Mikvah, that’s missionizing. Promoting family purity is crossing a line that’s unacceptable in our modernized, trendy Israeli society.
To Guy Pines, I say, please be a little more careful about what you call “a lie.” If Mikvah and the laws of family purity, found explicitly in the Torah, are a lie than Shabbat, kashrut, chessed, Pesach, our “nationhood” and our claim to the Land of Israel, all found in the Torah, are also a lie. Furthermore, I would respond to Pines and say your attempt to delegitimize family purity in our tradition, among our people, is an ill-informed, misrepresentation of the truth. You can disagree with the Torah’s assertion that there is an impurity for a woman experiencing her period. It is completely inappropriate to call it a lie.
To Mika and the other ladies involved in the Mikvah campaign I say, you are doing amazing work. You are helping and supporting Jewish and Israeli families at a time of need. In a 70% broken world, you are increasing more love, commitment, longevity in an area which is central to who we are as people. (Yes, Mikvah and family purity laws help achieve all of these.) You Mika, are simply concretizing and strengthening Balaam’s prophecy – the Torah’s message – the beauty of a Jewish home.
And yes, for this most worthy cause, your time and your effort, you are more than warranted to take money.