Nishmat is a center for women’s learning and halachic instruction. Not that Torah learning institutions for women are all that rare, but this one sponsors a program that issues certification for women who have completed a course in Jewish law in the area of family purity, or Taharat HaMishpaha. This area regulates sexual relations between husband and wife.
And yesterday evening, Nishmat lifted a 10-year restriction on their certifications’ validity. The women they certify, however, are not called “Rabbis,” but rather “advisors.” And their rulings are first sanctioned by a Rabbi before they are validated, if a simple answer is hard to come by.
Then, you may ask, what’s the point of training women? Simple. If you’re a married woman and you have a question regarding family purity laws, it’s really difficult to go to a male Rabbi you may not even know well and talk about the intimate details of your menstrual cycle. It is much easier talking to a woman about it, for obvious reasons.
The effect on the community has been enormous. The volume of questions coming in to the Yoatzot (female advisors) hotline is exceeding 20, sometimes 30 a day, probably encouraging those who would otherwise shun away from the practice of family purity to follow it, now that they have someone to talk to. Over the past decade, 100,000 questions have been answered on their hotline, fielding questions from all over the world.
Nishmat is endorsed by leaders of Israeli Modern Orthodoxy including Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya’acov Ariel abd Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, the former head of Yeshivat Har Etzion in Gush Etzion near Efrat.
It’s a big step in harmonizing the two worlds, one that brings many closer to religious observance without coercion.