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On top of everything else that you need to prepare for the
wedding, you need to prepare yourself.
Preparing yourself is not just a matter of getting your hair and nails
done but of making sure you cover all you need to know about the halachos pertaining to married
life. That’s what kallah classes are
for. The course you take prior to your
wedding should cover all aspects of what is known as taharas hamishpacha [family purity]. There are many complexities involved, so you
need to make sure to have an instructor who is thorough and clear, as well as
approachable. If you feel too shy to ask
questions, then you won’t be able to get the clarification you need. You should feel completely comfortable
talking with your teacher, and if you don’t, then you should really consider
switching. Consequently, you should
allow enough time before the wedding date both to find the right person and to
complete all the lessons.
Kallah classes may take place in groups or one-on-one. While the latter offers more individualized
attention, some of the more well-known teachers do teach in groups. I can say for myself that I took a
one-on-one, but I didn’t feel the teacher did anything differently for me than
she did with anyone else. I cannot say I
believe that one-on-one is always better, though I’m sure that some women would
feel less inhibited by the tête-à-tête than by a roomful of peers. Consider what situation you would prefer, and
then look for a teacher who matches your needs and can accommodate your
schedule. Do bear in mind that group
classes may be more economical than one-on-one sessions. But that is not an absolute rule. While most kallah instructors do charge a fee
for their services, a number of completely qualified ones also offer them leshem mitzvah. You may have to investigate a bit to get that
information, but be sure you know your instructor’s expectations for payment
before you sign up.
How do you find a kallah teacher?
You can ask your local rabbi or rebbetzin for recommendations. Your teachers from high school or seminary
may also be able to recommend someone, as may your married friends. Then there
are organizations that can provide you with names of qualified teachers. JME
(Jewish Marriage Education) is the organization of Rabbi Yirmiyahu and Tehilla Abramov that
has trained numerous kallah teachers in its standardized approach. It has the endorsements of
well-known rabbis. For more information about JME see .jewishfamily.org
For those who prefer an approach that offers less hashakafa [perspective] and more
clinical substance have another option.
The yoatzot are women who have
been trained by Nishmat’s program, overseen by Rabbi Yehuda HerzlHenkin. Their information tends to be more
biologically precise and thorough, touching on issues that are usually skipped
over by others. Visit their website http://www.yoetzet.orgto learn more about what they
offer and to see various questions and answers online. You can also submit your
While you’re looking for a
teacher for yourself, be sure that your chasson is also finding someone to
teach him all that he needs to know, too.
It is crucial that a chasson understands the halachos of taharas hamispacha, for he also has to
be aware of the timing and behavioral guides.
Ignorance is not bliss and can actually lead to serious problems in this
instance. If he does not have access to
someone through his shul or yeshiva, ask your kallah teacher for a
recommendation for a chasson instructor.
Both of you should also obtain reference books on the subject. The book can help you review and also serve
as a springboard for discussion with your kallah teacher for issues that should
be covered beyond the harchakos, vestos, bedikos,
chafifah and mikvah immersion. There
are many negative precept involved (thou shalt not) but also some positive ones
You can find some of the concerns with texts brought to light
in Gender Relationships in Marriage and Out. Blau, Rivkah,
ed.. Ktav, 2007. This book is comprised of 12 essays that originated as papers
delivered during the Orthodox Forum in New York in 2005. It in inclues a
review of some of the books currently available for kallah classes in the
chapter by Devora Zlochower entitled, " Preparing Modern Orthodox Kallot
and Hatanim for Marriage.”You can access a listing of books on articles on the
topic with links to download or order athttp://www.jofa.org/social.php/life/marriage/kallahandhat/+sort=author
One source you may want to look into is the last of the 3 volumes on Woman and the
Mitzvot: Guide to the Rabbinic SourcebyRabbi Elyakim Getsel Ellinson, entitled Ish Veishto [Man and His Wife], which
offers many rabbinical sources and explanations about marital relations in
halacha. It has been translated into
English by Raphael Blumberg as Partners in Life (1998). You may already be familiar with some of the
texts, but they are explicated in a new light for practical application. Some
of these same topics are addressed by Rabbi Knohl in the book reviewed below. You should carefully
consider which books you wish to have in your own library. Your selection
should not only be accurate about the halacha, meaning it does not just offer
stringencies or leniencies, but should also convey a positive tone.
the differences in tone, compare the points of view on onah (or Oinoh, as one book spells it)presented in two books.
Taharas Am Yisroel: A Guide to the Halachos of Jewish Marriageby Rabbi Shaul Wagschal,first published in
1979. The copy I took this quote from was
the 4th edition from 2002 (Judaica Press). On pp. 122-123, the topic is 'The
Designated Times for Oinoh." It contains the usual information
about frequency with the warning that a man may sap his strength which is
needed for kollel or work, so his wife should understand and not demand too
much. Here is point #7: "A kallo may not exactly know what oinoh
means, [I am refraining from adding my comment in here] but she should
accept that this is the way Hashem planned the complete union of husband
and wife, though we do not understand why[bold in the source].
She should also know that this is the only way in which a woman can become
Contrast it with what is presented in Marital
Intimacy: A Traditional Jewish Approach by Rabbi Avraham Peretz Friedman, published
in 2005 on page 21: “What mitzvot did the Rabbis consider so fundamental
and paradigmatic that they designated them, simply, ‘mitzvah’? Those mitzvoth are ‘pru urvu’
(procreation) and ‘Onah’ (a husband’s obligation to satisfy his wife’s
desire for marital intimacy) – the two sexually based positive Mitzvot.” Clearly, this elucidation distinguishes
between onah and pregnancy in contradistinction to Rabbi Wagschal’s
attempt to conflate the two in his suggested presentation of what to tell a
bride about having to endure a physical relationship. The fact that onah is defined as a
wife’s pleasure is completely incompatible with that view. While Rabbi Friedman’s book offers a much
more positive view and devotes an entire chapter to “The Mitzvah of Onah,” as most of the literature in
English does, it avoid using clinical
terms in describing marital intimacy.
Many would benefit from explicit instructions within the framework of
their chasson and kallah classes.
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