A new debate is playing out in New York City’s Orthodox community over the halachic status of an online app designed for women who wish to better observe the religious prohibition on intimacy during menstruation.
The application, Tahor, allows for women to anonymously send photos of their bedikah cloths, used to check the vagina for blood before a woman can immerse in the ritual bath called a mikvah and resume sexual relations with their husbands, for rabbinic analysis.
“For the first time in history, women can anonymously send pictures of their Bedikah cloths to their Rabbi with a new app’s Rabbinically approved technology,” an article on Crownheights.info reported.
But some rabbis are objecting to the new app — one Chabad rabbi calling it a “great stumbling block” and calling for its immediate removal from the market.
“After discussing the matter … both within Chabad and outside Chabad, it is my opinion that such app may not be used,” Rabbi Sholom Shuchat of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the USA and Canada wrote in a public letter.
Shuchat believes to be that it would be difficult for a rabbi to determine whether a woman’s menstruation has truly ended from a cell phone photo and the cloth must be checked in person. Traditionally, a rabbi checks the cloth to confirm that a woman may start her seven “clean” days without bleeding. She then goes to the mikvah and can have sex again with her husband.
Shuchat wrote that he has seen “first-hand the difficulty” of making a determination from a photo.
Tahor’s developers responded point-by-point to Shuchat’s objections in a public response on Crownheights.info, and emphasized that the app was designed “only to help women who do not or cannot ask questions,” like a woman who is traveling.