How To Ask A Shaila

How To Ask A Shaila

The Rav: 

The goal of every Rav is to allow a couple to be together. Torah does not want couples to be apart, but to be together beTaharah.

The Gemara teaches that Dovid Hamelech, despite the obviously enormous role of king, would stop to answer Niddah shaalos so a woman would be permitted to her husband. 

Every Rav has Siyata Dishmaya. Hashem stands behind him when he is asked a shaalah. 

A Rav is like an umbrella, you need to own an umbrella, but you only need to use it when it rains. Similarly, you need to have a Rav to whom you can reach out when you have a matter to discuss. If things are quiet, and there’s no specific issue, that’s fine, as long as you have the Rav, and know whom to call when needed.. 

Rabbanim can be compared to doctors, there are specialists in each area of Halacha. You can technically Google your symptoms and diagnose yourself but that’s not reliable and could be rather dangerous. The same applies to Halacha, you can Google your shaalah but the answer isn’t reliable and may even be detrimental.  

Relationship with Rav:

It is important  to never, ever be embarrassed to ask a Shaalah to a Rav. Just as Torah does not shy away from discussing the topics of Taharas Hamishpacha and intimacy, we, too, should never feel anything is too private or sensitive, to discuss with our Rav. 

Your Rav needs to be someone with whom you are comfortable. Find a Rav with whom you can speak openly, of intimate matters.. Just as you would switch doctors if you are uncomfortable with your current physician, you may switch to a different Rav with whom you are most comfortable. 

Even though you may feel uncomfortable with some of the questions you need to ask, due to their sensitive nature, never hesitate to speak with the rav, or call him back,  if you feel that the Rav answered you without fully understanding your question. You may need to share more details/information and ask for clarification, in order to get the proper answer. If you are nervous, and afraid you might forget every detail, write everything down before you call so that you feel confident. 

If you are too uncomfortable to call the Rav yourself, and your husband is calling, it is best if you are present so you can correct your husband in case he makes a mistake in the details. If that’s not possible, go over every detail together and have your husband repeat it back to you so that you can ensure that the Rav is receiving the correct information.   

While you may be more comfortable remaining anonymous when speaking with the Rav, and you are not required to give your name, it may be to your benefit to do so. If you share your name, the Rav can make the connection between all your different shaalos and your personal situation. The Rav can give an answer that’s more holistic and tailored to you. You, yourself, may sometimes prefer that the Rav knows you and has a relationship with you, so that he can answer on a more personal level. In addition, if the Rav notices a pattern, he may be able to alert you to a potential medical issue. 

Reaching the Rav: 

Taharas Hamishpacha is at the level of Pikuach Nefesh and is a high priority to every Rav. It impacts the entire future of Klal Yisroel. 

Every community, and every Rav, has a different dynamic. In larger communities the Rav may not have the luxury of staying on the phone for a while and calling to find out how everything worked out. It doesn’t mean he cares less, it means he’s limited in how much time he has available. If you require more time from the Rav, set up an appointment so that time can be given appropriately, as per your needs. 

People often complain that they cannot reach the Rav. Usually, that is because the Rav is serving many people. He is not ignoring you. Discuss with your Rav the best way to reach him. It is important to realize that there are times when the Rav may be exceptionally busy, e.g. right before Shabbos or Yomim Tovim, etc. so anything that can be asked earlier, should be done so and not be left to the last minute. 

Every Rav has a drop off and calling system, you need to make sure you know the system of your Rav so that you get your answers in an efficient way. Be sure you are clear on his address, his hours, his drop off system etc. It is also important to be sure the Rav is in town and available, prior to dropping off a shaala.

There are situations where you may not get an answer for a technical reason. Perhaps the phone number was not written clearly, maybe a number was omitted, or your voicemail mailbox was full, or you were out of range when the Rav called, etc. If you don’t hear back, reach out. Don’t hesitate to call and make sure the Rav received your shaala. 

While WhatsApp, and texting, are great tools for asking simple, black and white questions, they are not the correct venue for more complex shaalos. There are often nuances that cannot be clarified in this venue, and they require a phone call and/or personal conversation.  

Details for Asking the Shaalah and Shaalah Drop Off

Every shaala should be clearly marked. It should be noted if this is a Hefsek Taharah bedikah (first bedikah after the period, before sunset, to begin the taharah process), if this is Moch Dochuk (the cloth left inside until nightfall), or if it is a bedikah within the Sheva Nekiim. If, during the Sheva Nekiim, clearly state what day of the Sheva Nekiim it was performed. If this was a bedikah from a calendar date of separation, mark that clearly.  

When dropping off multiple shaalos, staple or tape the envelopes together so that the Rav knows that they are all from the same person. Make sure your phone number is legible. It’s a good idea to write the name of the Rav on the envelope, as well, so that there is no doubt to whom it is going. Be sure to write if you require an answer before shkiah. 

If it’s a mikvah night shaalah, write that on the envelope, boldly and clearly, so that you get an answer as soon as possible.  

Put every shaalah in its own envelope and mark each by number in the order they were performed. You may also write the number of the order directly on the bedika cloth in the corner (not in red pen) and note on the envelope how many bedikas are inside. Otherwise the Rav could open the envelope, take out one bedika and not notice that there are more. 

Be sure to write any, and all, details: are you pregnant, nursing, on hormones? Do you have any irritation, pain, or infections? Hemorrhoids? If on a garment/linens, anything else that the stain can be attributed to? Was the garment checked before wearing it? 

Damp cloths placed in plastic bags can get moldy and envelopes with blue security print can stain the shaalah. It is best to leave the shaalah in a safe, clean place to dry (not near cosmetics) and then place in a plain white envelope.  

Submit the shaalah as soon as possible so the color doesn’t change. If you see the color did change, let the Rav know. 

If you dropped off an undergarment/linens, specify in advance (write on the envelope) where you want it to be left for pick up. Specify if the garment may be thrown out.  

If undergarment was cut, specify what it is (if its a stain or bedikah), as that may change the Halacha. Also specify what part of the garment was worn to the front and the rear of your body.

There are times that medical terminology and Halachic terminology may not correspond. A stain according to Halacha is not on a bedika or toilet paper.  

If your doctor needs/wants to perform a gynecological medical procedure, it is important to call the Rav in advance to find out if this procedure can cause Niddah status, or have any further halachic implications. Get all of the information from your doctor and share the details as well as the name of the procedure and the tools that will be used, so the Rav will be able to determine if you are Niddah. The Rav may have to speak with the doctor if necessary. There will be times where there is blood that will not render you Niddah, and there may be times where there is no blood, but you will be Niddah nonetheless. It is vital to ask beforehand. 

If any gynecological procedure was performed in an emergency situation, get all the details of exactly what was done and present this information to the Rav so a psak can be given on your status.  

If you went through some kind of medical or dental procedure, or participated in anything else that may affect your ability to go to Mikvah because of a chatzitza, speak with your Rav beforehand. Do not leave it until the day of tevillah, or even until you are at the mikvah. What if you cannot reach a Rav? There are Sheva Nekiim, seven white, counting days, when these questions can be asked. Only last minute urgencies need to be asked at the last minute. 

Receiving the Psak:

If you ever feel that you need a kula (leniency) on a situation, or shaala, be sure to clarify this to the Rav BEFORE he gives his psak 

Make sure your voicemail is set up to receive messages.  This will be a big help in case you don’t have reception when the Rav calls.  

In your first couple years of marriage, ask every shaalah.  You can also ask, if this particular color is always a shaala or not.  

If you feel you did not remember the details of the Rav’s psak, or directions, never be ashamed to call him back for clarification. Write down the details carefully to ensure accuracy. 

If you submit a shaalah, and do not hear back from the Rav, never assume everything is fine. It is imperative to get an actual answer. There is never a situation where you can send in a shaalah and assume you can keep going without hearing back. The very fact that you submitted it means that there is a doubt. It is your responsibility to make sure you get an answer. You can never assume it is ok or not ok. Both assumptions are wrong. 

It’s never a good idea to take matters into your own hands. We can never decide to be machmir or maykil on our own. 

The general Halachic terms that you should know are Assur, Mutar, Chumrah and Heter, Lechatchilla and B’dieved. The Shulchan Aruch lays out the general rules, what is Assur, what is forbidden, and what is Mutar, what is permitted. A Heter is when a Rav gives a psak tailored to your particular circumstances and situation. In order to apply a heter to your situation, you need to have a Rav who understands all of your details. 

The heterim that you, or others receive, are specific to each situation. They should never be shared on social media and one may never apply a heter given according to one’s specific situation, to anyone else’s situation, no matter how exact the circumstances may appear to be. Asking for a heter on social media, or sharing a heter on social media, or anywhere else, is disrespecting the individuality and sanctity of your marriage and is against halacha. You need to get an answer that is specific to you.  

You should never apply the answer you received to one question at one time,  to another situation a different time. Every shaala needs to be asked on its own. If you showed one bedika and it was good, you still need to show the other bedika that you had a question on, you can’t assume the answer will be the same, even if the circumstances appear to be the same to you.

When you are told that a Shaalah you sent in is not good, the general rule is to count 5 days minimum, do hefsek taharah and then count Shiva Nekiim. If during Shiva Nekiim there is a bedika that is not good, you may make a new hefsek as soon as you can, you do not need to wait for an additional 5 day minimum.  

If ,after receiving the psak from the Rav, you decide you wish to be machmir, do not do so without speaking to the Rav first. Never decide this on your own. 

Any time you receive a psak of niddah,  it is important to ask if, and how, it should be marked onto your calendar.


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