I was recently asked about a supposedly Jewish “custom” of a girl being slapped across her face by her mother upon getting her first menstrual period. After “reddening” her daughter’s cheeks, the mother blesses her with fertility while warning against extramarital sex. Since she has now reached sexual maturity by “becoming a woman,” the thinking goes, she is taught that sexuality is sinful or immoral.

To be honest, I had never heard of this “custom” andI was shocked by how many online commentators thought this came from Jewish teachings was actually shocked by how many online commentators thought this came from Jewish teachings. For the record, this “menstrual slap” is not a Jewish custom. It seems to originate from non-Jewish cultures that viewed women as evil or sinful, which couldn’t be further from the Torah’s perspective.

The Torah calls the first woman Chava, from the root word chai, meaning “life,” since she is the mother of all life. Whether she merits to have physical children or not, the archetype of a woman is one who nourishes the physical, spiritual and emotional growth of those around her.

The Kabbalists describe women as a physical expression of the Shechina—the nurturing, comforting Divine Presence accompanying us even in the darkest exile:

Before a man is married, obviously the Shechinah is not with him at all, since the principal element that draws the Shechinah to a person is the feminine element. In fact, each man stands between two females: The corporeal woman below to whom he must provide food, clothing and affection. And the Shechinah which stands over him to bless him … 1

The wife completes her husband and connects him to his spiritual source. While some religions view sexuality as a weakness of man, a necessary evil that is dirty or undesirable, sex within the framework of a Jewish marriage is not only encouraged, but considered holy and sanctified.

The Hebrew word for “love,” ahavah, is numerically equivalent to echad, meaning “one.” The sum of both words totals 26, the numerical equivalent for G‑d’s quintessential Name, the Tetragrammaton. A couple’s love expresses the oneness reflective of their essential unity, and when the two join together in love and physical intimacy, they have the potential to draw down G‑d’s presence.2

Where there is no union of male and female, man is not worthy of beholding the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.3

Interestingly, the Holy of Holies in the Temple is referred to as Cheder Hamitot,”4 or “bedroom chamber,” emphasizing the metaphorical relationship between G‑d and His people as that of bride and groom. This shows the hallowed regard that Judaism attributes to the intimate union of husband and wife, being that the Holy of Holies is referred to as the master bedroom!

The laws of Taharat Hamishpacha or “family purity,” also demonstrate the holiness of the physical union between man and woman.

Briefly stated, the lawsEven the most powerful of physical drives can be touched with holiness stipulate that a husband and wife refrain from physical contact from the onset of the wife’s menstrual period, with a minimum of five days, plus seven days thereafter. After the woman immerses in the mikvah, or ritual Jewish bath, they resume relations and experience renewed excitement and intimacy within their marriage.

These laws show us that even the most powerful of physical drives can be touched with a code of holiness. The physical flesh does not carry a tinge of contempt, but rather becomes refined, so it, too, can be vested with the spiritual.

By following these laws, the Holy of Holies not only resembles the bedroom chamber, but one’s very own bedroom becomes the Holy of Holies.

With that in mind, it goes without saying that reaching puberty is not something that warrants a slap, shaming or the like. It is a sacred moment—the induction into the wonderful world of Jewish womanhood, and the portal to a new stage of spiritual fulfillment and joy.