There really is an app for everything. I know that’s been said before but now it’s finally true. Meet “Tahor,” (Hebrew for “pure”) the app that allows you to send pictures of your menstrual blood to a rabbi for inspection.
Why, you might be wondering, would this be something you’d even want to be able to do? Well, like every other app ever invented, this is about having sex.
Orthodox Jewish couples are not supposed to engage in “period sex.” Practically, this means they abstain from having sex while a woman is menstruating, but uterine bleeding due to certain other causes such as hormonal contraception can also be a reason to abstain.
After a woman believes her period to be over, she is supposed to count an additional seven “clean” days, at which point she can go to the ritual bath and immerse herself so she is “pure” and can start having sex with her husband again.
But if there is any staining during the clean days, she might have to start counting all over again.
Sometimes, a woman may not know what to make of the stain, so she can send the cloth to a rabbi (sometimes via her husband) to inspect it. The rabbi, judging by the color and other factors will rule whether or not the counting needs to start anew. (There are other reasons and times you might need to get a stain inspected but I’m not going to give you the whole bloody list.)
With Tahor, you can cut out the middle man (the husband). The app allows you to choose your rabbi from an exhaustive menu of a few different kinds of Orthodox rabbis and then hit “send” to find out if the blood you’re seeing is uterine or not, because who better than a male rabbi with an iPhone to tell you about your menstrual cycle? (If male Congressmen can unilaterally decide matters of birth control, why not this?)
In many ways, this does seem like it could be an improvement for Orthodox women, allowing them direct and anonymous access to a rabbi. It’s also way more convenient, especially for a woman who is traveling and can’t swing by a rabbi’s office to drop off a stained cloth or pair of underwear.
(While I grew up in the Orthodox community, I never learned these rules in great detail when I was in school. Young women typically aren’t taught the specifics until right before they get married in a special “bride” class. However, a high school teacher did take us on a tour of a ritual bath. This visit constituted the majority of our sex ed.)
And as with most things intended to make life less onerous for Orthodox Jews—especially women—there is already controversy. One rabbi is calling for it to be banned, arguing that he might not be able to parse the exact color or texture of the stain with a fancy iPhone photo.
So: No Valencia filters on your menstrual stain photos. Also, don’t get too artsy with the camera angles. This isn’t for your MFA thesis or your Instagram feed.
And here’s hoping that the app makers take web encryption and security seriously.