Secret Code

In writing the last piece it occurred to me to ask whether anyone told you about the mikvah code of silence, or you just assumed that was the way it needed to be.

What’s the mikvah code of silence? If you see someone you know there, you don’t mention it to anyone afterwards. If you sit in the waiting room and chit chat while you wait your turn, you cannot talk about it to anyone. If you meet someone new – you can’t tell your husband that you made a new friend. If you recognize the license plates – keep shtum. If you hear some OMG IT’S SO AMAZING news that you want to rush and tell your hubby – you can’t without revealing your source.  (just an aside, as I am typing this the word “Omerta” keeps flashing through my head….)

We are taught that the mitzvah of mikvah is deeply personal and private. It’s a mitzvah that transitions us from a state of niddah (ritual impurity) to a state of holiness. From being unable to be with one’s husband, to full steam ahead…. It’s no one’s business when we go, when we have our period, when we don’t, no one checks up on your counting, to see if you are counting the days right – it’s a deeply personal mitzvah that is entrusted just to us women.

I know there are some people that bring friends / female family with them to the mikvah, that it is not a big secret, some people even tell their older kids. I don’t get that. The hard thing, sometimes, though is getting out of the house and giving a plausible explanation to where you are going. I have boys so they are mostly clueless. “Going to see a friend” usually does the trick.

I like knowing that this mitzvah is being kept by me and my KoD, that no one else but God and the mikvah lady needs to know about it. In this day and age so much is publicized. We update our facebook and twitter with where we are, what we are doing and pictures of the food we just ate. I am a serial updater – social networking was made for me, but my going to the mikvah has no place being advertised to all and sundry.

Because I expect others I bump into at the mikvah to keep their mouths shut, I do the same. It’s reciprocal without it needing to have been spoken. Am I alone in this, or is this resonating with you?

[other mikvah posts – Dip n Dunk, Still Waters)

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34 responses to “Secret Code

  1. Same. I keep it quiet when I see someone I know in the mikvah or even someone’s car in the parking lot. However, there was a time two months in a row when I was there I ran into my SIL. The first time, we waved at each other. The second time, I saw her van in the parking lot. A few weeks later, I told my husband that I had ran into her twice in a row. (was that bad?)

  2. I learn it from two sources- YOU and my Kallah teacher.

    It seems very basic to me.

  3. “We are taught that the mitzvah of mikvah is deeply personal and private.”

    perhaps the actual dipping. but who says the niddah status was personal and private? to the contrary.

  4. Lady Lock and Load

    It is not tzanuah for a woman’s mikvah time to be known to anyone except her husband. It takes away from it’s holiness. I once read that just like precious diamonds and jewlery is guarded and not stored in an open place, a woman (and private mikveh information) should stay hidden and in a private, special place. Part of me feels like I am doing something wrong posting here, even though I am not posting under my real name, but I feel I have something of worth to contribute to the conversation.

    • i totally agree with you – totally private adn special. and post away and continue to contribute. I love having you here.

  5. Lady Lock and Load

    I love to contribute, just felt not right for me to be writing about mikveh, but I guess it’s really okay. Just feels so strange for me!

    • when i first wrote about the topic of mikvah i got a lot of flak for discussing a taboo subject. My argument was that its isnt taboo, its private, and there is a difference. Taharat HaMispacha is an awesome mitzvah, but a private one. but all women need to see the positives of it. if we don’t talk about it, how can we pass on the fulfilling nature of this mitzvah? i never talk about when or private intimate details. I am about educating and learning, not having salacious discussions.

  6. The rebbetzin who taught my kallah class mentioned this explicitly.

    One evening I ran into a woman [who knew both me and my husband] at the mikveh … she excitedly told me that her son was engaged. I gave her a mazal tov and then I said, “Oh, and I can’t even tell my husband because he would figure out that I saw you here!”

  7. I lie to my husband about Shabbos invites all the time. I claim the ladies call my cell phone (he never looks at my cell phone). Everytime I go to mikvah I run into someone who says “want to come for a Shabbos meal”? I love living in a smaller community. 🙂

  8. I guess the Mikveh in Monsey is so large (or I know so few people) that in 10 years I think I saw someone I knew at the Mikveh once.

    Although when I lived on the West Side I ran into people I knew all the time – even single, never been married ones – so there is truth to that story as well.

    • i had really hoped that was an urban myth. Guess not. Did the singles at least have the decency to be embarrassed?

  9. I agree with LOZ. It has become private over the years, but only because the relevance of being a nida is so limited nowadays to only being between a man and wife. It used to be it was relevant for everyone around – everyone had to know when a woman was a nida, as they had to take precautions regarding tumah and tahara.
    The shulchan aruch (and gemara) describe how women wore special clothes when they were a nida so they could be easily identifiable for someone who needed to be careful of not becoming tamei.

    since tumah became largely irrelevant, nida became a mostly private issue.

    But that is not the way nida was meant to be.

    • Yes, but nidah today is *completely* different from how nidah was in those days. (V’ein kan makom leha’arich.)

      Besides, today it’s not the woman’s nidah status that’s private. It’s the mikvah night that’s private.

  10. Well, maybe it’s different in Israel, because I’ve refused Shabbat meal invitations from close friends and have told them that mikveh was the reason, or have called a friend frantically looking for another mikveh because the one I got to was closed.

    And I’m sure many of you will find this,hmm, odd, but I’ve even gone to the mikveh with my mother (because both of us had to go, not for my wedding).

    Dunno, it’s a regular part of life. Where else are all the babies supposed to come from?

  11. Lady Lock and Load

    Are you sefardic, Abbi? In my mind it is not necessary to decline a shabbat invitation, telling them it is due to mikveh. a billion excuses can be made…not feeling well, too tired, etc. etc. It’s noone’s beeswax what you are doing that night!
    The mikveh was closed and you are frantically looking for another place, well that is an emergency and that’s a different matter.
    I have plenty of friends in Israel and mikveh is treated by them in a very private manner.

  12. i have often wondered whether it was more embarrassing to meet a one of my children’s teachers, someone who works in a shop or one of my husband’s congregants at the mikve. I’m usually quite pleased to see congregants there, because it’s good to know they go! Also good to meet women who i taught the halachos to.

  13. Lady Lock and Load

    I feel funny meeting the mikvah ladies in the grocery. don’t know why.

  14. Interesting post. I think that generally I agree with Hadassah, that its a private matter.

  15. I hate how Israeli company cars usually have the logo printed on the side – it means that everyone knows who’s at the mikveh when they drive past and see the parked cars – it would be great if every mikveh had a closed car park beside it.
    Also there is a bus stop opposite the entrance to our local mikveh, and guaranteed a bus full of local people will arrive at the bus stop the minute I arrive/leave, it’s very embarresing.

    • i never even thought of that – the company logo…

      even if we try to be private, sometimes that choice is taken away from us. doesn’t seem fair.

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