Knife under pillow

So I am on a few Jewish message boards and am currently following a thread about mikvah. One woman posted that she goes to mikvah sometimes when her travelling husband is out of town. A discussion ensued that had one poster telling her it was assur (forbidden) to go to the mikvah when her husband was out of town, and another saying it wasn’t assur just not advisable. Yet a third said that if she goes, she needs to either sleep with a knife under her pillow, or wearing some of her husband’s clothes – eg socks. I am guessing that this is of kabbalistic origin.

Do any of my JewCrew have any insight onto this custom? I have never heard of it before!

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35 responses to “Knife under pillow

  1. No, but I am listening!

  2. Well, if the immersion will take place and dh is not with the wife (ie, one or the other is out of town) there is an opinion that one may delay Mikveh. The knife part I have never heard of!

    Here’s a link!

    • Rachel Ann – I love the yoatzot site. Always informative. Still researching the knife thing. apparently it has something to do with keeping away the sheidim (how would one even translate that?)….

  3. I have heard of the knife thing, not sure what the source is, but it’s supposedly to scare away the sheidim (demons) who might try to take the woman while she is at her most holy and pure… at least that is the way I heard it! 😉

  4. Ok, a little history.

    In the time of the Bet Hamikdash, many people were tahor, and this was a goal as it was a necessary step in access to the Bet Mamikdash, truma, etc…

    At the time, Mikve was seen as rendering one tahor for all things, including relations with one’s husband, which was one of many factors, but not *THE* reason for immersion. As such, even unmarried menstruants always went to the Mikve.

    Since the destruction of the temple, all people are tamei, and there is no ritual reason to be tahor (Nor can we be without the para aduma).

    As a result of that development (and some would argue the effects of Asheknaz tradition evolving in Christian countries who view sex through the theology of original sin), the sole purpose of mikve became seen as to permit a woman to her husband.

    The tradition of secrecy around seeing someone at the mikvah originated here. In the time of the beit hamikdash, bringing a korban would act as the same announcement, and there is no evidence that anyone was too “frum” to give a korban because of tzniyut.

    Similarly, post-talmudic sources (Specifically zohar) were concerned that a woman who went to the mikveh before her husband’s return to town is suspect of adultery as there is non tum’ah/tahara reason for her “early” immersion.

    The Zohar therefor requires that a women wait for her husband to return to immerse in the mikveh. This has become a common custom, though it is not binding.

    However, in many cases a husband may be returning before the next nightfall. According to all a women is allowed to immerse in such a case.

    The Zohar, quoted by R” Eider as current halakha, though this is the minority opinion, states that in such a case, a women should keep a sharp object by her bedside or under her pillow “to ward of Sheidim (spirits or ghosts) who may come to rape her should she be tahor & unprotected by the presence of her husband overnight.”

    The zohar requires the same should a husband go out of town between a women’s normal immersion and the onset of her period. Most modern poskim do not require this. (SA, RMA, Ig Moshe, etc…)

  5. Indeed it’s done to scare off the Shin Daleds . . . not sure the particulars of how it does that – then again I’m not sure of the particulars of anything connected with a Shin Daled.
    A woman after mikvah is considered to be in heightened spiritual state – which is why she’s careful to look at mikvah lady the first thing she gets out, to avoid looking at dogs and such. This seems to be a continuation of that line of thought.

    • no one told me that i had to look at the mikvah lady. what would happen if i first looked at a dog? I am not poking fun, I am curious? is it in the same vein as pregnant women shouldn’t look at something ugly so that it doesn’t affect the baby?

  6. I can’t help you with the source either.
    But I *was* in a similar situation myself when I first heard this.
    I was travelling out of the country without my husband and I wanted to go to the mikvah BEFORE I got home so that I could give my husband a nice big hug when I got off the plane ;).
    I was advised that I was to wait until the last possible night to go and then sleep with a knife under my pillow. This creeped me out a bit and I was offered an alternate solution of sleeping with a young child in the room.
    I can’t help you with the source though….

  7. shualah elisheva

    i have heard all the rules regarding at what a woman should look upon leaving the mikveh, though i have to say that my dog is one of the most loyal, sweetest creatures on the planet, and if i could emulate him, i’d be a better person for it.

    that said – i understand the reasoning.

    NEVER heard the knife thing, though it makes sense from a kabbalistic/dybbuk/shin daled stand.point.

    to be honest: it makes a LOT of sense in the “woman sleeping alone in her home” sense, too. pepper spray, anyone? i wonder if mace works on a shin daled…

  8. I had to add this in. @isaacson tweeted the following : @hsabomilner anyone who has that mikvah minhag is going to scare the crap outta the tooth fairy!

    really made me snortle!!

  9. Noah Roth:

    Going to the source means looking up the Shulchan Aruch, and to an Orthodox Jew it is binding. [no need to sound like an academic when responding simple inquires]

    Both keeping the time of Mikva as a secret and to meet a clean being before meeting a dog or a cat after the Mikva are simple halachos Shulchan Aruch found in the Remah’s last words in siman 198. see link below and the great Gaon of Vilnah as usual, cites “Talmudic” sources for both halachos

  10. lady lock and load

    Anyone who has the custom of placing a knife under the pillow should put the knife in a special protective sheath. Knives get me nervous.

  11. I am not trying to be a wiseguy here (unusual, but still.) Is the knife going to scare off a demon or symbolically warn him off? Could one, in modern times, be in the tradition of putting a gun under their pillow?

    • lady lock and load

      GUN?? Too dangerous! Just eat a can of beans before going to bed, that should ward off all intruders….LOL! 🙂

  12. How can Sheidim be attacked with a knife? They are immaterial, so a knife would not harm them.

    If it was really about shedim, they should try garlick, or what do I know.

    I think “shedim” is a euphemism of kosher, frum men who would like to rape her.

    If they were not kosher and frum, they would not bother about the Mikwah….

  13. But if you want my advice: refrain from taking a knife to your bed, you could harm yourself.

    And even if a woman tries to protect herself against rape with a knife, it is not sure that it cannot be taken away and turned against her.

    Conclusion: Forget about the knife….

  14. my friend who isn’t Jewish, sleeps with a knife under her pillow when her husband is away on business. 🙂

  15. i heard plastic knife is okay (safer!)

  16. ok I get that it is done, but what is the symbolism of the knife?

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