Excellent video explanation on the whys and wherefores of mikvah. Awesome job Jew In The City!
Glad to have been a (small) part of this project!
Excellent video explanation on the whys and wherefores of mikvah. Awesome job Jew In The City!
Glad to have been a (small) part of this project!
This article “let single women immerse in mikvah” discusses whether all Israeli mikvahs should allow ANY woman, regardless of marital status, to immerse herself in the holy waters. This all came about because of a divorcee being require to show proof of marriage in order to use the mikvah. One can only assume she had her own reasons for wanting to go – let’s not judge her. (Read the article for more details on the mikvah issue)
Now, we have discussed mikvah many times on this blog and it’s always a lively discussion. I have never been asked to show proof of marriage or Jewishness when going to the mikvah. I know there are some who have, and I find that abhorrent.
If a woman wishes to purify herself – whatever her reasons – shouldn’t she be allowed to do so without having to face an inquisition? But then again, if there is a blanket permission for any woman to use the mikvah, are the rabbis condoning its use by single women who are engaging in premarital sex?
I know many women – not necessarily Orthodox – use the mikvah for commemoration of lifecycle events. Once they have been healed from sickness, after the death of a parent etc. Truly, going to the mikvah after my recent surgery was a deeper spiritual experience than usual.
What do you think? Is it ok to be asked for proof of marriage when entering the mikvah? Or is it out of line?
We took a selection of kids to Chuck E Cheese yesterday to play on the machines. Don’t get me started on the appropriate-ness of it all – I already discussed that over here.
When you go in they stamp your hand with an ultraviolet number, the same number as everyone in your group, so that you don’t leave with someone else’s child. Anyhow. If you cannot see the number that is stamped on your hand, is it a chatzitzah or not? Do you have to attempt to scrub it off if you are preparing to immerse on the same day as you got stamped? Do you have to invest in an ultra violet light reader to see if indeed you were able to remove the stamp?
This is actually a serious question. It went through my mind yesterday as I was mindlessly tailing our 8 year olds through the place….
So there was a huge snow storm here this week. I got this email today:
….I heard that women who needed to go to the mikveh Sunday night [during the storm] called up Hatzolah and told them they needed to “go to work at the mikveh” (mikveh lady). So one of the Hatzolah guys said “Hey, there are like THIRTY mikveh ladies working tonight!!”
I dunno – the wind was howling and there was zero visibility – I probably would have waited till Monday night to immerse. I don’t think it was worth calling Hatzolah OR putting your life in such danger. And what is with the lying? I understand they wanted to be modest and not say they had to immerse that night, but please…
What do you think?
The mikvah is a necessary part of a religious married woman’s life. I must admit to loving the whole idea of ritual purification, of being spiritually cleansed so that I can “be” with my spouse on many different levels – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I appreciate the time I have to look within myself, to “fix” that which I believe needs “fixing”. To have some time for introspection. When Elul comes around, with Rosh Hashannah close by, we all are more or less shocked into similar introspection. Suddenly we have a year’s worth of self examination to fit into a month or less. I like to do this at least monthly (weekly or even daily introspection is great, but with a busy home life it is difficult to do), and my mikvah preparation time is set aside for physical and spiritual cleansing.
Since returning 18 months ago to the state of holy matrimony, I once again have the privilege of using the mikvah. I now bring a different mindset to the whole thing. Marriage takes on a different meaning once you have experienced the pain of divorce. Some people never recover enough to be able to trust again; I was so worried that I would be one of them. But once my new husband entered my life, he enabled me to trust again, he inspired me to be both a better person and a better Jewess. He renewed my faith not just in men, but in myself.
When I prepared for the mikvah before my wedding it was a true celebration – not only was I cleansing my body and soul in preparation for my marriage, but I also was renewing my sacred bond with the One Above, washing away the anguish, the sadness and the raw pain of the years that intervened between my last immersion and this one. I was always taught that the waters of the mikvah aren’t there to wash away dirt – for we are physically clean before we enter it – but that they are there to wash away spiritual impurity.
That night, the water awaited me, its surface still, like a sheet of ice, belying the warmth in the room. I had spent the last hour in mental and physical preparation for this moment. I was ready, in my body and spirit, to be renewed. My face and body were scrubbed clean, my long hair combed and knot free. I was without makeup, and had shed my tailored clothing – my personal truth revealed in my near-nakedness. My soul was ready – it was eager to be refreshed.
I knew that the next day I would bring myself to the chuppah, to pledge my undying love and devotion to the man of my dreams. This step was one of many to be completed before the wedding, but it was the most important one to me.
The attendant handed me a prayer that brides have said since time immemorial. As I recited it, I felt their bond, their sisterhood; I felt their arms around me, their wishes for a life of happiness and joy, love, and laughter.
It was time for me to immerse. The attendant turned away so that I could modestly remove my robe and descend the steps into the sacred waters. I allowed my mind to slip into a contemplative mode, and I felt the cool water lap against my shins as I slowly descended into the depths. Once I was in the water up to my neck the attendant turned to me, keeping her eyes on my face, wanting to spare me any feelings of embarrassment.
She nodded to me, silently communicating that it was time to start the immersion. All that I had learned weeks before in my kallah classes came flooding back to me. I briefly panicked that I wouldn’t perform the mitzvah correctly, even though I had performed it so many times before. Calm suddenly descended, and I felt my body suffused with confidence and otherworldly light. My soul, my very old soul that was at Mount Sinai, steered me in the right direction, as it has always done before.
I moved my body forward, diving gracefully into the water. The water rose up to close over my head as I quickly caught my breath. I remembered not to tense my body but to allow every part of me to be caressed by the blessed waters, to allow this water to cleanse and purify my spirit, to ready me for the journey of a thousand lifetimes.
I surfaced and recited the blessing – I heard my sisters around the world answer “Amen.” I immersed two more times, each time feeling layers and layers of doubt and uncertainty lift from me. As I entered into the elevated state of purity, I felt cleansed from my past transgressions and energized to fill the future with everything that is good and just in the world.
I floated out of the ritual bath on the wings of angels who the next day accompanied me to the chuppah, to the start of my new beginning.
This post is part of Jewels of Elul, which celebrates the Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days of the month of Elul to growth and discovery in preparation for the coming high holy days. This year the program is benefiting Beit T’shuvah, a residential addiction treatment center in Los Angeles. You can subscribe on Jewels of Elul to receive inspirational reflections from public figures each day of the month. You don’t have to be on the blog tour to write a blog post on “The Art of Beginning… Again”. We invite everyone to post this month (August 11th – September 8th) with Jewels of Elul to grow and learn.
Ever hear of a practice/minhag/shtick of not talking after mikvah until she gets home to husband?
I assume it’s a spinoff of sorts from the very real issue of seeing/greeting a nonkosher person. But what do you think of this practice of taking it to the next step of not talking, not to the mikvah lady, not to anyone in the waiting room or parking lots, not to the kids? I assume it’s to focus on the task at hand, so to speak.
Good practice? Laudable? Dumb? Worthy of others but not for you in your situation? An ideal? Over the top? Impractical? Nice?
Is this good for shelom bayit? indifferent?
I personally have never heard of this before. Thoughts?
I often wondered why the local mikvah has candy in a bowl near the exit. I thought perhaps it was just so you can have a sweet taste after doing a great mitzvah – the icing on the cake if you will.
Apparently there might be something more to it. Before a woman immerses herself in the holy waters one of the cleansing processes is to brush and floss her teeth very well, making sure that there is nothing stuck in between any of the teeth.
Many a time it has happened that a woman will have come home from mikvah and felt something loosen from between her teeth, which could possibly invalidate her immersion. (ask your CLOR). If she has eaten something after immersing but before getting home – and she feels that loosening of in between the teeth stuff – she can blame it on the food she ate after immersion.
There are some rabbis, so I have read, who even recommend to their congregants, that they should eat something on the way home from mikvah, if this type of incident happens more than once.
The mikvah here in Monsey has chewy candies by the exit, NOW it makes sense. I just thought they were being sweet.
I have written before about the Monsey mikvah and how skeevy I felt the first time I went there. This was how I put it:
What I wasn’t ready for was the mikvah lady to be intrusive and to check my nails so thoroughly. She came into the room, sat down, and like a manicurist, took out her clippers and cuticle remover thingummy and inspected my nails for minute traces of dirt, cuticles and polish. She did the same with my toenails. I felt weird. I know how to prepare for mikvah, I always do it properly. I don’t need some woman that I have never met before going over me with such a fine toothcomb. This mitzvah is between me and God. He has trusted me with the mitzvah of Taharat HaMishpacha – I don’t need some shnook of a woman telling me I am not doing it properly.
It seems that every time I have returned to the Viola mikvah, it has been the same story. Apparently their policy is to check the fingernails and toenails, even if you politely ask them not to. The balaniot (mikvah ladies) were gruff and abrupt – they totally hindered my enjoyment of the fulfillment of this mitzvah.
After the last time I went there I told the KoD that I needed to find another mikvah to go to. There was no way I was ever going back to the Viola mikvah. I felt that the balaniot had gone out of their way to make me uncomfortable – I am not a recalcitrant child who needs to be bullied into submission. They did NOT actually bully me, but that’s how I felt. My experiences at this mikvah took away from the joy I used to feel at keeping this mitzvah. When mikvah time was coming up again I didn’t want to go. Honestly. I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that it was going to be uncomfortable and I would rather stay home with a good book than subject myself to someone else’s fine toothcomb.
There are other mikvaot in Monsey, but the Viola one is close-by and gorgeous. KoD convinced me to try it out one more time. I tried explaining to him what it’s like to be standing there and have another woman, one much more clothed than you, examining you and your body for irregularities. Yes it’s only the fingernails and toenails, but still, it’s invasive. I don’t mind the checking for hairs so much – that’s something I need help with. The rest of the checking makes me uncomfortable. I didn’t know how to put it in terms that the KoD would be able to relate to, but he boiled it down to this – it’s only 2 minutes of your time – grit your teeth and bear it, if you can, otherwise speak up and tell them you’re OK, you don’t need to be checked. Somehow speaking up in this situation seems tougher than it sounds. Sigh.
I promised him I would give this particular mikvah one last shot, even though I really didn’t want to. On the appointed evening I prepared myself at home – I wanted to be at the mikvah for as little time as possible.
I drove there, and sat in the parking lot. My evil inclination was arguing with me. I really didn’t want to go in. I really didn’t want to subject myself to inspection. I just wanted to be done with the whole thing. Sitting there in the car a little voice was telling me – “KoD won’t know. Just pretend you went. Your hair is wet – how will he know the difference?” That voice was making it sound just so simple. There was a problem – I didn’t want to go in, and there was a solution – so don’t.
I sat there for 3 minutes in the parking lot debating with myself. It took tremendous strength of will for me to get out of the car and walk into the mikvah, pay my $23 and go do the final preparations. As I was getting ready to press the button to summon the balanit, I felt so uneasy. I so wanted to enjoy this experience yet I felt dread in the pit of my stomach.
The aura around the balanit that arrived at my door was different than those of her coworkers that have attended me before. She just seemed to be of a much nicer disposition. Cheerful. Chatty. Non-intrusive. Yes, she checked my nails, but somehow I didn’t mind it quite so much (that plus the fact that I have gel nails, so there is less to check). The toenail thing bothered me, but she was brief – not like the others taking time and cutting stuff that wasn’t there….
She walked with me, instead of ahead of me, to the mikvah, chatting all the way, really putting me at my ease. She gave me privacy to remove my robe and descend into the ritual waters. Every time I dunked and raised my head out of the water, she sang out “KOSHER” – with such joy! Seriously. Like she was happy to be part of my mitzvah. She helped rekindle the inner light I used to have when doing this mitzvah. As she walked me back to the preparation room, she was playing Jewish geography with me, after I told her we are from Montreal. Playing Jewish geography without sharing one’s name is a little different, to be sure.
I was glad that I overcame that momentary temptation to not go in to the mikvah. I am still upset that I felt that unenthusiastic about the whole experience. I know that there must be some women who would have taken those negative feelings and just stopped going. The KoD trusts me 100% to fulfill this mitzvah. He trusts that when I go to the mikvah, I do it properly. How could I not have gone in? How could I have lied to him after not going in? I know there are women that do that, but how can they live with themselves? What is the point of Taharat HaMishpacha if you aren’t going to keep it properly? I have heard some women say that if a husband sleeps with his impurified wife it’s his aveirah (sin), not hers. But the decision between right and wrong is taken away from a husband who is not aware that his wife has lied about her immersion in a mikvah. Yes, fine, the wife technically does not commit the same aveirah (if indeed this assumption is true) but she has sinned by lying to him. There is no place for lying in a marriage. None at all.
The KoD knew how I struggled with the mitzvah of tevilah on this particular occasion. But he encouraged me and supported me, validated my feelings, and eventually it worked out well. I returned to my husband’s embrace knowing I completed the mitzvah in the right way.
This is a message from a fellow bloggista, over at RedefiningRebbetzin.
I am working with a Modern Orthodox Rabbi from New Mexico on exposing the reality women face when observing Mikvah. We are trying to gather more personal stories of women who have been questioned about their Jewish-ness or need to immerse, either when making an appointment or upon arrival or any other difficulties women have been presented with. His peers have been outraged to hear the stories which have come forth so far, but there are few women who have shared their personal stories to date which makes it appear potentially less wide spread.
So I ask you to take a moment to reflect on your own experiences. Has anyone ever made you feel uncomfortable about your mikvah observance? Do you have a friend who has ever shared that she had a difficult experience? It only takes one experience to make a story with sharing, as one negative experience could be the difference in someone’s observance of the mitzvah. Please spread the word to those who may be able to share as well. We promise all stories will remain completely confidential and names will not go beyond my inbox.
We are on the verge of making some changes, and cannot do it alone.
Please send an email in the strictest of confidence to: Melissa at redefiningrebbetzin dot com. Alternately you can email me at inthepinkblog at gmail dot com.