Tag Archives: taharat hamishpacha

No talking after mikvah?

From Hashkafa.com

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?

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Mikvah Tales….

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.

Being Shomer Negiah

We have discussed this subject on the blog many times, but Chaviva just posted on her blog the most amazing personal account of her acceptance of this mitzvah –it is well worth a read. Modesty, Shomer Negiah and Me.

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Awesome Mikvah Video

To learn more about mikvah please click here. To learn more about Mikvah Chana – click here.

Friday Night Mikvah

I think going to mikvah on a Friday night (or a Yom Tov night) has to be the most difficult night to go. Especially if you have young children. Especially if you have older children. Whether it is right or wrong (and we have had this discussion a time or two) we don’t really want our children knowing when we are going to mikvah, when we are Niddah, when we are not. It just is not modest and not something to share with children.

On Friday night the time to dunk is usually around the time the men start to daven maariv in shul. When one has little kids, and needs to go, from what I have learned, it is incumbent on the husband to stay home from shul and watch his children while his wife performs this mitzvah. It’s easy when the children are small to tell them mommy has to go help a friend. But what do you tell them when they are teens and they notice that their father is not in shul and won’t buy the “friend” story? Or they come home from shul and they notice that mommy isn’t there?

I have heard a time or two that many women push off mikvah if it falls on Friday night. They will just go Saturday night instead. This bothers me so much. Yes it’s annoying to have to make arrangements to go on a Friday night, but the annoyance is far outweighed by the joy of being able to reunite with one’s husband – and on Shabbat too, a double mitzvah.

So, help me help other women – what works for you for Friday night mikvah? How do you manage to get it done without the children being any the wiser? What about if you are staying at friends for Shabbat, or if you have a simcha, or company staying with you? How have you managed it then? Do you think it’s fair to the husband to push off mikvah for a night, just for convenience sake?

Edited to Add (thanks MG) – what do you do when the mikvah is not within walking distance?

(inspired by IR)

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Mikvah Question

When women go to immerse, this dip in the holy waters is always observed by a balanit or mikvah attendant. I was taught that this woman has to be a female over the age of batmitzvah, preferably when she is not Niddah herself. Most balaniot these days have to complete some kind of study period, but that isn’t a halachic requirement as far as I am aware.

Can someone point me to the source of the halacha where it states that a woman’s monthly tevilah has to be observed? Or is it a chumra? What if there are women who for whatever reason are extremely anxious or uncomfortable being watched, especially when naked – if they were to immerse without a witness, would that render their tevilah invalid? I am wondering if it would indeed be possible for a woman with such a situation to get a heter to immerse alone?

What are your thoughts?

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My Mikvah, My Mitzvah

(Inspired in part by this article)

I am a married orthodox Jewish woman. I adhere to the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha – family purity. As a married orthodox Jewish woman, I am trusted by God and my husband to observe these laws in the ways I have been taught, the same laws that were taught to my mother and her mother and her mother etc.

I do not have to answer to anyone or prove my observance of this mitzvah. My husband trusts me to go to the mikvah at the appointed time, he trusts that I am performing the mitzvah correctly and wouldn’t dream of going through a pre-Mikvah checklist with me. (oh, I have heard of such situations, believe me). He knows my cycle, he knows when I am counting, he keeps track – it’s in his interest to do so – but never would he question my timing or my preparation.

This mitzvah is given to us women, it is our mitzvah. This is something so deep and personal, we generally do not share the intimate details of our observance of this mitzvah with even our closest friends.

So – by that token, if God trusts me to perform this mitzvah to the best of my ability, and my husband trusts me, why on earth would I allow anyone to tell me I am not doing it properly? Why on earth would someone else feel that they were able to judge my preparations or my acceptability to be toiveled?

If a woman has correctly calculated when she needs to go and immerse in order to be ritually purified, and she prepares for her immersion according to the way she has been taught, why can the balanit / mikvah lady decide that she hasn’t done a good enough job? How can she assume that the woman’s preparations are not up to the right standards? Is her word not good enough? Who gives the balanit that power?

My balanit checks my nails and for loose hairs on my back. I am ok with that. If I wanted her to check me more, she would. If I wanted her to check me less, she’d be ok with that too. She is awesome.

How dare anyone tell a woman she has too much dry skin on her elbows, or that her long nails render her tevilah invalid? How dare anyone forbid another woman from immersing because she cannot prove she is Jewish? (I cannot prove I am Jewish on mikvah night!! Who walks around with their ketubah?!) How dare a balanit walk away from the mikvah room, after refusing to watch a tevilah, due to her doubts as to whether the woman has prepared appropriately?

As far as I am aware balaniot are volunteers. They are not paid for their service. And the majority of them are awesome and giving people. They are there to help, not hinder. It’s the few that we hear of, like those in the disputed Ramat Beit Shemesh mikvah, that make this whole mikvah experience a nerve wracking experience for some.

Mikvah is a mitzvah that I enjoy performing. I have written before of the peace it brings me, the deep spiritual cleansing I feel after having immersed. The joy of being able to reunite with my husband on all levels. I would hate for my mikvah experience to take away from that.

Taharat Hamishpacha is not an easy mitzvah to keep. Without going into too much detail here it involves certain bodily awareness and counting of a specific number of days – you have to make sure you are immersing on the right night. In the not too distant past there were places where it involved a lot of co-ordination in order to get to a mikvah – hours away, in a far off town, sometimes at great risk. It’s indeed much easier to not bother with it. But we do, as we are religious Jews who have taken this mitzvah upon ourselves. If we are prepared to go toivel, we need to be welcomed. We need to be encouraged to continue to keep this mitzvah. We need to be able to make the most of our potentially deeply spiritual experience – not be worried that our tevilah will not be valid.

The more I blog about the subject of mikvah the more stories I hear of negative experiences. It breaks my heart. This is a mitzvah I do with my entire body and with my soul – there is no other mitzvah I can think of that encompasses that. There is no other mitzvah that brings me such profound spiritual fulfillment. We need to stand firm and embrace our mitzvah and not let anyone cheapen it or take away from its spiritual value.

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Mikvah Survey

How much does your local mikvah charge you?

Have you ever tipped the balanit / mikvah lady? How much? (I never heard of tipping the balanit until I read something about it this week. Kinda shocked!)

Between 1 to 5 (1 being awful and 5 being great) rate your average mikvah experience.

Have anything extra to add?

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Mikvah Question

I have been using the mikvah for the last 16 years (whoa, am I really that old??) apart from the few years when I was divorced. I thought I knew all there was to know. The more I read the more I find out there are customs I never heard of. Yesterday we talked about the knife under the pillow. Today I ask a different question. Apparently there is a custom that from the moment a woman immerses in the mikvah, after she comes out, until she has 3 items of clothing on, she is not to say a word other than the bracha (blessing) for the immersion. Is this a known custom? On what is it based? My mikvah lady is a chatterbox, and the conversation only stops when I am dunking, and I would think she would know about this inyan (matter).

Anyone?

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No Mikvah for You!

OK, I am really angry. This has been going around my head for days on end. My friend Shorty is an awesome person. She started becoming more and more observant and is invested into her Judaism. Read her personal story here. Shorty wants to learn all she can about the best way to embrace her religion.

When Shorty was not on her religious path she married a truly wonderful man. He is totally sweet and so good to her. He isn’t Jewish. At that point in her life marrying Jewish was not on her radar. By her own admission she lived very much of an assimilated life. Life-threatening surgery started her religious gears churning, and she has been on the path to more Jewish knowledge ever since.

Shorty’s husband is extremely supportive of her quest for Jewish enlightenment. He is her number one cheerleader and takes pride in her.

Recently Shorty started attending a class locally, with other Jewish women, about the laws of family purity – Taharat HaMishpacha. Traditionally, during menstruation and for a week after a woman is not physical with her husband, she immerses in the mikvah, and they can re-consummate their physical relationship. It truly is something special in a marriage and when this mitzvah is performed properly it brings added benefits to the marriage.

Shorty was told that because her husband isn’t Jewish, she really shouldn’t bother with the whole thing. It’s like saying a bracha (blessing) on non-kosher food. It’s wrong.

If she is told not to bother with this mitzvah, why should she bother with any of the others? Do they also not count because she is intermarried? Should she not bother keeping kosher because her husband isn’t Jewish? Should she not say brachot on kosher food because her husband isn’t Jewish? If she gets into the practice of keeping the laws of family purity, and immerses in a mikvah – how can that be wrong? Is it not the woman’s mitzvah to keep? The husbands do not have anything at all to do with the keeping of this mitzvah except to not touch their wives when forbidden to. Shorty’s husband is more than willing to respect her observance of these laws. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to keep more mitzvot, not push them away because “you’re intermarried, you couldn’t possibly keep this mitzvah properly”. If she does decide that she wants to go to the mikvah – would she be turned away? Is a mikvah attendant within her rights to do so? I think not. Even if the mikvah lady knows that a woman is not married, or married to a non-Jew, she has no right to refuse to observe an immersion.

I can think of plenty of Jewish husbands who don’t care if their wives use the mikvah or not, plenty of Jewish wives who don’t practice Taharat Hamishpacha properly because it isn’t important to them. Here is a Jewess willing to take on this mitzvah, which is HUGE, and she is being told not to bother. There is something wrong here.

Maybe one day Shorty’s husband will decide to convert. We don’t know the future. Pushing them away from keeping this mitzvah is not the way to keep a person interested in pursuing their religious ideals. Is it fair for a rabbi to tell someone NOT to keep a mitzvah? Is it moral?

Granted I do not know the halacha behind this issue, but in my book any discouragement of a Jewish person from keeping a mitzvah is just wrong.

Please chime in with your thoughts.

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