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The Mikvah

The Mikvah

A spa for the soul

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There’s a building whose construction takes precedence over a synagogue. In fact, a synagogue may be sold to raise funds for this building.

This is a mikvah, a ritual pool constructed according to the exact specifications outlined in Jewish law. Immersion in a mikvah effects an elevation in status. Its waters have the power to spiritually transform and produce metamorphosis.

The primary function of the mikvah today is its use in the observance of the Jewish “Family Purity” laws. Following her monthly menstrual cycle, a woman immerses in the mikvah, spiritually refreshing and spiritually boosting herself and her relationship with her husband and with the entire household.

The Basics

Many use this holy moment for personal communication with G‑dFrom the onset of menstruation until seven days after its end, couples may not engage in any direct physical contact, or even physical manifestations of affection.

After nightfall of the seventh day, the woman visits the mikvah. Today’s mikvah looks like a fashionable spa: luxurious bath and powder rooms, vanities, fresh towels, disposable slippers, a comfortable robe and all the other essentials. The aesthetic beauty of the facility, along with the rejuvenation and spiritual boost experienced, explains why the mikvah is frequented by many who practice no other formal Jewish observance.

After a relaxing and thorough bathing, the woman then enters the pristine, warm mikvah waters. After immersing, while still in the mikvah, the woman recites a special blessing. Many use this holy moment for personal prayer and communication with G‑d. After immersion, the couple resumes marital relations.

Some Details:

  • A woman first immerses in the mikvah before her wedding.
  • For the postmenopausal woman, one final immersion offers purity for the rest of her life.
  • Mikvah is not required during pregnancy and nursing, as long as there is no menstrual flow.
  • Mikvah.org has more information, and a worldwide directory and virtual tours of mikvahs around the world. See also our Family Purity section for more info.
  • The above is only a basic and very incomprehensive treatment of this subject. Studying with a woman experienced in this field is the way to gain familiarity with this mitzvah. Your rebbetzin or mentor will be able to refer you to someone who can give you personal instruction.
Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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Discussion (6)
July 9, 2014
wonderful
The magical night took place against a backdrop of sheer chaos. When I finally got to the Mikva @ 2am! [could not get off work] kindness, dignity holiness and purity were the order of business. I will never forget that night as it brought unexpected blessing to my family.
Anonymous
June 6, 2012
The mikvah was magical!
It took me 20 years of marriage to actually use the mikvah. To put the reason for the delay in simple terms, I had no support from my family or the religious community to explore this unfamilliar experience.

Finally, I was able to go a year after my mother's death. That was a highly symbolic time. I felt I had done the best I could for my family and could now enjoy living the way I wish.

I had one glorious year of driving to the mikvah in all seasons, in all types of weather, during the afternoon (when darkness falls early) to later at night in the summer.

Each immersion (dunking myself) filled me with energy and purity. It got to be a quick routine since I groomed myself at home and just took a quick shower there.
Rochel Leah
Natick, MA
February 5, 2010
Ritual Immersion
Here in the Newton area, the author Anta Diamant was most active in the building of a Mikva and I expect many people do go to participate in this as a healing and sacred event. Not all these people are of course, Orthodox, and I expect many don't follow these rules, but they do feel the need to engage in a sacred and healing ritual that is deeply part of our history.
ruth housman
newton centre, ma
February 5, 2010
To annonymous of Texas
When I read your letter it became clear that you didn't discuss all these thing when you were engaged.I don't mean to sound a scold, but among the many things that advise columnists give, is that couples talk before they marry. They frequently get caught up in the excitement of the wedding, how many guests, the venue and the menu, the music, etc, without talking about the nitty gritty of married life, who will handle the finances, where will we live, how many (or any) kids to have, as well as the level of religious observance. As far as how your daughter dresses, regarding her belief that this is the "utter problem of men" you can remind her that immodest dress still sends the wrong message. Ours is still a sexist society, and women will judge your daughter just as severely, if not worse. If anything happens to her, G-d forbid, the defense attorney will talk about her clothes, and she will be on trial rather that the defendant. This marriage seems destined to end in divorce. Sorry.
Rachel Garber
Phila, PA USA
February 3, 2010
G-d's Wisdom
There is no doubt about it, very great Wisdom is given to women by way of mikvah. Blessed is He.
Anonymous
Calgary, AB
February 2, 2010
my wife refused to go in the mikva before our wedding.

She refuses now to go, and considers herself not in need of cleansing.

She does not want our dauighter to dress modestly and considers any sexual result the complete and utter problem of men

She wants our daugter out of our local cahabad school as it is not secular enough for her.

She considers the hours spent praying a waste.

To all of you whose wives go to the mikva: please count your blessings!

with love and respect
Anonymous
TX, TX
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