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Continual Newlyweds

Continual Newlyweds

The Power of Mikvah


I love weddings, especially when I adore the bride. It's been a week since Sheva's wedding but I still have this sweet and pleasurable sensation just thinking about it. I loved life a little more this week. But that sensation is fading and I wish I knew how to preserve it.

She was a glowing bride and she danced with innocent excitement. Everyone danced around her, as if she were a celebrity. I remembered how her now groom had vied for the opportunity to date her. And then, when she met him she recognized that she'd finally met a man she could love and respect.

That sensation is fading and I wish I knew how to preserve itFor both of them this would be the first romantic relationship of their lives. It was deeply exciting and everyone who loved them rejoiced. Finally they'd have the gift of each other and the pleasure of marriage. Witnessing the transition from a single life, a girl who's never had a boy-friend, into a married women, was exhilarating. There was a vicariously pleasure that everyone absorbed. It was simple pleasure; and it colored life with appeal.

There is nothing quite as dramatic as that transition into marriage. Yesterday I was alone. Today I am married. New love is tingles with energy. The first few times you hear 'I love you' you just don't take it for granted.

There were two strong sensations coming from the bride and groom. 1. I'm grateful to have him (her) in my life. 2. I'm grateful for being able to experience the pleasure that comes from marriage.

What's so mysterious is how quickly these sensations can vanish. Excitement deflates like a punctured balloon. Even worse, in its stead often grows resentment.

Gratitude rusts and expectations blister. Of course you are my husband (wife), and as my husband (wife) I expect my needs to be met. Of course I'm entitled to a pleasurable relationship, I expect it. I'm not grateful for the simple pleasures, I expect them. Now I need something more stimulating to get me excited.

It's one of the most frustrating pitfalls of life. When we transition from have-not to have we can access the simple pleasure of gratitude. But once that pleasure becomes ours, we expect it. Once we expect it the pleasure begins to deflate.

It's a marriage killer. Two people can be great together, compatible on many levels. But as time progresses it becomes harder and harder to retain that dramatic excitement. The feeling of 'I can't believe I have you as my spouse' is now a vague memory. Instead it's like, 'of course you're my spouse, and I expect you to be a better spouse'.

So you get divorced, or have an affair. But aside for the enormous emotional repercussion, the obvious reality is that with time the cycle is bound to replay itself.

How does G‑d expect us to stay married if he programmed us to crave the pleasure of a fresh relationship?

There is a manual for this program. It's called the Torah. In it G‑d tells us to keep to the cycle of family purity. G‑d says, for two weeks don't have a physical relationship with each other. Don't even touch each other. During that time you are not romantically available to each other. You are not 'entitled' to his (or her) physical affection. Nothing is taken for granted.

You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it's just not availableSure you're still married. You still talk about your day and plan tomorrow. But you can't experience physical intimacy. It's almost like dating. You relate cerebrally, yet you yearn for a closer relationship, and it's just not available.

And then you go to the mikvah and you can reunite. The first touch after two weeks of separation is charged with sensation. There's an innocent excitement, even after all those years together. You walk around with a secret twinkle in your eye the morning after.

Jewish writers explain that the mikvah water to be like the embryonic fluid. Entering the mikvah is like regression to a fetal existence. When submerged we are surrounded by water again, sheltered and protected. Emerging from the water of the mikvah is like being reborn.

When a baby is born everyone celebrates life. They don't consider whether it will be a good life, or a difficult life. There is a humble gratitude for health. The simple pleasure of living becomes remarkably exciting. Later, when life become scarred with expectations and inevitable disappointment, it looses some of its excitement.

When a couple gets married everyone celebrates marriage. They don't consider whether it will be a good marriage or a difficult one. The simple pleasure of being together tingles with excitement. There is a humble gratitude that the other person is available to you. But when gratitude inevitably turns to expectation, we get disappointed with each other.

So G‑d says, for two weeks out of the month you will not be physically available to each other. You just can't take your relationship for granted.

And then when you immerse in the mikvah you have the opportunity to feel like a bride again. Every month!

Mrs Rochel Holzkenner is a mother of four children and the co-director of Chabad of Las Olas, Fla., serving the community of young professionals. She is a high-school teacher and a freelance writer—and a frequent contributor to She lectures extensively on topics of Kabbalah and feminism, and their application to everyday life.
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Tali August 2, 2013

late comment :) hi ladies! can't not comment! I'm full time working mom with kids, very busy family. we built strong and healthy relationships, I'm not looking to improve anything. I just went to mikveh before I got married-like most of my friends. somehow recently I talked to one of my friends and she convinced me to go for immersion. let me tell you-don't do it for your husband or your marriage. do it for yourself. those few minutes of immersion, being alone with your thoughts and completely disconnecting from this busy world makes you feel like you just born. it empowers you and totally makes you a better person.I felt even more patient with my kids. it was like some secret confidence filled you whole.
unfortunately, I can't make it every month, but it's definitely my resolution to make a more efforts. for myself. because I deserved it.
best Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, AZ March 31, 2011

Mikvah To rk: Thank you for your comment. I am happy to hear you say that Jewish women have choices as that doesn't seem to be true of all Jewish women. So many of them accept everything because of "tradition." In reference to the mikvah, I am also happy that you have made your choice to enjoy the mikvah. I respect your choice; however, since you feel I am missing something by not partakiing, I wonder how you know that since you have never walked in my shoes. I, too, have made a choice. Please respect my choice too. We each practice our Judaism in our own way and that is one of the wonderful things about our religion. I would hate to be part of a religion that is dictatorial although I do believe some sects of Judaism are. Let us all celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. Reply

rk Bowie, MD March 31, 2011

mikvah (Barbara Niles) Here is another comment for Barbara...

You are a very lucky woman in a wonderful relationship. You are free to make your own choices as a woman and as a Jewish woman.
If you want to taste what a Jewish marriage is all about, and you want to experience spirituality in womanhood, then you would make the choice of trying mikvah at least once or twice, just to check it out. After all you have nothing to lose in your loving relationship and everything to gain.

I guarantee it will be another delicious flavor in a loving relationship. We all seek to improve even those things that are already good and wonderful. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, AZ February 3, 2011

Mikvah To Anonymous,

Thank you for your comments. While I respect your right to observe your Jewishness in your own way, I would hope that you would also respect mine. It is a two way street and you can't know what kind of a Jewish home I have without the mikvah any more than I can know what your Jewish home is like with it. Since my husband and I have a fantastic feeling of closeness without separation and mikvah, I can't imagine why I would want to change anything. Why would anyone want to be separated from the person she loves for any length of time? That is the purpose of marriage - to be together as much as possible.

By the way, why do you sign yourself anonymous? Are you so limited by your beliefs that you cannot sign your own name? I have read that certain branches of Judaism do not allow their members - especially women - to speak out. How sad................. Reply

Anonymous mtl, canada January 26, 2011

MIKVEH I realize you beleive that you and your husband can not get any closer by observing Mikvah but until you don't taste it you will never know what you are missing. you may be very close and i am genuinely happy for you but i do invite you to try Mikvah. it is not always easy, not the seperation or the preparation but it is definately worth it. i can tell it to you only because i practice it monthly and the feeling of closeness after seperation that comes with Mikvah can not be explained only by those who experience it. we are a woman and Mikvah is a Mitzvah that Hashem gave us specifically. why should we not take advantage of it? it is the most powerful tool that builds a jewish home- and - it is in the hands of the woman. i am happy and privileged to be part of this mitzvah and i am certain tha tonce you do it you will understand waht i am saying. hatzlacha. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, AZ December 26, 2010

To Rochel & BLumah I am thrilled that my comment generated some responses. While I respect your beliefs regarding the mikvah, it is not something that I feel will enhance my marriage. To you, it is a way of life and I understand that. To me, it is totally unnecessary. I doubt that my husband and I could be any closer both spiritually or physically than we already are. I believe in doing mitzvot but don't consider a ritual bath to be one. One of the biggest attributes of Judaism is we can all pick and choose those parts of it that is important to each of us. I am always interested in learning about the many aspects of Judaism but I want to feel free to make my own choices about my religion. Too many times, Jews - especially women - are not given any choices. Thank you for responding and may your lives continue to be filled with mitzvot - of your choosing. Reply

BLumah overland park December 25, 2010

try it B"H
Barbara, thanks for your post. It is refreshing to read about the love and caring which has made your marriage so strong especially in this day and age. Where there is good can there be better?! The mikveh experience is a unique opportunity for husband and wife to reunite in a holy way. I hope you will allow yourself to experience this mitzvah - if only once in your marriage. Having taken women to mikvah from many walks of life, I can assure you it can enhance the beautiful bond which you and your husband enjoy. Please don't allow the two week separation to stand in the way of the most beautiful mitzvah which G-d gave to the Jewish woman and has been one of the secrets (or perhaps THE secret) of our existence. Reply

Rochel ft. Lauderdale, FL December 24, 2010

Barbara It is wonderful to hear that you and your husband have such a strong marriage. And you are certainly just as Jewish even though you have not used the mikvah yet. By the way It is never to late to go the mikvah. Even a woman who is post menopausal can go on time. Wishing you only blessings and a continuous great relationship with your spouse. Reply

Barbara Niles Phoenix, USA December 21, 2010

Continual Newlyweds You've got to be kidding! Not touch for two weeks a month? That would be fourteen hundred weeks of not touching for us. No way! My husband and I have been married for over 54 years and we have touched every day of every year. That's one of the things that makes our marriage strong. We are not necessarily intimate but we do touch. Kissing, hugging, holding hands, etc. are as necessary and natural as breathing. We always feel like newlyweds and the magic never ends. The mikvah is not a part of our lives either. By the way, we consider ourselves as Jewish as any of the couples who don't touch and use the mikvah. Our sympathies to those married couples who are missing out on so much during their married life. Reply

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