Note this important correction: A woman should immerse once in the mikvah instead of her regular shower and then immerse the amount of times she usually does in the mikvah.

My dear sisters, Jewish women wherever you are ...

The Talmud tells us: Bizchus Noshim Tziknoius nigalu avosainu mimitrayum ubezchuson asidin l’higoel.

“It is in the merit of the righteous women that we were redeemed from Egypt, and it will be in merit of the righteous women that we will be redeemed in the future.”

That future is now, and those righteous women, that’s us—you, me and all of our fellow Jewish sisters.

I know, I know, I can hear what you’re thinking. I can see you are rolling your eyes. You’re thinking I’m not that holy, I’m not that righteous, and frankly, right now, I don’t really feel like being righteous. I just want to wake up from this nightmare and be done.

I get that. None of this is easy, for any one. For a million and one reasons. Perhaps most of all because we have no control, in a million and one ways.

The only thing we can control is our reaction, our attitude, our perspective, our posture as we face this challenge.

And that’s why we have no choice at all but to find our core—our pure essence, our inner righteous woman—and lead by example.

As the world has become circumscribed to our homes and the Jewish communal infrastructure has all but shut down, this situation highlights an essential truth about us. Judaism is not a synagogue-based religion; it is, has always been and will always be a home-based faith community.

Our home is the holy Temple. The Jewish woman is the high priestess. The holy of holies is our bedroom.

Jewish communal life, as has been illustrated of late, can carry on without synagogues, without Jewish centers and other communal fixtures. We can live as Jews even without access to a Torah scroll. But we cannot engage in family life as Jews without access to a mikvah.

To this end, let’s talk a little bit about what that looks like today, March 30, 2020.

First, and last, it is not permitted for a couple to be intimate without the woman immersing in the mikvah. This remains true even when immersion is difficult and fraught with new challenges, which we will discuss in some detail. Again, even if a woman might not be able to immerse for some time due to her or her husband’s health or conditions within her community, there is no latitude for resuming physical intimacy without immersion in a mikvah.

Throughout our long history, Jewish women displayed enormous self-sacrifice to keep this most important commandment in our holy Torah.

The Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust, Communist Russia are but a few examples of eras during which Jewish women literally risked their lives to fulfill this mitzvah.

Closer to our time, let me share with you what Faige Rosen related about her grandparents, Peretz and Annie Scheinerman, who were married in 1908.

“When my grandmother, my grandparents, lived in Washington, D.C., the only available mikvah was in Baltimore. Today, you can get from Washington to Baltimore in 45 minutes. In those days, it took many long hours, but my grandmother made the journey each month. If for some reason she couldn’t travel to Baltimore, my grandmother would immerse in the Potomac River in Washington, even if she had to break the ice to do so. That is how committed she was.”

And closer to our times, in 2020, my fellow shlucha emissary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe Chani Lifshitz in Kathmandu, Nepal, has to travel some distance by bus, then climb a steep mountain for an hour, her path illuminated only by the light of her miner’s flashlight, and then break the ice of a river in order to fulfill this great mitzvah. And this modern-day heroine has brought scores of other Jewish women to do the same.

So we Jewish women, we got this. We will get through this!

Let’s just get down to practicalities:

There are at this moment, locations in which all mikvaot have been temporarily closed. Let us pray that this scourge be miraculously reversed and that the mikvahs, along with “normal life,” reopen very, very soon. Until they do, Jewish women, Jewish couples will stay the course, abstaining from marital relations and physical expressions of their love for each other, while expressing their devotion for each other in all other ways.

If you live in a community that does have an operating mikvah at this time, be assured that this is only with the permission of the local health authorities and medical opinions. Every hour of every day, mikvaot are in touch with the pertinent authorities so that they can operate in safe fashion.

Do not expect to travel at this time and use the local mikvahs in your destination. For everyone’s safety, mikvaot are open only to their local demographic.

If you are currently sick or a member of your family has the virus, or you have been exposed, please contact your local mikvah and your local rabbi for the protocol in place to learn when—after what interval from complete cessation of all symptoms, you will be able to immerse. Do not (I repeat, do not!) immerse before waiting the full amount of time advised. Do not (I repeat, do not!) immerse if you have even the slightest suspicion that you or someone you live with has been exposed to the virus.

If you and those in your immediate orbit are healthy and you need to use the mikvah, contact your local mikvah for up-to-the-minute information regarding immersion at this time. Be assured that all mikvahs are being treated with chemicals that make it impossible for the virus to be contracted in the water. All surfaces are being sanitized between use by each woman. Still, we must be extremely vigilant.

Women are being asked to complete all of their preparations at home and come ready to immerse directly in the mikvah. Bring your own towel, slippers and anything else you think you might need.

Strictly practice social distancing by keeping your distance from the attendant.

Immerse once instead of your shower, and then proceed to immerse the regular amount of times you would normally immerse in the mikvah.

Touch as few surfaces as possible, and then immediately after immersion, wash your hands with soap.

Even with all of these precautions in place, the mikvah may be too risky for those immunologically compromised, it is also not advised that health-care providers who are exposed in the hospital or other places of work immerse in the mikvah.

As soon as it gets a bit warmer, a good option for these women and perhaps others would be immersion in the ocean or a natural lake. Check with your rabbi to get complete details on how to do this in a proper manner.

For women who are hormonally regulated, you might want to consider linking your packs/skipping the placebo to obviate the need for mikvah immersion at this time. Check with your doctor before doing so. Other women might want to consider going on a course of hormones at this time. Check both with your doctor and your rabbi before embarking on this course of action.

In a way, this tzora, this difficulty, is unique in that there is no enemy to blame, like in a war; no usurper, as in an uprising; no competitor as in a business failing ... our present difficulty comes directly and only from God. As much as we don’t understand it, we know there is a precise reason. We also know that God (Hashem) loves us and cares for us.

In 1984, the Rebbe in an iconic talk reminded us that Hashem is with us—always, always. When we have a difficulty, a hard time, Hashem is with us then not only in some aloof, abstruse, remote manner. He is with us in a very eminent, real way. He loves us more than we can ever love ourselves, and cares for us more that we can care for ourselves or our loved ones. It’s true, even though we absolutely do not understand the reason for what’s happening now.

We are bewildered. We are frightened. We are anxious. But Hashem has our back. So lean in and feel Hashem’s embrace. At this time, the question is not really why, but what? What can we do? How can we be there for each other? Now is the time to show extra love to each other. To practice chesed chinam, “indiscriminate love.”

If you are in a position to reach out and help someone, do that; don’t wait. If another woman is feeling even more anxious than you about mikvah-related issues, help her get through this.

Above all, take heart! Pesach, with its message of salvation, hope and renewal, is upon us. Let us hope that very, very soon, even before Pesach, we will all experience the complete and ultimate redemption. At that time, the righteous women of this generation, along with their families, will greet the righteous Moshiach speedily in our day. Amen.