The period of niddah is a time, usually lasting twelve days to fourteen days, when Jewish law forbids conjugal relations. Niddah begins with the onset of menstruation and is completed with the woman’s immersion in a mikvah, a ritual pool of water.

The niddah period and the mikvah immersion have recently seen a renaissance of observance in the Jewish community. Many couples have discovered that the cycle of closeness and distance built into this mitzvah keeps their relationship fresh and exciting. Others say it adds a spiritual, divine dimension to their relationship.

Like most good things, keeping the niddah period is not always easy, but the payoff is well worth it.

Here is a brief overview of the practices associated with niddah and mikvah. Please note that this is very far from a comprehensive guide. Jewish brides and grooms traditionally study the laws that govern Jewish marriage with specially trained teachers, who guide them through this cornerstone of Jewish life.

During Niddah

Since conjugal relations are prohibited during niddah, husband and wife sleep in different beds. Many other practices have been instituted to ease the temptation for a sexual relationship.

This is a time to strengthen deeper aspects of the relationship. A lull in physical closeness can be used to develop those aspects that lie beyond physical touch.

After a minimum of five days have elapsed, if the flow has stopped, the woman begins to prepare for the couple’s physical reunification.

She begins by ensuring that there are seven stain-free days. She does this by making an internal examination every day with a soft, white cloth.

Dipping in the Mikvah

After seven stainless days have passed, it’s time to immerse in the mikvah.

Constructed according to the exact specifications outlined in Jewish law, the mikvah is a ritual pool, whose waters can either be connected to a spring or to rainwater. Today’s mikvahs often look like fashionable spas. The aesthetic beauty of the facility, along with the rejuvenation and spiritual boost experienced, can help explain why the mikvah is frequented by many who may not practice other formal Jewish observance.

When arriving at the mikvah, she will be shown to her private preparation room, which is essentially a large, well-stocked bathroom with a luxurious bath, fresh towels, disposable slippers, a comfortable robe and all the other essentials. After taking a relaxing bath, making sure to thoroughly clean so that the mikvah waters touch every bit of her, she is ready to enter the pristine, warm mikvah waters.

The attendant will accompany her to the actual mikvah pool, ensuring she is fully immersed (with no hairs or hands sticking out of the waters) and declaring the immersion “kosher.”

After immersing, while still in the mikvah, this blessing praising G‑d for this special mitzvah is recited:

Blessed are you, L‑rd our G‑d, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us concerning immersion.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹ-נָי אֱלֹהֵ-נוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קְדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל הַטְּבִילָה

Immersion in a mikvah has the power to create a sort of spiritual metamorphosis. Many use this holy moment for personal prayer and communication with G‑d.

Together Again

When the wife returns from the mikvah, marital relations may resume. That night is especially auspicious for intimacy between the couple.

Judaism views the physical union between a husband and wife as sacred. The couple can (and should) continue to be together as often as they wish for the duration of this time, especially on Shabbat, a day of delights.

Spiritual Note About Niddah

Separating each month can be difficult, but the payoff is tremendous. To begin with, you are living in accordance with the will of G‑d, the third partner in every marriage. As an added bonus, there is something magically rejuvenating about the mikvah night, as husband and wife come together as they did on their wedding night, experiencing a monthly honeymoon.

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.
  • Some mikvahs require you to pre-book an appointment in advance, call to find out.
  • The above is only a basic and very incomprehensive treatment of this complex and detailed subject. Studying with a woman experienced in this field is the way to gain familiarity with this mitzvah. A rebbetzin or mentor will be able to refer you to someone who can give you personal instruction and direction.