For years, I thought that visiting the mikvah was such a beautiful and spiritual, uniquely feminine mitzvah designed to connect women with G‑d. That was before I was married... I have now come to think that this is not at all a mitzvah for women. I feel that I am just being made kosher for someone else's use, much like a dish. I only have to go if my husband needs me to go. A woman who never marries never does this mitzvah. If my husband is away, I do not go to the mikvah. If this is about a spiritual cleansing, all women should go, regardless whether they are married or not! I feel resentful and, well, used.

I hope you have some insight for me,



It's hard to write to Anonymous, about such a sensitive topic, so...

Dear Jewish Daughter,

You're right about mikvah not being a mitzvah for women... In our literature it is known as Taharat Hamishpachah, Family Purity. Mikvah is a mitzvah for the marriage, the family. This is why a young woman does not start attending the mikvah as soon as she starts menstruating; mikvah only becomes applicable when there is a family—a husband and wife together. It is the mitzvah which sanctifies that relationship, and in so doing also blesses the children who are conceived from this relationship. And since the woman is the mainstay of the family, this mitzvah of sanctifying the marriage and family has been entrusted to women.

In the Song of Songs, King Solomon's passionate rendering of the love story between G‑d and the Jewish people, the groom, G‑d, calls His beloved "my sister, my bride." A strange term of endearment! Sister-bride?! But there is a profound concept in these words. A man's love for his sister is not a very passionate love—but it is a lasting love. You have a history, an understanding, you know where the other is coming from. You can't divorce a sister... A man's love for his bride is a much deeper, more passionate love. Unfortunately, sometimes this love does not last. G‑d calls His beloved "my sister, my bride" to stress that this love has both qualities: the eternity represented by "sister," the passion of the "bride."

During the two times in a woman's cycle we focus on and strengthen the two aspects of the relationship. During niddah, the relationship is in sister mode. We deepen the intellectual relationship, the friendship, the "why I fell in love with him in the first place" aspect of the marriage. We learn to express affection in the areas of our lives outside the bedroom. Then, after mikvah, we're in the bride mode. Having been separated for almost two weeks we rediscover the passion of the marriage.

So the mitzvah is not only about your connecting to G‑d, it is about you and your husband connecting to each other, and together connecting your marriage to G‑d.

I hope this has been helpful.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg,