Mikvah (the Jewish ritual bath – learn more about it from our fun video) has gotten a lot of bad coverage over the years. That’s not to say that people don’t have a right to tell their stories. Everyone does. But the stories that often make the news and talk shows are given over by those who had a less than stellar experiences.
But how about all the happy stories? How about all those women (and men) who practice the mitzvah of taharas hamishpacha (family purity – which includes the monthly mikvah dunk) and experience tremendous positivity from it in terms of their marriage, their sense of self, and their connection to God?
We asked our fans to share why they love going to the mikvah. We received an overwhelming number of beautiful responses, but for the sake of space selected some of our favorites to share with you!
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I don’t like to go. Whenever I go there are hairs in the water and an hr or longer wait… Then the Mikvah lady touches u and checks you up and down meanwhile I’m naked. Paying 25$ for the mikvah is ridiculous. If u want alone time go get a manicure. And my friends also hate going.
Thanks for your comment, Julie. The mikvah should not have any hair in it and the mikvah lady should only check hands, feet, and the top of your back (while you’re covered). The long wait is very unfortunate and $25 is definitely on the steep side in terms of how much they usually cost. Are there any other mikvahs in your area? Not all mikvahs or mikvah ladies are created equal. I have had experiences with some less than ideal ones. If there’s any way we can help make this more positive for you (or your friends) let us know.
Julie, I’m sorry that you and your friends have had such a negative experience at the mikvah. I’m a mikvah lady in a small town in upstate NY and our mikvah is very nice, and you don’t have to wait at all most of the time. As Allison said, we only check what she mentioned and we certainly don’t look you up and down when you’re uncovered! I would strongly suggest you try other mikvahs also. We do charge around the same fee, since our expenses are very high and we don’t have that many people using it. If there is a financial hardship, we would accept whatever one feels comfortable with paying. Mitzvahs are not always easy, but the word “mitzvah” means connection to Hashem, and that is why we do them.
Mikeh. Fertility. As if there aren’t Mikveh going women who can’t have kids. Oh if it were that simple. With free will, nothing is.
Thanks for your comment, Liba. We at JITC are completely in agreement that there is no guarantee to see the reward for a mitzvah in this world as you are exactly correct – if we did every time, free will would be gone. However, if and when there seems to be a correlation, many people believe that it is a nice thing to share such stories.
I love going to the mikvah. I feel so clean afterwards, and the time “off” from the physical side of marriage helps me recharge and feel ready to be with my husband again. Bli ayin hara, we’re having a baby at the end of the summer, and since getting pregnant I have actually really missed the rhythm of niddah and the mikvah experience. It is such a spiritual, peaceful experience…
I get very turned off when Jews attach significance to these things. “Oh, look, I did X, so therefore G-d gave me a reward!” Not in olam hazeh, it doesn’t work like that. Otherwise, you get into a serious tzadik v’ra lo problem, a la kids with cancer.
Love the mikvah all you want, but DO NOT think that you are so holy and good and pious that dunking gets you extra brownie points. That’s not Judaism. By going to the mikvah you fulfill your mitzvah of taharat hamishpacha. That’s it. No connection to illness/conceiving/anything.
I agree with part of what you say and I disagree with part of what you say.
FOR SURE we get part of our reward in this world! That’s not “brownie points,” it’s the system. Mitzvos earn us credits, aveiros earn us demerits. We get part of our rewards in this world and part in the next. We get part of our punishments in this world and part in the next.
BUT… I agree that we do not have perfect insight into cause-and-effect when it comes to these things. People who claim to know why there’s AIDS (punishment for homosexuality, they think) or why Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans (punishment for debauchery, they figure), etc. don’t have a direct line to G-d’s reasons. Similarly, when good things happen, we don’t really know what we did to deserve them – but we can speculate because we have inside information vis-a-vis the areas where we’ve been trying to improve.
So, there IS reward in this world and while we may not know exactly what we did to deserve it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re clueless. If I have a health problem and I change my diet and, all of a sudden, it’s resolved, I’m going to infer a correlation even if it’s not a medical conclusion. Spiritual matters can be the same.
There are many reasons to love going to the mikvah (as well as more than a few to dislike – ask anyone with mikvah-related OCD issues, which can be just devastating). But I find the wall of praise associating it with correcting infertility to be outright abhorrent.
There are countless observant, frum, righteous women who suffer from infertility despite regular mikvah attendance. There are many others – possibly thousands as well – who suffer from what is termed “halachic infertility” – women who ovulate early, and who therefore can only conceive by some combination of invasive infertility treatments, or not observing taharas mishpacha to the letter (ideally with a heter from an understanding rabbi, but that is not always possible and requires an invasion of the rabbi into their bedroom which goes beyond what many are comfortable with no matter their comfort with all the normal niddah issues that could involve him).
I have a mixed love/hate relationship with mikvah observance depending on the month, but primarily feel good about it, and I love that there seems to be a resurgence in this mitzvah even among other branches of Judaism and waning observance. I think the new, modern and lovely mikvaot that are opening are a true gift to Jewish women. And I love articles that explore contemporary viewpoints in favor. But infertility is not something that Hashem cures based on how observant you are.. This smacks of “This One Small Mitzvah Opened My Womb – What Doctors Told Me Next Will Amaze You!” and shouldn’t be encouraged.
Thanks for your comment, Michal. We did not go out searching for stories where mikvah use was connected to fertility. We noted at the beginning that everyone has different experiences (including negative) but wanted to give the people with positive experiences a chance to tell their stories. We got a range of responses from improved marriage, to spirituality, to fertility. We’re not making any claims as to what mikvah (or any observance for that matter) will bring a person in this world. In fact, the last story ends with a woman who prayed for another mikvah-going woman who has not been able to get pregnant after many years and still is not pregnant. So even our “positive” story showed that mikvah is not a magic pill to take when it comes to fertility.
We asked people to tell their stories in their own words and this is what they told us. If someone feels like nothing else they did was working and then they made this switch and they got to see the reward in this world. there is room for that within Jewish thought. It certainly doesn’t always happen like that but I think it’s fair to say that sometimes it could happen like that.
I do follow the laws of Taharat Mishpacha and like reading articles/posts like these because I just do not connect to the mikvah experience at all. In general, the bedikot (specifically asking about questionable ones) is really difficult for me. I don’t feel different in or after the mikvah and hearing others’ experiences helps, but also bothers me that I feel no connection doing the mitzvah. My mother as well as a friend who is a convert came with me to the mikvah before my wedding. Afterwards, my friend asked me, “Wasn’t it wonderful?” I just nodded as I didn’t feel anything. My mom did enjoy the experience. Then, another friend who got married around the same time as me said, “Wasn’t going to the mikvah great? While I dunked I felt my soul join with my husband’s.” I wanted to barf. TMI and no way did I feel that way.
Any suggestions what I can do to get more meaning out of this mitzvah?
Thanks for your message, Mikvah Goer. Can I ask you – while you’re dunking in the water and stop to make the blessing – do you take time to pray in your own words after the blessing? I used to not feel so connected to the dunking part of the process until I took time out to do this.
I make the bracha before entering the water. Even though no balanit has ever said anything, I feel stress that I’m making them wait; there are other women, etc. if I say any additional tefillot even though one semi-long one is posted by the sink where the bracha is also posted.
I also think hearing her say very loudly, “Kasher!” each time interferes with the experience. I went once on vacation to a different mikvah, that balanit didn’t say a thing until I had dunked 3 times and then when I stopped she asked me if I dunk 3 times. When I said yes, she then told me I was tahor, etc. It was so much nicer. But I was shy to ask for that in my regular mikvah.
And to answer your actual question, I think of some tefillot quickly as I am underwater, but don’t extend that longer than the actual time it takes to dunk.
So I used to feel that *same* rush – the uneasy feeling of “better hurry up so they can get the next one in!” And there’s no WAY it doesn’t affect the quality of the moment. How can you be in a moment if you’re stressed at the same time? And how can you pray while you’re bobbing in and out of the water?
I had to *force* myself to just slow down. It was hard the first few times, but believe me, you lingering for an extra minute or so is not going to put anyone out. And I’m giving you permission to do that. So please try it out for the next few months. Do your dunks, make the bracha and then close your eyes and pray with your lips, in your own words and think about what you and your family need and allow yourself the chance to be *in* the moment while you’re in it. Did you see our mikvah video? http://jewinthecity.com/2012/08/mikvah-splish-splash-is-it-a-jewish-bath-ep-6-season-2/
Thank you, Allison. I’ll try to take my time. Yes! I’ve seen the mikvah video. Great job!
I have similar feelings with myou mikva experience.
I am much more tolerant of the 2 week separation than I was when I just got married, but I just can’t feel positive about the mikva part. Pretty much, every time involves me and tears. I don’t like going to a secret house of baths, (sometimes involves lying to family memvers about my schefule) where the most private, shushed aspect of life is felt. Every one is seeing herself up. It’s like we’re all on sex schedule …it feels so manufactured. I just don’t likw that it has to be at night, when it’s dark. I just feel creepy and extreme. I don’t feel a spiritual connection, however, something/s will make me cry. The stress, the expectations, the rush and the exposure. Oh, and I hate baths.
Thanks for your comment, Observer. I’m sorry this process has been so unpleasant. If you want to talk to someone about how to possibly turn this experience more positive, we’d be happy to connect you with someone.
Like a therapist or rebbetzin? Sure, thank you.
I am FFB and I like the Mikvah itself.
BUT I hate being naked in front of the mikvah lady, hate the bedikot, hate the Rabbi’s intimate questions when you have a shayloh, hate the separation, hate all the spiritual associations that people put on it and their look of disbelief that you don’t agree. Hate how I was always taught to cover up and how the most private part of my life is not mine alone.
SO I don’t keep a lot of the halachot and it causes Sholom Bayis problems.
Thanks for your comment, Shana. I’m sorry your mikvah experience has been so negative. Is the mikvah lady looking at you while you’re naked? She should be covering her face behind your bathrobe as you’re getting into and coming out of the water so you’re never exposed in front of her.
What about the bedikot do you hate? Is it physically painful or just annoying to remember?
In terms of the intimate questions – have you ever tried going to a yoetzet halacha? I have been going to one for years so I get to speak to a woman and she (anonymously) brings the questions she doesn’t have answers to to a rabbi. I can recommend one if you’d like.
If you’d like, we can connect you with someone to talk to about these issues since they’re causing Shalom bayis problems. Let me know.
It’s great that some people are having positive mikveh experiences but I’m really pissed off at the responses to women who don’t enjoy the experience- instead of having their feelings validated they’re told to try to get this or that help in finding something positive in it. Women are entitled to their feelings, and more women need to be given the freedom to simply stop doing things that they find oppressive instead of forcing themselves to find meaning.
Thanks for your comment, Sheryl. We started the article by acknowledging that not everyone feels good about this mitzvah. Everyone who had a complaint got their chance to express it. The offer for help (which some readers gladly took us up on) was to let them know “if you are struggling, it could be an expert might be able to help you feel differently.” The choice to take it or leave it was for them. I put it out there as a resource. Perhaps some people want to vent. But perhaps others want to try a new approach. I’m not sure how offering resources could ever be a bad thing.
once our mikvah was BOILING hot. I was the first that night to dunk. I had completely prepped, got my once over, took off my towel and started down the stairs….. and yelled and cursed! It was IMPOSSIBLE to go in. Mikvah lady called the Rabbi who said that cooling would take hours. Everyone there rushed over to the other side of town’s mikvah. I hope from then on, the mikvah lady checked the temp before letting anyone prep!