Frequently Asked Questions
How can I integrate this practice into my life as a single woman who is not yet going to the mikveh?
The underlying message of this mitzvah (practice) is infusing your marriage with holiness, mindfulness and Divinely endowed endurance. If you want to build an eternal bond with your soulmate in a marriage that has these qualities, you've got to start way before! The work is inwards, outwards and upwards.
Do you feel that the source of the not-touching during the period is because you are considered unclean?
Let's dispel this myth, once and for all. NO. The practice of mikveh is not based on physical manifestations of cleanliness or dirtiness.
So, what are the underlying principles? Well, according to the ancient wisdom of the Torah, the definition of "impurity" is: a brush with death, or a brush with the loss of potential for life.
In Temple times, if anyone, man or woman, were to come in contact with a dead body, he or she would become "tamei," or ritually impure. They had a brush with death and would undergo a process of returning to a place of purity-i.e. life. When a person comes in contact with death they are existentially changed. The Torah laws of purity create the space for mindfulness through this delicate human experience.
What happens when a woman menstruates? She had an egg that could have been born into a totally new human being. It wasn't, and that's okay. But she’s bleeding. Blood is a sign of loss of life. She feels it emotionally as well. Just seeing an old lady cross the street, she may be brought to tears. Mikveh grants the Jewish woman the space to wax and wane through her subtle, yet oh-so-real physiological fluxes- like the moon.
When she is in this place, she is not reaching out to connect with the world, or her husband in the same way. She and her husband take a step back from each other. She steps into a more inward focused place. She then counts her seven days and returns to a place of life, of connectivity, and of openness, which in Hebrew is called "tahara, or "purity."
What about men and mikveh?
For men, mikveh is Jewish custom whereas for women mikveh is Jewish law. Customs differ across community lines, whereas law is more uniform. Therefore, you find some men who go to mikveh once a year before Yom Kippur, you find some men who go once a week before Shabbat and other men who go every day. Men definitely access a level of renewal in the mikveh waters. But not on the level that a Jewish woman who is going in her right time experiences. She holds the key to the nucleus of power in this mitzvah.
What is the significance of waiting seven days after the period before immersing in the mikveh?
Seven is a significant number, not just in the Jewish tradition, but in almost all world traditions. You find different calculations for month and different calculations for year… the Chinese new year, Jewish new year… but amongst almost all the world cultures, you find a seven day cycle… the week. This shows that there's something about the number seven that is woven into the fabric of creation. Seven means a full circle. I started in one place and I am now somewhere new. After the cessation of my menstrual flow, I count seven days, as a full cycle to bring me back to a place of connectivity with my husband.
What if a trauma happens in a woman's life, she still can't get a hug from her husband? Can't this practice put stress on a relationship?
Is this practice to encourage having as many babies as possible, because ovulation usally occurs on or around the mivkeh night?
The Jewish tradition (the Torah) encourages having children. We have fought for over three thousand years for our mere survival, so simply bringing the next generation of the tribe into the world is definitely encouraged.
How did you find the strength to make a life change like this- to opt out of the popular views on intimacy and sexuality and to adopt the traditional Jewish view?
For me, the strength welled up from a place of truth. I felt so deeply that the way of casual sexuality was one that cheapened the oh-so-sensitive act of intimate physical touch. As time when on, I began to connect the dots and notice that I was feeling increasingly less empowered by my experiences. When I began learning about the Jewish traditional practice of shomer negiah, where the guys and girls wait to find their soulmates before getting sexually involved, it resonated with me so much! I decided to try it, and found that not only did I find the practice liberating, I also got a lot of respect from the people around me. When you live your truth, everything becomes aligned.
Do you have any suggestions if my husband is not into mikveh, but I want to practice it?
It definately may take him some time to get used to the idea. So let it percolate. Respectfully and lovingly explain to him that you feel that this mitzvah will infuse you personally and therefore your relationship with a renewed passion and connection. Maybe you can invite him to talk to other husbands who have recently become devoted to this practice, to allieviate concerns.