Recently I have been reading more and more about the need for women to dress modesty and the great importance of upholding the laws of taharat mishpacha (family purity) including the practice of tevillah (immersion) in the mikvah. Yet despite the magnitude of its worth, going to the mikvah was one of the last mitzvot I undertook on my path to religious observance. Covering my hair was the other. I could not bring myself to go to this obscure building to do something so personal and strange. Even more importantly, I wasn’t really aware of why I was supposed to go nor did I understand the laws surrounding it. The whole idea seemed quite embarrassing and it was definitely not something I previously had on my to-do list.
As new members of a new shul (synagogue) and being amongst a whole new congregation of devout Jews, I suddenly felt the need to examine the possibility of fulfilling this foreign and concealed obligation. I befriended a very knowledgeable woman who lived not far from us and before long, I enlisted her as my ‘*Kallah teacher’. Almost 11 years and three children after our wedding, we were finally going to be living according to Halacha, Jewish Law!
We met several times before I felt I was proficient enough in my responsibilities to ‘take the plunge’. At the right time, after the appropriate counting and checking, according to the prescribed regulations, I made plans to go to the mikvah. I was tense and overwhelmed as I entered the room until the smiling ‘mikvah lady’ came over to greet me.
“This is my first time here”, I told her shyly, trying to squeeze out a smile of my own.
“Your first time at this mikvah?” she inquired? It was a new Chabad mikvah and she had plenty of unfamiliar clientele.
“No, my first time at ANY mikvah” I responded. With that, she exclaimed joyously, “Welcome, Mazal Tov! I’ll help you with anything you need”.
From then on, I was no longer terrified to set foot in the hidden little building housing the Mikvah. It was a relief to finally be doing what I knew was expected of me as a Jewish wife, what G-d required of me. As an additional perk, I enjoyed all the fun toiletries they had displayed for our personal use. It was almost like being a guest in a hotel!
Implementing the constraint of being physically separated from one’s spouse and then being reunited once again almost two weeks later is virtually like reliving the wedding night each month and enormously beneficial to one’s marriage. It also gives the couple a chance to communicate on an intellectual and emotional level without bodily contact. Aside from these obvious benefits, there is the significant spiritual aspect as well. Immersion into the ‘living waters’ of the mikvah is compared to spiritual rebirth. The mikvah takes impurity and transforms it into holiness, the rewards of which are unfathomable. Not only does the couple receive Divine blessings through this mitzvah but it enables a woman to feel physically anew, relieving pent up stress and allowing her to unwind.
Medical research also shows that women who keep the laws of taharat mishpacha exhibit a much lower incidence of gynecological problems or diseases, including lessening the risk of certain cancers such as cervical.
Mikvah and taharat mishpacha are so central to Jewish life and observance that when a new community is being planned, this is one of the crucial additions included. If no mikvah is available, a virtuous woman will travel far and wide to ensure she does not miss this essential ritual at the required time. When a husband and wife adhere to the intrinsic wisdom of our Torah, their home is blessed with beautiful, righteous and upright children, abundance and peace. Stories for which space does not allow are told of many miracles of the mikvah. Childless couples who had not previously partaken of this precious gift from HaShem suddenly found themselves awaiting the birth of their first child. Another took on this practice in order to bring a refuah (healing) to a sick child who was inexplicably healed afterward.
We cannot begin to comprehend the mystical complexities of the commandments we are expected to perform, yet with emuna we must forge ahead, knowing that it is all for a reason. Eventually, we will come to carry out our duties with delight. All the while, our Heavenly Father is looking down on us from above with a glow in His ‘heart’, watching this splendid sanctification of His Name with pride. In return, His devoted daughters will merit, G-d willing, to bring us one step closer to our final Redemption.
For more information about Family Purity, please speak to your local Rabbinical authority who will direct you accordingly.
Valuable discs and books are also available through the Breslev website: The Magic Mikva hand Guidelines – Family Purity
(Note: these are not a substitute for personal guidance)
*Kallah teacher – woman who teaches a new bride about family purity