Timing of bracha and number of dips
8 August, 2006
Why does one say the blessing after the first immersion if doing three? Don't we usually bless before a mitzvah/ over le-asiyatan? If doing 7, is it after 3 or after 1? Have you heard of a kabbalistic custom to immerse 99 times? Are there any other numbers?
Though you are correct that usually a blessing is made before a mitzvah, there is discussion in halachic literature about linking laws of immersion for niddah to immersion for giyur (conversion). Since a ger may only recite the brachah after the immersion which brings him into Judaism, a woman also recites the blessing after one immersion, and then immerses again.
You will find the discussion of this halachah in the Tur Yoreh Deah 200 and Beit Yosef there. The Shulchan Aruch there rules that the brachah should be recited before immersion while a woman is still wearing her robe. The Rema disagrees and states that a woman should immerse once before she recites the brachah.
Prevalent Sephardi custom regarding the timing of the brachah is generally to follow the Shulchan Aruch, and prevalent Ashkenazi custom is to follow the Rema. According to Ashkenazi custom the brachah will always be recited after one immersion, and then a woman can immerse as many more times as she would like. Chabad custom is to immerse seven times, and we have heard of 14 and 49 times, which are an expansion of the typological number seven. We have not heard of a custom to immerse 99 times, but we are not experts in kabbalistic customs, and such a custom may exist.
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