Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Discomfort with attendant

27 January, 2004

Question:

I was wondering if there was a place in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv area where one can immerse in a mikveh without the aid of an attendant or with ones husband as an attendant? I understand that there are many women who find this practice- to say the least, uncomfortable. What exactly is the Halacha?


Answer:

The halacha calls for a Jewish woman over the age of twelve to supervise the immersion. Her primary role is to see that the head and hair are completely submerged. Many mikveh attendants provide an additional service of checking for stray hairs on the back, etc. However, checking is actually the responsibility of the woman who is about to immerse. It is thus halachically acceptable for you to fully check yourself for stray hairs on back, clean hands, etc., enter the room alone, put most of your body under the water (you can face the wall so she does not see the front of your body) and then have the attendant enter for just enough time to see that your head goes under.

In Israel, there are generally attendants employed by the mikveh for this supervisory role. Some are more flexible than others in helping with special requests, but you certainly have the right to ask for this.You can also discuss the possibility of bringing a female friend with whom you do feel comfortable to supervise your immersion.

The husband should not act as the attendant because prior to immersion the woman is niddah and he may not see her undressed. Only in extreme circumstances (e.g., being alone in a city with no other Jews), is such a practice allowed.

A last alternative could be to immerse on your own, putting your hair in a loose net.


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