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Mikveh attendant guidelines

6 November, 2019

Question:

I have been asked to be a balanit at a remote mikva in a small town. I have not done it before but there is no one else to do it.

I know I have to witness that her hair is fully submerged and say “kosher” after. Do I also have to make sure she is without chatzitzot, and if so to what level? Do I need to ask her any questions? What else besides seeing her hair is submerged?

A simple step by step process would be helpful if there is anything other than watching the hair submersion.

Thank you!


Answer:

Below are some guidelines for mikveh attendants. Although it is customary in some communities for a balanit (attendant) to ask a woman questions and check her for chatzitzot, it is not halachically required, and should only be done with the woman’s consent.

Please write back with any further questions.

Mikveh Attendant Guidelines

  • The attendant should attempt to foster a calm and pleasant atmosphere at the mikveh.
  • When a woman arrives at the mikveh, the attendant should greet her warmly, but not make conversation unless the immersing woman initiates it, even if they know each other.
  • The attendant should not rush a woman in her preparations and should treat the preparation room as the woman’s private space.
  • She should address any request for help with patience and attention.
  • When the woman exits the preparation room, she should be asked if she is interested in having anything checked by the attendant (e.g., back, nails) and/or if she’d like the attendant to run through a basic list of reminder questions (e.g., did you remove contact lenses? jewelry? make up?).
  • No checks should be conducted or questions asked without the woman’s consent.
  • There is no need for the mikveh lady to see the immersing woman naked.
  • The mikveh attendant should turn around as the woman enters the water, extending her hand for the towel, or taking it when the woman tells her she can turn around.
  • When the woman is in the water, the mikveh attendant’s responsibility is to ensure that all her hair is submerged with each immersion. Often, it is helpful to the woman if she says “Kosher” after each immersion, as an indication that it was fine.
    When a woman makes the bracha, the attendant can place a towel over her head if she requests it.
  • When the attendant is done observing the immersions, she should hold the woman’s towel or robe up in front of her face until the woman claims it. She should not rush the woman out of the water, but rather give her space to pray and reflect.
  • After immersion, it is customary to make a positive comment. “Tizki lemitzvot,” which means “may you merit to do more mitzvot,” is generally well received.
  • In general, the attendant should be open to special requests, such as allowing someone at high risk of infection to immerse first, or such as allowing a woman to bring her own attendant (any Jewish woman over age twelve is eligible).
  • If the attendant detects any sign of abuse, OCD, depression, or anxiety, she should contact a professional for guidance. If a woman initiates discussion in any of these areas, the attendant should listen respectfully and also encourage the woman to seek professional guidance.
  • Any halachic questions should be immediately referred to an appropriate authority for guidance.

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