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

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Guidelines for the Public and Mikvaot

As we face this pandemic together, we have the opportunity to fulfill crucial mitzvot. One who vigilantly follows the instructions of the health authorities fulfills the mitzvot of “be most careful for your life” (Devarim 4:15) and “love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18), which is an overarching principle in the Torah (Bereishit Raba 24:7). 

 

The Torah holds protecting public health paramount, commanding us: “Do not bring blood upon your house,” (Devarim 22:8) and “Do not stand idly by the blood of your fellow.” (Vayikra 19:16).

 

Official medical guidelines of your local health authorities are halachically binding. Stay informed about local guidelines designed to prevent new cases of Coronavirus and follow them, even if the instructions sound overly cautious. 

 

These instructions and FAQs were prepared for women residing in Israel, in accordance with Israel’s Ministry of Health guidelines, and last updated on 31 March 2020. Please keep an eye out for further updates. 

 

If you reside outside of Israel, please consult local health authorities on any matters dependent on local health policies. We hope that these instructions and FAQ’s help you formulate your questions for your local authorities. 

Nishmat’s Yoatzot Halacha in Israel, with a distinguished honorary Rabbinic committee, released a position paper regarding mikveh immersion during the current pandemic.

Yoatzot Hotline

Toll free from the United States and Canada: 1-877-YOETZET (1-877-963-8938)
הקו הפתוח ע"ש גולדה קושיצקי ישראל: 02-640-4343

Mikveh Attendants

It is a halachic requirement to follow Health Ministry/Department regulations. Mikva’ot must be extra scrupulous at this time with keeping distance between women, hygiene, disinfecting, and keeping out women in quarantine or with symptoms of illness, all in strict compliance with the regulations of Israel’s Ministry of Health or local health authorities.   Women are not permitted to break quarantine to immerse, and Mikveh attendants must resist any pressure brought upon them to bend the rules. If a mikveh attendant or worker is herself is not feeling well, she may not enter the mikveh at this time.

Mikveh Protocol

  1. Mikvaot should continue to operate, with some modifications. Women should complete their preparations at home. (A thorough shower is sufficient if no bathtub is available.) They should shower and comb their hair immediately before leaving home, arriving at the mikveh just to inspect themselves and immerse. Preparation rooms and mikveh railings should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between women. Mikva’ot must adhere scrupulously to current official protocols for filtration, chlorination, etc., of the mikveh pools. The room with the pool should be ventilated, either by opening windows or by opening the doors that connect it to better-ventilated rooms between immersions.
  2. Israel’s Ministry of Health requires setting up appointments in advance, ideally spacing them out fifteen minutes apart.  User-friendly online software can make this process fairly simple. Please adopt this change and inform your community of the updated protocol. Mikvaot can further increase social distancing by taking payment online or over the phone.
  3. It is preferable to avoid having women spend time in the waiting room. If there are multiple women in the waiting room or any other part of the mikveh building, they should maintain a distance of at least 2 meters (6 feet) between them.
  4. If a woman who used the mikveh is later put in quarantine but is not sick, mikveh hygiene protocol remains unchanged.
  5. If a woman who used the mikveh is later confirmed to have COVID-19, then the local health authorities will give specific guidance. Most likely they will advise cleaning the surfaces with  bleach/alcohol, changing the water and contacting other women who were at the mikveh at the same time. Some of those women may then be put in quarantine, depending the likelihood of contact with the woman who was diagnosed.
  6. On 15 March, 2020,  Israel’s Ministry of Religion released the following regulation: If a mikveh finds out that a woman broke quarantine and immersed, the mikveh must be closed immediately and  the infraction reported to the Ministry of Religion.  The mikveh may only be reopened in coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Health.
  7.  Mikva’ot should make information about their compliance with health regulations readily available to the public.

Mikveh Immersion

  1.  As each woman enters the building, confirm she does not have symptoms of illness (e.g., fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, vomiting or diarrhea) and that she is not in quarantine. Questions about specific situations should be directed to the local health authorities.
  2. Women must prepare at home.
  3. Mikveh attendants must wear masks and gloves and avoid any direct physical contact with women immersing, maintaining a distance of two meters (six feet).
  4. In addition,  mikveh attendants must be careful to wash their hands frequently.
  5. If a woman requires physical assistance (for example, assistance entering and exiting the pool), the attendant must wash her hands thoroughly with soap and water for twenty seconds both before and after assisting her, and switch gloves afterwards.
  6. A woman who is immunocompromised or at high risk medically should consult with her physician. If immersion is medically approved, she should arrange to be the first to use the mikveh that night and should not spend time in the waiting room.
  7. A woman who needs to delay immersion, even for many days, should still immerse at night. If there are extenuating circumstances, a specific halachic question should be asked. If a strict curfew is in place, immersion during the daytime on day eight may be permissible.

Quarantine

  1. A woman in quarantine may not have contact with her husband or use the mikveh until her quarantine is over. As difficult as it can be to delay mikveh immersion, the halachic imperative to prevent the spread of disease is greater than considerations of immersing on time.
  2. A woman whose husband is in quarantine may immerse on time or delay immersion to a more convenient time. If they are not observing quarantine scrupulously within the home, she should delay mikveh until after quarantine.
  3. A woman with another household member in quarantine need not delay immersion. If they are not observing quarantine scrupulously within the home, she should delay mikveh until after quarantine.

Q&A

You may add chlorine or bromine tablets to the water even on Shabbat. You may also use a pool tester or indicator strips to check chlorine levels as needed. Although indicators that involve changing colors can raise halachic questions on Shabbat, their use is permissible under the current circumstances.

Mikveh surfaces should be cleaned using disinfectant wipes and/or disposable rags with a bleach or alcohol liquid solution.

Yashar Ko’ach and Shabbat Shalom!

You must follow the Health Ministry’s directives. From a halachic perspective, we are required both to follow the rules of government authorities and to protect public health.

A woman who has been ordered to quarantine herself is absolutely prohibited from leaving her home, except in situations in which it is medically necessary. Even then, she must inform the medical authorities. Additionally, family members are forbidden from coming close to her, and any physical contact is prohibited, even when the couple are halachically permitted to each other.

Immersion of a woman who is potentially a carrier of the Coronavirus could endanger the health of other women at the mikveh, particularly those who are at high risk.

For these reasons, you must adhere to all instructions from the Ministry of Health, and not to permit immersion of any woman who has been instructed to enter quarantine.

If someone seeks your advice, you can explain the importance of strict adherence to the rules. A woman in this situation should finish her seven clean days as planned, and then wait until the quarantine period finishes to immerse. After counting the clean days, she need not perform any more bedikot, and should switch to colored undergarments.

We publicized these guidelines because, from a halachic perspective, it is critical to follow them. Halacha recognizes Israel’s Ministry of Health’s expertise to develop a response to the virus that safeguards public health.

Anyone who is in quarantine is absolutely forbidden to leave their house, except for cases which require medical intervention. Even then, they must notify the medical authorities. Additionally, family members may not come close to them, and certainly any physical and intimate contact is prohibited, even for a couple that is halachically permitted to each other.

Immersion of a potential carrier of the Coronavirus might endanger the health of other women at the mikveh, especially those who are at high risk for complications.

For these reasons, it’s critical to follow the instructions of Israel’s Ministry of Health, and not to permit immersion for any woman who is obligated to remain in quarantine.

General Public​

General Niddah Practice and Bedikot

 

1. Doctor permitting, a woman who uses hormonal contraceptives might consider cycle manipulation in order to space out niddah more widely at this time.

2. If a bedikah cloth or stain needs checking, she should lay it flat, allow it to dry, and place it flat in a clear plastic bag to facilitate safe evaluation. She should wash her hands and place the bag in an envelope with a note with her phone number and other relevant information.

 3. A woman who has a questionable bedikah and cannot bring it for evaluation should call the halachic authority to whom she usually brings such questions to consult. (Yoatzot Halacha are also available for consultation through Nishmat’s Golda Koschitzky Hotline, or in the community.) Alternatively, she can seek to have it evaluated by a rabbi online through Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately. While some borderline colors will require in-person evaluation, many questions can be accurately assessed through the app. 

4. A woman who needs to delay immersion should count her seven clean days as usual. When her clean days are complete, she can change to colored underwear. No further bedikot are necessary prior to her delayed immersion.

 

 Mikveh Immersion

 

1. A woman with symptoms of illness (e.g., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea) may not use the mikveh without consulting with a healthcare professional.

 

2. A woman who is immunocompromised or at high risk medically should consult with her physician. If immersion is medically approved, she should arrange to be the first to use the mikveh that night and should not spend time in the waiting room.

 

3. Mikvaot should set up appointments in advance, to avoid crowding at the mikveh. Check in with your local mikveh to see what protocols they have adopted.

 

4. A woman should prepare at home. (A thorough shower is sufficient if no bathtub is available.) If she prepares earlier in the day, she should shower and comb her hair just before leaving home.

 

5. Mikveh policies vary about bringing towels or robes from home. If using her own, a woman should bring them in a large disposable bag. In the preparation room, she should undress, place her clothes in her bag, and inspect herself in the mirror before immersion. Before using towels provided by the mikveh, confirm that they are washed at 65 degrees Celsius and that baskets are disinfected when emptied.

 

6. A woman immersing should avoid any direct physical contact with the mikveh attendant. If a woman requires physical assistance (for example, someone who needs assistance entering and exiting the mikveh), the attendant must wash her hands thoroughly with soap and water for twenty seconds both before and after assisting her, and must change gloves before and afterwards. Loose hairs on a woman’s body are not a chatzitzah and do not need to be removed, even if that is her usual custom.

 

 

Q&A

We are living through a frightening time. Many once-routine activities now present a risk of infection. It is permissible for a woman to choose to delay immersion given the current situation.

However, if you have made a personal choice not to leave home during this time (i.e., you are not in quarantine, you have not been given specific medical instructions, and you have no symptoms of illness), you should be aware that a properly-maintained mikveh is considered safe, especially when precautions are taken. Let’s look at these, step by step.

Making an appointment
Many mikva’ot are now operating on an appointment system to avoid groups of women congregating at the same time. Call in advance to check. In Israel appointments are now mandatory, and many mikva’ot are working hard to meet the new regulations.

Preparation
You should do all your preparations at home to minimize any possible risk of infection or transmission. Even if you don’t have a bathtub, it is sufficient to take a thorough shower. Pack a large disposable bag with a towel, and a robe if you will use one. If you did your preparations earlier in the day, shower and comb your hair again right before you leave for the mikveh.

Reception/Waiting Area
When you get to the mikveh, maintain a distance of two meters (six feet) from any other women there, including the mikveh attendant.

Preparation room
Mikva’ot have been instructed to clean and disinfect the rooms between women. In the preparation room, you should just undress — placing your clothes in the bag you brought from home — and inspect yourself in the mirror for possible barriers. Try to avoid touching surfaces or touching your face. This is the best way to prevent transmission of the virus and avoid risk of infection.

Inspection
Inspect yourself before calling the mikveh attendant. You can rely on your own inspection, and do not need the mikveh attendant to touch you. Loose hairs on your back are not a chatzitzah and do not need to be removed, even if that is your usual custom. Try to maintain a distance of about two meters (six feet) from the attendant.

Immersion
Chlorine kills the virus, so a properly maintained and chlorinated mikveh pool should not present a significant risk of infection. If you wish, you may reduce your customary number of dips. Sephardi women should recite the beracha before immersing. Ashkenazi women should immerse once, recite the beracha, and immerse again. If an Ashkenazi woman wishes to dip only once, she should recite the beracha after immersing.

After Immersion
Return to the preparation room, dry off, get dressed, and go home. Wash your hands well when you get home. You can also shower right after arriving home and do not need to wait until after you have been with your husband.

To summarize:
The decision as to whether to immerse at this time, or to delay immersion and remain in niddah, is in your hands. If you choose to immerse now, your risk of contracting Corona at a properly maintained mikveh is low. If you are immunocompromised or at high risk, please consult your physician.

May we all merit good health and good news.

We appreciate the sensitive nature of this question.

Given the situation, it is legitimate for you to make a personal decision not to immerse. Even if your husband insists that you go to mikveh, that does not halachically obligate you to do so.

That being said, not immersing means abstinence for an indefinite period of time, which requires both spouses working together to preserve shalom bayit.

It would be best if the two of you could come to a joint decision about mikveh, looking together at the materials we’ve made available on our site, inquiring about the precautions your local mikveh is taking, and talking out both of your concerns.

You may want to talk personally with a Yoetzet Halacha to discuss some of the halachic and practical aspects of working this out. As always, Yoatzot Halacha are available through our phone hotline or in the community. If you and your husband need more assistance in building healthy communication around this decision, you may also find it helpful to consult with a counseling professional.

May we all merit good health and good news.

We suggest that you call your mikveh attendant directly.

Begin by expressing your appreciation for her hard work at a tough time.

Then explain that you have a few questions. The key questions:

  • Is the water being treated regularly with chlorine or bromine?
  • Is the water being changed (or, if the mikveh uses a filter, is the filter cleaned) every day?
  • Are they disinfecting the preparation rooms and mikveh rail between women?
  • Is immersion by appointment, with care being taken to keep 2 meters distance between women (including from the attendant)?

If she answers in the negative or is unavailable to answer your questions, explain calmly that you are trying to help her keep women safe and ask her whom you can speak with to get answers or move things forward, and how else you can help. If you do not succeed in making an impact or reaching someone who can, see if you can get other women in your community involved to help. In Israel, you can contact the Religious Affairs Ministry with complaints.

If the mikveh is not maintaining basic standards of hygiene to prevent transmission of Coronavirus, you may need to delay immersion. If it is relevant, you could start looking into mikva’ot in neighboring communities.

We appreciate your concerns.

Mikva’ot can, in fact, be cleaned on Friday night. The mikveh can be chlorinated as usual. Surfaces can be wiped down with with bleach or alcohol wipes, or with bleach or alcohol solution and disposable rags.

If you have questions about your mikveh’s practice, please call ahead to clarify.

Shabbat Shalom!

Immersion in the ocean in any circumstance can be dangerous, and for that and other reasons is halachically complex. Immersing in a mikveh is preferable.

Immersion in a mikveh that adheres to strict hygiene protocols should not present a unique risk of Coronavirus infection, and remains the recommended halachic course of action.

We appreciate your concerns.

Halacha certainly takes public health into account and obliges us to follow the recommendations of local health authorities. For that reason, if they were to determine that mikva’ot are unsafe, communities would be obliged to close them and women would be instructed not to immerse. As long as they remain open in line with public health guidelines, halacha permits immersion.

If there is a specific pikuach nefesh situation for a given couple, then the women may be instructed not to immerse. So, too, women who are not comfortable immersing at this time may choose to delay immersion indefinitely. Unfortunately, this can place a strain on a relationship because harchakot remain in place and relations remain prohibited until immersion.

As for the suggestions of immersing in a pool or tub, there are specific halachic requirements for the construction and set up of a mikveh, which even an outdoor swimming pool does not ordinarily meet. For example, water that travels through pipes has the status of “mayim she’uvim” drawn waters, which are not valid for mikveh use.

Halachically, there is no substitute for immersion. We simply don’t have another option to offer.

Yes, in this case it is permissible to immerse during the daytime of the eighth day (after what would have been the mikveh night), with no constraints on contact between you and your husband immediately afterwards.

If you have a daughter who indicates that she understands that you’re is going to the mikveh, you should explain before leaving that daytime immersion is only permissible now because it’s a time of crisis.

Since mikva’ot aren’t usually open during the day, putting this into practice depends on coordinating with a mikveh and its rabbinic supervisor.

As the pandemic continues, some mikva’ot may choose to create daytime hours for immersion on the eighth day, in order to accommodate women who can’t get there at night or to ensure that all the women of the community can be accommodated, while limiting the number of women who can be at the mikveh at once.

We appreciate the sensitive nature of this question and the weight of your concerns.

You must discuss the possibility of mikveh immersion with your physician. Ask whether it would be safe for you, on condition that you can arrange to be the first to immerse after the water has been changed and treated.

If your physician approves immersion, call ahead to arrange a time when you can be first to immerse, and will not need to spend time in the waiting room. You should follow the current guidelines, performing all your preparations at home. At the mikveh, you should just check yourself in the mirror and immerse.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before you leave home and when you get back. Avoid touching your face while you are at the mikveh, and maintain a distance of two meters from the mikveh attendant and anyone else on the premises. 

We wish you the best of health.

For halachic and water safety reasons, it is preferable for an attendant to observe your immersion. An option to minimize contact would be as follows; it would work best if you can discuss it in advance with the attendant.

You can ask the attendant to allow you to enter the mikveh room on your own. Either bring your bag with you and put the towel down on it, or place the towel on a freshly disinfected surface. Call to the attendant when your body is in the water, and ask her to observe the immersion itself from the doorway. She can then leave until you are out of the room.

May we all merit good health and good news!

Immersing at the mikveh during the ninth month of pregnancy is a segulah, a practice thought by some to be beneficial. It is not a halachic requirement.

While, physician permitting, immersing in a mikveh adhering to health guidelines should be safe, women who are not halachically required to immerse should not to do so at this time, in order to prevent unnecessary crowding at the mikveh.

Separating challah during the ninth month of pregnancy is an alternate segulah for an easy birth, and, as always, tefillah is the ultimate segulah. You can include in your prayers wishes for the refu’ah sheleimah of those afflicted by the virus, too.

Mikva’ot that adhere scrupulously to current public health guidelines should be safe for use. If a woman who used the mikveh is later confirmed to have COVID-19, then the local health authorities will give specific guidance to the mikveh in advance of reopening the premises. Women who are immunocompromised or at high risk should consult their physicians first.

As with any public space, there is some risk of being quarantined if it turns out that a person later diagnosed with Corona was there at the same time as you. This applies to locations such as stores, buses, and synagogues, as well as to the mikveh.

The mikveh pool itself is chlorinated, and the railings and preparation rooms are cleaned and disinfected between women. Therefore, a properly maintained mikveh does not present a unique risk of infection compared to other public spaces.

We recommend you work within your community to set up an appointment system if you don’t have one yet. Depending on the specific situation, this could help determine which women were at the mikveh at the same time and minimize the number of women who need to enter quarantine due to possible passage within two meters of the woman diagnosed, or to possibly touching a non-disinfected surface that she touched, too.

May we all merit good health and good news.

We appreciate your concern. At this time, according to the guidelines of Israel’s Ministry of Health, you do not need to report that you were at the mikveh at the same time or to enter quarantine. No further action on your part is required.

Should the woman turn out to be positive for Coronavirus, the Ministry of Health will notify the public and issue instructions.

If a mikveh finds out that a woman broke quarantine and immersed, they must close the mikveh immediately, and report the infraction to the Ministry of Religion.  The mikveh will only be reopened in coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Health.

May it be G-d’s will that we should all merit to have good health and good news.

We are there for you in support in any way we can help.

If you are reading this from outside of Israel, rules are different from place to place. We recommend double checking this information with your local public health authority. 

According to Israel’s Ministry of Health directives, intimate relations are prohibited during quarantine.

Halachically, you are required to adhere carefully to instructions like these, intended to prevent danger to others’ lives. Accordingly, having relations at this stage would be prohibited.

We do still recommend immersing on time, although if you scheduled night is particularly inconvenient you can put it off.

In this case, you may delay immersion. You should finish counting your seven clean days as planned. After completing the clean days, you do not perform any more bedikot, and you should switch to colored undergarments.

Keep in mind that even once you do immerse, you must follow the rules of Israel’s Ministry of Health, which limit any physical contact with someone in quarantine.

Yes, a thorough shower is sufficient preparation for the mikveh. (You can rely on this whenever a bath is unavailable, not just during the current situation.)

Yes. In general, you can prepare for mikveh at any time during the day.

When there is a gap between preparation and going to mikveh, you need to take a quick shower and comb your hair again just before you leave for the mikveh.

At the mikveh, you should just check yourself in the mirror for possible chatzitzot and immerse.

The chlorine in the mikveh pool provides effective protection against the virus, and a shower after immersion is unlikely to have any effect on Coronavirus infection. Since showering at the mikveh would not create any health benefit, the halacha against it remains in full force. You can shower as soon as you get home.

We appreciate how difficult it can be to spend an extended amount of time in niddah, especially when facing the uncertainties of the current pandemic.

On the whole, the harchakot remain in place. This is the time, though, to review the harchakot, as by reading our site’s articles, to ensure that you are not being overly stringent.

When there are specific marital difficulties or mental health concerns during this pandemic and immersion has been delayed, a couple can be lenient with most harchakot that do not involve direct physical contact (e.g. passing objects directly and serving food).

May we all merit good health and good news.

In this case, if you would conceivably be comfortable being seen in public with your nails in this condition, given the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak, you need not remove the gel.  

If not, please be in touch with a cosmetologist, giving her a clear picture of what your nails look like now, to find out about the best methods to remove the polish or make it look presentable. Then, please get back to us or a local halachic authority.

Ideally, especially if this is your typical practice, you would remove the polish prior to immersion. In this case, though, where you can’t do that well on your own and the manicure is in good shape, you should fill in and repair your manicure as well as possible, clean your nails very carefully, and immerse. If possible, you should check in with your mikveh attendant in advance about this to ensure that mikveh policies will allow for immersion in line with this ruling.

Ashkenazi practice is to count the five-day minimum wait from the onset of niddah status or of halachic prohibition. This applies even if the couple could not have had relations for some time beforehand (e.g., they were in different cities). So your husband’s quarantine should not affect this halacha.

In cases such as yours however, where you have endured a prolonged separation and where shortening the five-day wait would make a material difference, given the unique stresses surrounding immersion, you may perform a hefsek taharah as early as you can get one and begin counting the clean days that evening.

May we all merit good health and good news.

If there is good reason to suspect that local authorities are weighing closure of the mikveh, or that you or your husband are at risk of quarantine, then you should attempt to perform an early hefsek taharah on day four, and a thorough bedikah on day five. That way, should closure on short notice remain a concern, you will be able to immerse a night earlier than you ordinarily would, based on the early hefsek taharah (and counting the bedikah the next day as the first bedikah of the clean days). If the concern fades, then you will immerse on your usual schedule.

As you go through the clean days, you should keep two counts in mind: one based on the early hefsek taharah and one based on the regular schedule from day five. If you typically perform a reduced number of bedikot, please consult with us to confirm how best to adjust your practice to this scenario.

Even in difficult times like these, the seven clean days cannot be shortened, as a matter of Torah law. In order to become tehorah, you need to immerse after you have finished counting the seven clean days. An earlier immersion would not be halachically valid. Let’s hope and pray that you are able to immerse on time and that this crisis passes soon.

We recommend that you call the halachic authority to whom you usually bring such questions to consult. (You could also contact a Yoetzet Halacha through Nishmat’s Golda Koschitzky hotline, or a local Yoetzet Halacha.) Explain that it is difficult to bring in the cloth because of the restrictions, and give as many details about it as possible.

Another possibility is to seek to have it evaluated by a rabbi online through Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately. It is most helpful in more clear cut cases. While some borderline colors will require in-person evaluation, many questions can be accurately assessed through the app.

If you will need to drop the bedikah off for in-person evaluation, please lay it flat to dry and then place it in a clear plastic bag. Wash your hands, and place the bag in an envelope with a note with your phone number and other relevant information. 

In this situation, you might try to perform another bedikah prior to sunset, to serve as a new hefsek taharah should one be necessary.

Be”H, the pandemic will pass and we’ll be able to return to our normal mikveh practices soon!

If you are concerned that performing your full usual set of bedikot may lead to extra halachic questions, you may perform fewer bedikot at this time. 

Even now you must, at absolute minimum, perform a hefsek taharah and one bedikah each on days one and seven. If any of these three examinations are omitted, the seven clean days are not valid, so it’s crucial to remember the bedikah on day seven.

If at all possible, you should also do a bedikah on at least one intermediate day. This helps ensure that you don’t inadvertently go more than five days without a bedikah, which would invalidate the entire count and require you to start over.

In the event that you do nonetheless have a questionable bedikah, we recommend that you call the halachic authority to whom you usually bring such questions to consult. (You could also contact a yoetzet halacha through Nishmat’s Golda Koschitzky hotline, or a local Yoetzet Halacha.) Explain that it is difficult to bring in the cloth because of social distancing, and give as many details about it as possible.

Another possibility is to seek to have it evaluated by a rabbi online through Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately. While some borderline colors will require in-person evaluation, many questions can be accurately assessed through the app.

If you will need to drop the bedikah off for in-person evaluation, lay it flat to dry and then place it in a clear plastic bag. Wash your hands and place the bag in an envelope with a note with your phone number and other relevant information.

Be”H, the pandemic will pass and we’ll be able to return to our normal mikveh practices soon!

In general, you may immerse when your full recovery has been medically confirmed. Please check with your physician that there are no unique constraints before going ahead with immersion.

We wish you continued good health!

We publicized these guidelines because, from a halachic perspective, it is critical to follow them. Halacha recognizes local health authorities’ expertise to develop a response to the virus that safeguards public health.

Anyone who is in quarantine is absolutely forbidden to leave their house, except for cases which require medical intervention. Even then, they must notify the public health authorities. Additionally, family members may not come close to someone in quarantine, and certainly any physical and intimate contact is prohibited, even for a couple that is halachically permitted to each other.

It is important to understand that immersion of a potential carrier of the Coronavirus might endanger the health of other women at the mikveh, especially those who are at high risk for complications.

For these reasons, it’s critical to follow the instructions of Israel’s Ministry of Health, and not to permit immersion for any woman who is obligated to remain in quarantine.

quarantine

1.     A woman in quarantine may not have contact with her husband or use the mikveh until her quarantine is over. As difficult as it can be to delay mikveh immersion, the halachic imperative to prevent the spread of disease is greater than considerations of immersing on time.

2.     A woman whose husband is in quarantine may immerse on time or delay immersion to a more convenient time. If they are not observing quarantine scrupulously within the home, she should delay mikveh until after quarantine. As long as her husband is in quarantine, physical contact between them is medically and halachically prohibited.

3.     A woman with a household member in quarantine need not delay immersion. If they are not observing quarantine scrupulously within the home, she should delay mikveh until after quarantine.

4.     A woman who immersed and was subsequently put in quarantine need not notify the mikveh at this stage.

5.     A woman in quarantine may dispose of bedikah cloths in the garbage, as usual. If she has a halachic question about a bedikah or stain, then she should not bring the cloth or garment to a halachic authority. Rather, she should call to consult. In cases that require visual evaluation, she can seek to have it evaluated online through Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately. If a woman in this situation cannot use the app, she can save the cloth or stain and have it evaluated following her quarantine. She should keep careful track of the dates of any cloths or stains that she saves for future evaluation.

6.     In consultation with her physician, a woman in quarantine or with a husband in quarantine might consider manipulating her cycle hormonally so that quarantine overlaps with niddah as much as possible, or to push off niddah for a while after quarantine.

Q&A

You are definitely facing a number of challenges, and these questions only begin to touch on them. Our hearts go out to you, and we are here to assist you in any way possible.

Your dedication to immersing on time is extraordinary, and it’s clear from what you wrote how important it is to you to immerse on time.

The halachic ruling in this case, though, is that you must delay immersion.

The instructions of Israel’s Ministry of Health are very clear: You may not exit quarantine at all, and that definitely includes going to places like the mikveh, where you might endanger other women if it turns out you are carrying the virus. These instructions also have halachic implications, because not endangering the lives of others is a halachic obligation.

Immersing in the sea is off the table, since you are forbidden to leave your home. Even if there were a way for you to reach the sea without any contact with others, it would likely be in an area in which entering the water is dangerous, which itself raises halachic issues for immersion.

It is truly praiseworthy that you have never had to postpone mikveh immersion. In this case, however, halacha requires you to take a different course, and that will be no less praiseworthy. Please note that you should finish your seven clean days as planned. After completing the clean days, you need not perform any more bedikot, and should switch to colored undergarments.

We have a halachic obligation to follow the instructions of Israel’s Ministry of Health and to prevent a situation of possibly endangering other’s lives.

Women who are in quarantine for potential exposure to the Coronavirus are prohibited medically and halachically from leaving their homes. That precludes going to mikveh, which could potentially endanger other women there, even if the woman in quarantine plans to immerse last.

If you must delay mikveh immersion, please complete your clean days as planned. After the clean days, you need not perform any more bedikot, and you should switch to colored garments.

You are definitely facing a number of challenges, and these questions only begin to touch on them. Our hearts go out to you, and we are here to assist you in any way possible.

Counting the seven clean days and immersing in the mikveh are distinct mitzvot. There is usually no break between them, but halacha does allow for one when necessary.

You are correct that you cannot immerse before your quarantine period finishes, but it’s important for you to finish your seven clean days as planned, even though you won’t be able to immerse right after you finish them.

Between completing your count and immersion, no further bedikot are necessary, and you should switch to colored undergarments. On the night immediately after the quarantine period finishes, you can immerse.

You are definitely facing a number of challenges, and these questions only begin to touch on them. Our hearts go out to you, and we are here to assist you in any way possible.

You are correct that there is no way for you to bring the cloth to a halachic authority for evaluation right now.

We recommend that you call the halachic authority to whom you usually bring such questions to consult. (You could also contact a yoetzet halacha through Nishmat’s Golda Koschitzky hotline, or a local Yoetzet Halacha.) Explain that you cannot bring in the cloth because you are in quarantine, and give as many details about it as possible.

Another possibility is to seek to have it evaluated by a rabbi online through the Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately.

In this situation, you might try to perform another bedikah prior to sunset, to serve as a new hefsek taharah should one be necessary.

Please note that if your seven clean days finish before you exit quarantine, you will need to wait until you finish quarantine before immersing. You should complete the clean days on time as usual, even if you will need to delay immersion. After counting the clean days, you need not perform any more bedikot, and you should switch to colored undergarments.  

You are definitely facing a number of challenges, and these questions only begin to touch on them. Our hearts go out to you, and we are here to assist you in any way possible.

If you feel that performing internal examinations will be particularly stressful for you, or if you have reason to believe that they will raise many halachic questions, then you are permitted to perform fewer bedikot this cycle.

Please note that, at minimum, you must perform a hefsek taharah and one bedikah each on days one and seven. We recommend performing at least one more bedikah on one of the intermediate days.

Should any questions arise, please consult a halachic authority, as explained below, as soon as possible. In this situation, you might try to make another bedikah prior to sunset, to serve as a new hefsek taharah should one be necessary.

If you do have a questionable bedikah, we recommend that you call the halachic authority to whom you usually bring such questions to consult. (You could also contact a yoetzet halacha through Nishmat’s Golda Koschitzky hotline, or a local Yoetzet Halacha.) Explain that you cannot bring in the cloth because you are in quarantine, and give as many details about it as possible.

Another possibility is to seek to have it evaluated by a rabbi online through Tahor App (available on iPhone and some models of Android phones), which uses special color calibration technology to ensure that the stain is photographed and transmitted accurately.

We wish you good health and a smooth conclusion to your quarantine.

We understand that quarantine presents a number of challenges, and appreciate your commitment to following the instructions.

Generally speaking, mikveh immersion can only take place at night. In fact, a mikveh attendant often is required to receive explicit halachic permission from the supervising rabbi before she can open the mikveh during the day.

 

We need more details about your situation in order to determine if there are sufficient grounds to allow for daytime immersion. Please get back to us with more details, by calling our hotline, or contacting a local Yoetzet Halacha

In this case, you may delay immersion. You should finish counting your seven clean days as planned. After completing the clean days, you do not perform any more bedikot, and you should switch to colored undergarments.

Keep in mind that even once you do immerse, it will be critical to follow the rules of Israel’s Ministry of Health, which limit any physical contact with someone in quarantine.

According to Israel’s Ministry of Health directives, intimate relations are prohibited during quarantine. 

Halachically, you are required to adhere carefully to instructions like these, intended to prevent danger to others’ lives. Accordingly, having relations at this stage would be prohibited.

You should still immerse on time.

We publicized these guidelines because, from a halachic perspective, it is critical to follow them. Halacha recognizes Israel’s Ministry of Health’s expertise to develop a response to the virus that safeguards public health.

Anyone who is in quarantine is absolutely forbidden to leave their house, except for cases which require medical intervention. Even then, they must notify the medical authorities. Additionally, family members may not come close to them, and certainly any physical and intimate contact is prohibited, even for a couple that is halachically permitted to each other.

It is important to understand that immersion of a potential carrier of the Coronavirus might endanger the health of other women who would immerse in the mikveh, especially those who are at high risk for complications. 

For these reasons, it’s critical to follow the instructions of Israel’s Ministry of Health, and not to permit immersion for any woman who is obligated to remain in quarantine.

Medical Background​

Since COVID-19 is a new virus, we do not yet have a complete picture of it. However, it is similar to other viruses that have caused global concern, such as SARS and MERS, which means that we have some previous experience to build on. We have also learned about the virus over the months since its emergence.

 

COVID-19 appears to be spread mostly by respiratory droplets. This can occur when an infected person breathes near one’s face for a period of time, or coughs or sneezes on someone. There is cause for concern if one is within about 2 meters (6 feet) of an infected person for more than 15 minutes.

 

The virus can also be transmitted through secretions, as when an infected person uses a tissue or touches a surface, and someone else touches that item and then touches the area of the mouth or nose.

 

In order to prevent the virus’s spread, one should avoid these situations.

 

The current situation calls for good health practices, not panic. Some tips:

  • Have a package of tissues handy. Sneeze or cough into a tissue, throw it in the garbage and then wash hands with soap and water for twenty seconds.
  • If you are caught without tissues, then it is better to cough into the crook of your elbow than on your hands, as you are more likely to touch other objects with your hands than your elbow.
  • We should all be washing our hands frequently. If you are not likely to have access to soap and water, then keep alcohol gel handy. The virus can be killed with bleach or alcohol.
  • Decisions about gatherings or travel should only be made by public health officials who have the information to balance the local risks and benefits. There is no benefit to adding layers of additional precautions without specific instructions. This creates an atmosphere of panic and is unlikely to aid significantly in disease prevention.

Public health officials are working constantly to determine the most appropriate actions for a given location or scenario. As the situation is in constant flux, these instructions change frequently. The changes are cause for confidence that our health officials are keeping on top of a dynamic situation.