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Negative mikveh experiences

24 March, 2005

Question:

I have a philosophical question.

I have been married for almost three years, and I have never once had a positive mikvah experience. I was raised orthodox, I always knew I would keep the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha. I have an appreciation for the importance of Halacha, whether we understand it or not, and yet I find the mitzvah of going to the mikvah to be one that I am on the verge of letting go. My problem is not the laws of Niddah, not that they aren’t difficult, but they are at least bearable. My problem is specifically with the mikvah experience itself.

My very first time, as a kallah, I made an appointment at a mikvah in my neighborhood that is known to be the “kallah mikvah”. They have a beautiful kallah suite and I know that most of my friends went there for their first time. I made a daytime appointment and told them that I was a kallah. When I got there with my mother, we waited for 1/2 an hour for the mikvah lady to arrive just to be let in, and then waited in the waiting room for another 30 minutes before finding out that the room was being prepared for a different girl who’s whole family was coming. I used a regular mikvah room, which would have been fine if I had been given it right away instead of having to wait for an hour and not even getting the special treatment of a kallah.

After that my experiences range from nasty mikvah ladies; to not finding parking; to getting terribly lost to and from the mikvah; my first few periods occured such that I was always somewhere else the night I had to go to the mikvah, so I never got used to one place. One time I had to go on a Motza”sh, the mikvah I went to was very small and obscure. When I got there, and finally figured out where the door was, there was a bug the size of my palm (I am not exaggerating) right near the doorknob. I called my husband freaking out and waited outside for 5 minutes until it flew away. And if that’s not enough when I got in there the mikvah lady was crazy! She filed my toenails down till I bled. Inevitably, by the time I return home from the mikvah, I am in no mood to be with my husband, which is horrible on so many levels, not the least of which is the fact that he is usually very much in the mood.

I don’t know why this is happening to me and I need some chizuk.

Thank you for reading my whole long megillah!


Answer:

We’re sorry to hear that you’ve had such a run of unfortunate mikveh experiences. Kol hakavod for sticking to the laws of niddah for these three years.

For the most part, mikveh attendants are overworked volunteers or undercompensated workers doing their best to facilitate observance of this mitzvah. Halachically, they are there to ensure that your hair is all underwater, and should only perform other checks if you agree. Sometimes, as you’ve discovered, attendants can overstep or create an unpleasant atmosphere. When this happens, it can help to contact the mikveh supervisor, so that the situation does not repeat itself for you or others.

If you live in an area with multiple mikveh options, try to find the one that best fits your needs and where your wishes will be honored. If there’s a Yoetzet Halacha in your community, she may be able to help. You can also talk to friends, ask on social media, visit, and even talk to mikveh attendants. Be sure to work out the logistics in advance. When necessary, it’s often possible to arrange for later hours for a fee.

You may also find it helpful to intensify your spiritual preparation for mikveh. Sometimes, focusing on our spiritual process and goals helps us put material frustrations and mishaps in perspective. See here for a list of English books and here for online resources. Aryeh Kaplan’s Waters of Eden is a classic work on mikveh. Women’s voices from a variety of perspectives appear in the anthology Total Immersion, and on the Eden Center’s blog.

You can find ongoing insights, support, and fellowship by following Nishmat’s Yoatzot Halacha on Facebook and Instagram.

If you are still having a hard time, please feel free to get back to us.

This response was updated on 3 September, 2021.


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