Single women: Mikveh before Yom Kippur
2 October, 2014
I am a divorced, post–menopausal woman. I would like to go to the mikvah before Yom Kippur with the understanding that my immersion would be for spiritual purposes alone and has no practical halachic implication. I asked a respectable Orthodox authority about the necessary preparations before such an immersion. Her response was that such an immersion, as an unmarried woman, was prohibited by Rabbinic ruling. As my intention is to do something that for me would be spiritually uplifting, I don’t want to do something forbidden. I would appreciate any insight. Thank you.
There is a rabbinic decree prohibiting single women, including divorcees, from immersing in the mikveh. However, there are varying opinions as to whether the decree applies to immersion for the sake of teshuvah prior to Yom Kippur.
It is usually up to a local mikveh’s rabbi to determine the mikveh’s stance on this issue. You may wish to discuss it further with the woman you consulted. You could direct her to the responsum written by our site’s rabbinic supervisor, Rav Yehuda Henkin. He permits single women’s immersion for teshuva on Erev Yom Kippur, subject to community custom and local halachic policy. It is available in the original Hebrew here, and in English translation in his book Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women’s Issues.
Gemar chatimah tovah!
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