Natural spring as mikveh
4 December, 2002
I am living where my best mikvah option is a natural spring. I am, however, unfamiliar with the halachot of immersing in a natural body of water. Additionally, there are occasionally late night swimmers. For modesty, my husband and I discussed the possibility of me wearing loose clothing into the water, undressing where the water is up to my neck, immersing, redressing before emerging from neck-high water. This would ensure modesty if anyone were to approach from a distance (my husband would act as a look-out) but not if they were nearby, as the water is clear. I have gotten the impression that in such circumstances a loose-fitting dress in the water might not impede the kashrut of the immersion. Is this true? What is my best course of action?
There are a number of requirements for the use of a natural spring as a mikveh. First of all, the spring itself has to meet the requirements for immersion. The water must originate from the spring and not from a collection of rainwater, and it must be deep enough so that you can immerse your entire body at one time. The spring you describe, which reaches your neck, is certainly deep enough.
Second, there is the issue of modesty. If it can be done modestly, removing the dress underwater is better than leaving on a loose-fitting dress. However, a loose-fitting dress would not impede the kashrut of the immersion if you can assure that the water has touched all parts of your body.
Third, someone needs to witness the immersion to assure that all all your hair is under water. (This requires sufficient lighting.) The witness should be another Jewish woman over age 12. Only where there is no Jewish woman who can do the job may your husband serve as the witness. In that case, his job is not just to act as look-out, but also to confirm that you completely dunk. Prior to immersion, however, you are still a niddah and he should not be seeing you naked. Thus, even if there are no other swimmers that night, you should follow the procedure you described with the dress.
Other considerations are that the area in which you immerse be safe, private, and clean enough that you will not rush immersion.
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