Mikveh attendant’s role
9 June, 2004
I want to ask two questions, if this is something you can advise me on, since it’s not exactly straight halacha.
First of all, who is ultimately responsible for a kosher tevilah, me or the mikvah matron? I ask because I wear nail polish, fingers and toes, and one of the mikvah ladies gives me a little trouble each time I come and she’s working. Says SHE never would wear such a thing, and can’t be responsible if she misses some. Come on, let’s admit it’s not that difficult, in good light, to make sure that all the pink is gone! So, I guess I have to ascertain that myself – so what’s she there for, just to make sure that my whole body & hair are submerged during tevilah?
Because, in general, all any of them do is glance at my hands & feet and then check my back. I can’t rely on just that, can I?
Next and lastly for some reason, the cleaning lady they hired is an old, old ehrlich lady from a big yichusdike family, and it just bothers me tremendously that she’s cleaning up after me. So not only do I have the pressure of the judgmental mikvah lady, I’ve been washing my own floor and emptying the garbage, etc.
I mean, I know that for Shabbos they say Rabbi Akiva cut up vegetables and another big rabbi would do the sweeping in his own house, and that wasn’t considered demeaning, it was considered lekovod Shabbos.
So – are my thoughts valid? I appreciate your input. Many thanks.
The primary halachic role of the mikveh attendant is to indeed to assure that your whole body, including all your hair, is submerged. She can also offer to help double check trouble spots, such as the back. However, each woman is halachically responsible for checking herself, visually and by touch, to ensure there are no chatzitzot. This inspection (iyun) is a key element of mikveh preparation.
It is completely permissible to wear nail polish as long as you take the time and effort to remove it before immersion. You can reassure the attendant that you accept full responsibility for your preparations in general, and for checking your nails in particular.
Cleaning the mikveh should not be regarded as demeaning work – in many smaller mikvaot there is no daily cleaning lady (deep cleaning is done once or twice a week), and all women are expected to clean up after themselves. In your mikveh, the woman hired for the job agreed to the work that she is doing. If you want to be sure her work load is reasonable and not demeaning, then just pick up after yourself – for example, make sure not to leave stray hairs on the sink or dirty tissues on the floor.
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