When I was eleven years old I received a package in the mail. It wasn’t my birthday or Chanuka or any other special occasion but it was addressed just to me. Inside was a beautiful boxed set of floral stationery from my aunt in Chicago. The attached note read ‘mazel tov on becoming a woman – we love you’ and I remember feeling excited (and a bit embarrassed) that someone had sent me a present to celebrate my first period. That was over fifty years ago and the positive message of that note has stayed with me to this day. My mother and her sisters successfully conveyed a powerful lesson to their children – the healthy development of our bodies is a gift to appreciate, a blessing to applaud. [Read more…]
Dr. Ilana Chertok recently articulated an active goal of The Eden Center. “In addition to Halakha (Jewish law) and Mesoret (tradition), culture influences many women in their attitude and practice regarding mikveh. As such, we need to develop an understanding and sensitivity to culture and its role in the mikveh experience.”
This blog certainly resonates as part of that work— to ensure that all cultures are embraced and understood at the mikveh to allow customs to remain and flourish.
Many women in Israel, regardless of their level of observance, come to the mikveh in their ninth month of pregnancy— a segula (practice) that is believed to make birth easier. This practice is especially common for women of Mizrachi/Sepharadi descent, but becoming more popular across the board.
This woman’s immersion evokes the idea of bringing tahara, purity and God’s presence, into the birth process. The living waters of the mikveh parallel the waters of the womb. By immersing, the woman unites the spiritual aspects of the mikveh waters, that symbolize being enwrapped by Torah and the Shekhina, with the physical nature of the womb and birthing process. Tevilla is therefore a very female way to bring Hashem into the process of preparing for labor.
Tevilla for a pregnant woman is a kabbalistic segula, not a halakha. Therefore, there are no specific rules about the procedure, and no special preparation is needed. There is no requirement to remove hatzitzot (physical barriers), though washing one’s body before entering makes it nicer for those coming after. Likewise, there is no bracha (blessing) to recite (as it is not a mitzvah). [Read more…]
“I have a 12 year old son who is very resistant to talking about any topic related to sexuality. I recently bought him some books (American Girl has one for boys which is good) but I know we need to have a conversation. My husband broached the subject a few times and my son ‘shot him down’. I understood that it’s okay for the mom to address it, but what kind of language do I use, especially to discuss nocturnal emissions?”
Here was the recommendation of Dr. Naomi Grumet to guide a conversation: [Read more…]
Women immersing on Erev Yom Kippur– What are you talking about?!?!
There is a tradition of women immersing in the mikveh before Yom Kippur for the sake of spiritual preparation for Yom Kippur. This is a way to “purify” one’s body in preparation for the holiest day, just as men do. Though we remain halakhically impure, it gives a time for spiritual focus and tefilla. It is completely unrelated to one’s niddah status and allows for us to experience the mikveh as a spiritual center.
Who can go?
Because this is just a minhag, many poskim believe that anyone can go– young and old, single and married, niddah and tehora. (Similar to the attendance of all men and boys on this day).
- The Mishneh Berura and the Ben Ish Hai expressly write that married and single women should immerse.
- Rav Ovadia Yosef and other contemporary Poskim oppose singles and women during their 7 “clean days” from immersing Erev Yom Kippur. Those prohibiting it do so mainly to prevent a woman feeling that this immersion removes her niddah status (or the need for the 7 clean days); other reputable poskim allow all women to immerse since it is unrelated to niddah.
- Some women find immersing in a mikveh while bleeding inconceivable, and they don’t. They can follow the recommendation of the Pninei Halacha to take a long shower with 11-13 liters of water and to ensure that the water covers all parts of the body.
The Eden Center finds it a wonderful opportunity to introduce the mikveh to your daughters in a spiritual yet non-sexually focused format. Girls should be accompanied by their mothers and can wear a bathing suit if they feel more comfortable that way. [Read more…]
(Note: although this article refers to mothers and daughters, much of it applies for fathers and sons!)
I was waiting at the obstetrician the other day, and struck up a conversation with a heavily pregnant lady waiting alongside me. She mentioned her eldest daughter had asked her how the baby gets in to her body. She looked a little awkward, and admitted she wasn’t sure how to answer this question.
I asked her if she had talked to her daughter, who was about 8, about puberty and getting her period yet, and she also admitted she had thought about it as she had heard girls are getting them earlier these days, but hadn’t approached it yet. I mentioned maybe those topics could go together, for example, that when a girl get’s her period, her body is becoming grown up, like a mummy that can have a baby. She made no reply to my suggestions and then a few minutes later she was called in to the doctor. I was left wondering if the silence following my “idea” suggested the conversation may have come to an end even if the doctor hadn’t called her. [Read more…]