I am the first to admit that I like to be spoiled. (My husband is the second to admit it😊). I like to be pampered, indulged, pleasured or whatever word you want to use to describe the term “spoiled”. Not to the point of “spoilt rotten” mind you and certainly not every day, (though I would try not to complain too much were it so…) but definitely having some of my wishes granted. The ideal way that I see the mikvah experience for women is founded on that point. That women once a month (at least) should be given the right to indulge ourselves. To take that much earned and not always available “ME TIME.” To my mind the mikvah should be a chance of rebirth, rejuvenation, recreation and just simple relaxation.
However, I know that not just for me the mikvah experience is far from the pleasurable experience it is set up to be. For me: preparing for the mikvah stresses me out. Did I do enough? Did I clean myself enough? Was I thorough enough? Added to this stress, I don’t like standing in front of another woman buck naked. (I know: call me crazy but hey…) Since I was a child, I have had a bright purple spot covering half of my back. It is a decolorization doesn’t bother me or hurt me in the slightest, but I know exactly what it looks like. It looks like my husband beats me. Not only black and blue but also red and purple. I always feel the seemingly accusing eyes of the mikvah lady on my back as she tries best to evaluate the situation. I am not demeaning in any way the wonderful mikvah ladies. They do holy work, and they should have the courage to continue. I just don’t like standing having my back and tush exposed for evaluation and under scrutiny.
Recently my mikvah experiences reached new lows. Where I live there are always problems with the mikvah’s heating. The thermostat of the water heater is the main problem. In fact, the only thing it can be counted on to do consistently is not to work. Where I live we make appointments at the mikvah. When I last had to immerse, the mikvah lady called me earlier in the day and told me that the water would most likely not be warm because of the thermostat problem. This already induced a slight panic attack. Hello. It is the middle of the winter!! But all I can say is thank God the water wasn’t warm. The water heater was not only broken, but it wasn’t in place. After doing the ritual dipping, I started to get out only to have my lower backside brush against the water heater. The result was that I got burnt. The pain was so intense that I felt the shock of heat and electricity shooting up my back. Thankfully the thermostat wasn’t working so I “escaped” with only “minor burns”. Even that though was way more then I bargained for.
This experience – far from the pampering experience that one should have – woke me up to the fact that we as women must stand up and take charge of this holy mitzvah and speak out. Women should be actively involved in everything concerning the mikvah. From choosing the design, planning the layout, choosing the colors. It should be women who are doing inspections of the mikvahs and deciding what needs to be improved, not men because frankly, it is our mitzvah. This mitzvah of Tahara, that has enabled the survival of the Jewish people should not be delegated to men. I urge you all to speak up and speak out. If your mikvah experience was anything less than the spiritual rebirth that it is supposed to be. If your mikvah experience didn’t include that desperately needed “ME TIME” and you want to think with others how to create that, then speak out. If there was something lacking in your mikvah experience, then speak up. Enough with being reactive. It is our mitzvah and therefore it is our duty to be proactive. Let us all raise our collective voices and make the mikvah experience a better one for all women.
בזכות נשים צדקניות גאלנו ובזכות נשים צדקניות נגאל. (In the merit of righteous women we were redeemed [from Egypt] and in the merit of righteous women we will be redeemed in the future).