Going to the mikveh for the first time–whether it’s right before your wedding, many years later or any other time–can be a bit scary, especially if you don’t know what to expect. This piece here helps explain some of the unspoken ritual of mikveh, so that you can relax and enjoy it.

Setting up your appointment

If the mikveh is large and has open hours, you will not need an appointment and can just walk in. (Check the website or call first to be sure.) If the mikveh is small or by appointment only, you will need to contact them in advance to make an appointment for a specific time. You may also want to check what you should bring with you. Many mikvehs in the US provide everything–towels, toiletries, slippers, etc–but not all do, and Israeli mikvehs are known for providing nothing in the towels/toiletries department.

When you arrive

Generally they will show you to your prep room and let you know how to notify the attendant when you are ready to immerse. If they do not show you, make sure to ask–it can be very embarrassing to step out of the bath/shower, ready to go and not be sure how to call the attendant!

Ready for the mikveh

The attendant should lead you from your prep room to the mikveh. (This is often done through back hallways to protect privacy of other women who may be there at the same time.) When you are in the mikveh pool room, the attendant will check you (basic standard is back, hands and feet). Sometimes the attendant will ask if you want to be checked, but not all do. If you prefer to not be checked, tell your attendant. The responsibility for physical preparation for the mikveh is yours; the mikveh attendant is there to help, but it is not required.

Just before immersion

When you are ready to immerse, the attendant will offer to help you by holding up your towel as you walk down the stairs in the mikveh. (Holding the towel out in this way also offers some amount of privacy.) When you are in the pool and ready to dunk, let the attendant know so she can put your towel aside and watch your immersion.

Bracha/Blessing

Some mikvehs have the bracha for the immersion printed on the wall, or have a copy of it available in the mikveh pool room. Bring the copy into the pool with you if you need. Your first dunk will be without a bracha; after the first dunk you say the bracha and then do all of your remaining dunks. Some mikveh attendants will give you a cloth to cover your head as you say the bracha–this is custom and not required. If you need glasses to see the blessing, don’t be embarrassed to put them on for reading; just remember to remove them when you dunk.

Number of immersions

There are two major traditions–three dunks (Ashkenazi) and seven dunks (Sephardi). Women generally follow family custom, but there is flexibility in adding more. The minimum required is two, but in cases of extreme fear of water one may be acceptable (discuss with your halakhic advisor).

Mikveh attendant’s role

The mikveh attendant’s only responsibility is to witness your immersion and to enable you in performing this mitzvah. That’s it. After each dunk she will say “kosher” or “not kosher” so that you will know if the dunk was good or must be repeated.

What makes an immersion kosher?

All of your body–all parts and every strand of hair–must be completely under the water and not touching the sides of the mikveh. If you have long hair, it may help to get all of your hair wet first to help it go under.

Positions to get in when you immerse

There is no required position to hold your body in when you immerse–whatever works for you, go with it. Make sure also to relax your eyes and mouth; water should not go in them, but they should not be clenched, and neither should your hands. It is custom when you immerse to cross your hands over your midriff (stomach area) to separate the top half and the lower half of your body.

After you immerse

After you finish your immersions, the attendant will hold your towel out in front of her so that she cannot see anything and help you. Some attendants may leave so that you can come up in privacy. You can also ask for some time alone in the mikveh to meditate/pray or just have some privacy.

A touch/A blessing

In Israel and among Sephardi mikveh attendants, there is a custom to wish the woman immersing well with specific blessings of health, children, shalom bayit. . . There is also a custom for the attendant to touch the woman.  If you are bothered by that, let them know.

Candy/tea as you leave

After you’re dressed and leaving the mikveh, the attendant may offer you candy or something else to eat. This is not just to offer you something nice on your way out the door–this is so that if you later find something in your teeth, it was from this candy, and there is then no doubt on the halakhic validity of your dunks.

It’s your mikveh experience– take ownership to enjoy the spiritual moment


To enjoy future blogs, sign up here: