30 years ago I married my husband, Ian. It was an exciting time being engaged, and as a young kallah (aged 21), I went for lessons to prepare for our marriage and how to observe the laws of niddah and to prepare for the mikveh. I knew nothing, and this was all new for me. I learned with a wonderful teacher, not only about the laws of what, when and how to go about the mitzvah of mikveh, but also about how to bring romance, communication and non physical intimacy into our relationship. I looked forward to the lessons each week with a positive attitude, and I approached this new chapter in our lives together with excitement.

Ian was simultaneously learning, with the husband of my teacher, about how to keep this mitzvah with me. We were taught that this was our mitzvah and a way that we could nurture our relationship on all levels, through its observance. It was not something that would separate us, but something that would bring us even closer. Halacha is one thing, but more than just adhering to halacha, we gained intimacy and connection on a deeper level. I feel that we learned an appreciation and a loving attitude towards mikveh observance, which I am still so grateful for.

Over the years, discussions with friends revealed mixed feelings toward preparing and going to the mikveh. There were four types of responses; some loved it, and connected to the spirituality of it. Some felt neutral towards it, like it was just a means to an end. Others detested it, finding it stressful and had OCD tendencies around the preparation, doing it right, and even more stress around prescribed unnatural performance afterwards. Then there was a fourth group who avoided it altogether by prolonging contraception. I was in the first category. Each month when my cycle began I welcomed the new phase our relationship entered, and a time to return to myself. At mikveh time, I anticipated reconnecting with excitement. I feel blessed that I still feel this way 30 years later.

For mikveh night each of us was guided on how to prepare for each other, and each time I returned from the mikveh, Ian had showered and prepared for me as well. I often returned home to a candle-lit environment and Baileys, which I loved.

We were taught about being tzanua (modest) about the way we observed this mitzvah, and keeping our activities and preparation private. This often involved sneaking out the home with lame excuses to the kids and all sorts of other creative dodging that we did. The privacy and secrecy helped add to the specialness for us. Little did we know, that, through the eyes of our daughters, the secrecy actually created a non-existence of the mitzvah occurring at all!

Over the years, going to the mikveh evolved for me and became something precious and spiritual. I think back to the different stages in my life when I would go; praying that this would be the month I would conceive, when I went during my ninth month of pregnancy to pray for the baby and a healthy birth, or returning again, filled with gratitude, after another healthy daughter was born. There were also vacations where we would hunt down the local mikveh, and this made its observance even more valuable for us.

So, coming from this viewpoint about mikveh, you can imagine how taken aback we were a few years ago, when the topic arose, for the first time, with our young adult daughters. Incidentally they had learned about Taharat hamishpacha in high school, which added to our shock. At the Shabbat meal one of them turned to me and asked in disbelief, with eyes popping out of her head, “What!@# Do you go to the mikveh???” I was totally bowled-over and astonished by her question, and answered, in disbelief, “Of course I do!!!”

It was at this moment that I realised that something had seriously gone wrong through our secrecy. We had obviously been so good at observing Taharat hamishpacha that it didn’t appear to even be part of our relationship, and this was to our kids… who lived with us! Ian and I discussed the matter afterwards and decided that the adherence to secrecy had actually ‘shot us in the foot’ and become a missed opportunity to share a treasured mitzvah that we, as a couple, have loved observing and hoped that our daughters would observe as well. We decided it was time for a family meeting.

In the past whenever we called a family meeting, the first thing the girls would ask us was, “Are you pregnant?” “Ha, ha,” I answered, “not quite”. Then Ian and I both proceeded to discreetly ‘spill the beans’ on our mikveh observance, each describing the ongoing benefits and specialness that we give to each other and receive. It was important for me that we have this conversation together as a couple. I didn’t want my daughters to hear that this is only their mitzvah, it is most definitely a couples’ mitzvah. This turned out to be a very beneficial conversation, and we feel that we were able to impart observance, importance and specialness to our daughters.

I am not sure how this could be approached differently and at what age one should discuss these issues with kids/young adults, I just know that for us, it was a bonding experience with our daughters and I’m pleased we did it. The reason for writing this article is to plant the seed for you to discuss how, and what, and when you might want to communicate with your kids to promote this precious mitzvah.