Mikvah and Marriage

Sexual relations between a husband and wife are of the most sacred human experiences. Jewish law therefore developed a framework to sanctify marriage with such rituals as Mikvah.

This observance invites a married Jewish woman to immerse herself in the Mikvah seven days after the completion of her menstrual cycle. Women visit the Mikvah to spiritually purify themselves before resuming sexual relationships with their husbands.

Other Uses of the Mikvah (for men and women)

Converts to Judaism must immerse in the Mikvah, representing their entrance into the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

New utensils go through an immersion in the Mikvah, thus sanctifying the food these utensils are used to prepare.

Jews "returning" to Judaism after "converting" to another religion, may immerse in the Mikvah to reaffirm their commitment to Judaism.

Shabbat, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipppur are particularly holy times and on the day before these holidays Jews often visit a Mikvah. On Yom Kippur, in ancient times, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) immersed himself in the Mikvah for spiritual purification before entering the Holy of Holies.

Mikvah provides Jews with the opportunity to simultaneously observe a Biblical commandment and increase their personal spirituality in a world which is, at times, lacking in it.

Modern rituals have been created to address the needs of women who have suffered pregnancy loss, have been the victims of sexual or other abuse, for healing.

General Procedures for Immersion

A person should be completely clean before entering the Mikvah. Before immersion, they bathe thoroughly, remove all makeup, wash their face, floss and brush their teeth, comb every tangle out of their hair, cut and clean their nails, and remove all jewelry and objects from their body. Nothing can separate them from the water, for the water must reach every part of their body.

An attendant is there to assist them in their preparations if necessary and escort them to the Mikvah. A woman (or male convert) immerses in the Mikvah, says a blessing, then dips under the water two more times.

Suggested Readings

Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology, by Rivkah Slonim
Waters of Eden: The Mystery of the Mikvah, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan
Dipping Into Tradition: The Mikvah Makes a Comeback Originally published in JTS Magazine, Volume 10, Number 3 (Spring 2001)
Mikvah.org (website)
Ritualwell.org (website)