When I first got married, I loved going to the mikvah. But I dreaded when questions arose. If I was unsure of my mikvah dates or had questions about my cycle, I had to call a rabbi. And, honestly, who wants to discuss these things with any man, never mind a spiritual figure?
The awkward phone calls took place with stuttering and hesitations. I had no idea if I was catching the rabbi at a bad time and always felt strange discussing something so personal with a male. To the rabbis’ credits, each was a listener and patient, even if some of the conversations felt rushed. And although I realized my awkwardness came from within, every phone call was still a trial for me.
I was powerless to do anything about it. Those inevitable calls to various rabbis needed to be made. As someone who valued the adherence to mikvah observance, there was just no other option.
So, I decided to create one.
Upon graduating from MIT, I utilized my computer science background to develop and launch MikvahCalendar.com, a go-to website that takes the awkwardness out of observing ‘Taharat HaMishpachah.’
MikvahCalendar.com creates halachically proven, private, personalized calendars which inform each user know when to go the mikvah, when to do internal checks, and when her period may fall. These easy-to-read calculations make mikvah observance far less intimidating.
One of the website’s most popular feature gives users the ability to privately ask questions about Jewish intimacy and mikvah-related matters. Our forum allows women – and men – to anonymously connect with a rabbi who specializes in mikvah-related issues. For users who would prefer a more feminine approach, there is also the option of connecting with a female expert trained in all the intricacies of Jewish intimacy.
Within the first few months of unveiling our “Ask-The-Rabbi” resource, thousands of men and women sent emails, explaining that our forum was the first environment in which they felt comfortable posing queries of such an intimate nature.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who felt awkward asking personal questions to one’s community rabbi about mikvah and ‘Taharat HaMishpachah.’
The response was immense.
One veteran mikvah-goer described her discomfort at the thought of asking her rabbi cycle-related questions. She used to feel so awkward that she used to unnecessarily refrain from intimacy with her husband in order to avoid the embarrassment of approaching a religious figure with such personal matters. The option of anonymity with MikvahCalendar.com’s “Ask-The-Rabbi” feature changed that.
Another woman emailed us with her dilemma: Although she wanted to continue observing the laws of ‘family purity,’ her husband did not. He threatened that if she persisted with mikvah observance, he would find a place to have his sexual needs filled elsewhere. Needless to say, this was not something she felt comfortable addressing with her local rabbi.
As we anonymously helped her analyze the situation, we realized her husband’s frustration was real. They had indeed abstained from intimacy for much longer than necessary. She had been staining for an extraordinary amount of time due to her method of birth control. We helped her find an alternative birth control method which restored her normal cycle and she happily reported that her relationship with her husband was back on track.
Questions continue to flow in from our members regarding abuse, miscarriages, birth control, sexual dysfunction and intimacy issues. Sometimes a husband or wife will contact us to ask if what they are experiencing with their spouse, physically or emotionally, is normal.
These topics are often taboo–considered embarrassing or shameful by the asker. I’m grateful that MikvahCalendar.com has provided a forum for people to comfortably ask their questions.
And although, thank G-d, there are a growing number of organizations which allow people to comfortably address their concerns, we need more initiatives within every spectrum of the Orthodox community. For ourselves and our children, we need more.
Each community needs to think about addressing these issues in a way that enables women and men to seek answers to questions they might not otherwise have the confidence to ask. Whether people have questions about abuse, cycles, relationships, or other sensitive subject matters, they deserve safe places in which to ask. For example, imagine if each shul incorporated an anonymous mikvah and intimacy question form into its website. The member’s email addresses would be anonymized automatically before appearing in the Rabbi’s inbox. Users would not need to fear judgement, and would ask the questions that they have been waiting to ask.
The world is changing. Technology is advancing. And we are able to utilize resources for Torah purposes like never before. With websites like MikvahCalendar.com and anonymous forums like the one mentioned above, we can take the “awkwardness” out of talking about the mikvah. Because mikvah observance is not something to be ashamed of. It is a beautiful ritual and is something to be proud of. It is something to be treasured. It is an experience which will preserve and nurture our heritage for generations to come.