Mikve Night but Not Tonight

Tik tok one minute it’s Friday and the next it’s Shabbat.

Tik tok chametz in and chametz out.

Tik tok davened Mincha, or “Oiy-I forgot!”

Tik tok it’s mikve night and I’m hot to trot…(into a warm bed with a good book?)

Tik tok we’ve only got two weeks. Spontaneity…not.

Jews don’t only tell time, find time, or waste time. We sanctify time. HaChodesh HaZeh LaChem…This month shall be for you (Exodus 12:2) Our first mitzvah as a nation is to declare each new month based on the new moon. By deciding when the month begins we decide when each holiday will fall out and, thereby, sanctify time.

As things work out, if some time is sacred and some is not, we may feel we are playing the game, Beat the Clock. No matter when Shabbat starts, we often play beat the clock to finish preparations before sundown.

We might experience another variation of beat the clock in our intimate relationships during the years when niddah laws are relevant and women cycle in and out of tahara (ritual purity). On returning from the mikve, the clock starts ticking for approximately two weeks of intimacy. (Another reason why there is much to look forward to in our more “ahem” mature years.) Can we afford to wait for “that loving feeling”? Are we are contorting our intimacy to fit the calendar? Or are we just relieved to be intimate and enjoy it while we can?

The calendar says mikve night. You may both be joyfully anticipating your renewal of intimacy. Great!  What if one or both of you aren’t in the mood?

Let’s start with objective obstacles. Mikve night often falls out when a woman is ovulating. Some women feel lousy when they ovulate.

Or, you have the flu.

There can be external pressures. Even if you took my advice to plan, not everything is in our control. You’re a lawyer with a big court case the next day. You’re a teacher and tonight are parent-teacher meetings. Maybe you move furniture for a living and are physically exhausted. You get the idea.

You might actually have a headache.

Tomorrow night just might be better.

This can work if it’s a previously and mutually agreed upon option used on an ad hoc basis. (If it’s a pattern, let’s be honest, we need to dig deeper.)  If it’s not an agreed upon option, it gets trickier. Suppose you have objective obstacles and suggest waiting until tomorrow night. If it’s not a mutually agreed upon option in your “bag of intimate possibilities” you might be afraid to suggest it because your spouse could feel rejected, or think you don’t find them attractive anymore or, worse yet, suspect you are seeing someone else. (Yes, we each need to be responsible for our own thoughts and reactions – and – we are all still human.) That may trigger an interaction you’d prefer to avoid which will take much time and emotional energy in and of itself. You don’t want to be in a situation when you are being intimate just to avoid a fight.

And, although I am proud to use the F word and admit I am a feminist, it is a little trickier if your loving, understanding husband would really prefer if you would, tonight. One can believe in the rights and equality of women and also be compassionate, generous and have a sense of humor.

Men have dilemmas of their own on mikve night. Let’s say Hubby wants to be intimate, but, hey, it’s been two weeks. He’s afraid to disappoint, and feel like a failure. Or, he’d like to accommodate his wife’s request to wait until tomorrow, but, hey, it’s been two weeks. Just to put it in perspective for womenfolk: you’re a nursing mother and your baby just slept 6 hours for the first time. How ya doing there? I’ll assume you get the analogy.

Maybe you don’t want to wait until tomorrow night. It’s mikve night, one or both of you are tired, distracted or under pressure, and yet, you miss each other. You want to be close. This is where the Q word comes in handy. Instead of building up mikve night as the pinnacle of romance and intimacy for the month, let’s look at it as the ice breaker for your physically intimate time. It doesn’t have to be a huge production with special lingerie and scented candles. Sometimes, what’s called for is a quickie. It can be mutually enjoyable, reduce tension and spark the connection which will enable you to reclaim your bag of intimate possibilities. And, then…

Tomorrow night just might be better still.

About the Author
Curiosity about what makes people tick, fascination with relationships and a strong reflex for helping led Ellen to individual and couples coaching and to be a Jewish marital intimacy counselor certified by Mercaz Yahel. Born in Chicago and living in Israel since the ‘70’s, Ellen lives in Beit Shemesh with her husband and semi-empty nest of kids and grandchildren.