Meira E. Schneider-Atik
marching to the beat of my own drummer

Mikvah in the Age of the Virus – A Different Perspective

When I was engaged, I needed a good kallah teacher. I had to go through a wild goose chase to find one, but I found Rivky who lived only a short walk from my parents. She wasn’t just good – she was awesome and she blew me away on the first lesson. I didn’t just learn the mechanics of Taharat HaMishpachah. I learned about the spiritual ideas surrounding it. Of course, we keep the laws because Hashem said so, but there are so many wonderful things associated with this. Even now, after almost 18 years (and counting) of marriage, I still love this mitzvah. 

I love having mitzvot that only I, as a woman, can do.

I love that I can’t fob this one off onto a man. Supposedly, he’s obligated too, but all he can do is wait. I’m the one who gets to be active and do things. 

I love that I’m a woman and that I have my own inherent value (not one iota less than a man) in Hashem’s eyes. I don’t need to be a man or do what the men do to have value. 

I love that I’m the Queen of my household and the mainstay of my home and family. Anyone who makes that out to be less important than the public realm is wrong. Unfortunately, a lot of people only pay lip service to the private realm. 

I do NOT love not touching my husband, but I appreciate that if we didn’t take a regular break from the physical, the novelty would wear off. 

I love taking the time I need for myself every month. 

I love the feeling of rejuvenation that I get when I emerge from the mikvah. 

I love that my local mikvah is careful about cleanliness and sanitation to start. And I love even more that they’re taking the precautions needed in these times. Thanks to the staff, my local mikvah is a lower-risk space than most grocery stores. 

What I do NOT love is that there aren’t enough voices like mine out there. I’m reading and hearing a lot from people who think that all mikvaot, including the women’s mikvaot, should close because women shouldn’t be risking it. After all, the virus can be passed even if people have no symptoms, no woman should be forced to go, marriages can survive, etc. The standard response is that many mikvaot, like mine, are clean and sanitary and are taking precautions. But those voices are still there. 

My honest take on the women’s mikvah is this:

First, all women’s mikvaot need to adhere to very strict standards of cleanliness and sanitation. Any mikvaot that do not should be closed and serviced until they do. However, the good mikvaot that are taking all the necessary precautions should not be lumped in with the bad ones. 

Second, all women need to follow the precautions. No woman should violate quarantine or isolation to go to the mikvah. And no woman who has symptoms of anything should go. I remember a time many years ago when I didn’t let a severe cold stop me from going to the mikvah. Now, it would be foolish if I did that.

Third, no woman should be forced to go to the mikvah even if she’s healthy and the mikvah is good. I don’t blame anyone who is scared right now. Not to mention that there are women who find Taharat HaMishpachah very difficult and don’t love this mitzvah as I do. Those women are NOT to be judged for that.  

Fourth, I think we need to remember that our religion has always been based on home and family. The private realm has always been more important than the public realm. The fact that so many people out there either pay only lip service to that and who treat women as if we are less important or valuable doesn’t change any of the above. Whenever we build a new Jewish community, the first building is not the shul or beit medrash, but the mikvah. Now, more than ever, we’re seeing that when push comes to shove, the private realm is what matters most. 

As I said, I love being the mainstay of my home and family and I have no intention of letting other voices drown mine. I plan to emerge from that mikvah pool feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to take on everything.

About the Author
Meira E. Schneider-Atik is a wardrobe stylist, personal shopper, and writer/blogger. Her goal is to help women feel good about themselves and to dispel the myths about tzniut and dressing well. Her heart is in Eretz Yisrael, but for now, she and her family live in Queens, NY.
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