Mikve traumas

Too many women experience fear, anxiety, dread, resentment and even anger. Why?

A cartoon of a woman ready to bathe
Photo by: MCT
A woman must strip off all her clothes and submerge herself in a ritual bath before she can have sex with her husband, according to Jewish law. This is a fairly straightforward, ancient Jewish custom adhered to for generations by devout women. (Mikvaot meeting the same legal strictures followed to this day were found on Masada.) But in our postmodern era in which religion and faith are options, not inescapable existential realities, it is a custom which carries with it intense emotions, not just – or even primarily – expectations of consummating sexual yearnings, but more commonly, fear, anxiety, dread, resentment and even anger.

This was the dominant theme of a conference organized last Wednesday night by Advot (Hebrew for “ripples”), an organization that promotes an atmosphere of open and critical female discourse on the custom of going to the mikve. The crowd was a decidedly liberal stream of Modern Orthodoxy – many of the women wore pants and covered their hair only partially, if at all. As one of the few males present (I had tagged along with my better half), I was given a peek at an aspect of a Jewish woman’s religious experiences that I had not, until then, fully grasped.

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