Ritual Waters Run Deep

I ran out of the apartment complex with my scarf dragging on the ground and my coat unzipped. 

No, I wasn’t running away from a boyfriend who mistreated me.

And no, I wasn’t running from a mugger.

I was running to perform the ritual of dunking in the mikvah (ritual bath).

According to halacha (Jewish law), after a married woman gets her period, she is to dunk in a ritual bath before she can have sex with her husband, and according to rabbinic stringencies, she has to wait 7 additional days before going to the mikvah.

This ritual is meant to be meaningful and holy, but it brings out the worst in me.

I mean, I thought I was rude when rushing to catch a subway, but in comparison to mikvah, I am apparently an angel.

Picture this: A young woman comes home from a busy day of work—tired and starving. But before she makes dinner—let alone eats it—she has to remove her nail polish, cut her nails (fingers and toes!), take a shower, and then walk several blocks to the local mikvah where she must dunk in the water so she can have sex with her husband.

I spent months before my wedding learning about all the nitty gritty rules surrounding mikvah. 

You would think, now that I am married I don’t have to be ashamed whatsoever for being sexually active. But somehow, the laws of mikvah come around to remind me that sexuality in marriage, while beautiful, is also riddled with horribly neurotic intricacies.

Yes, the stronger restrictions are rabbinic law, and the strictly biblical ways of mikvah are less strict. And yes, I could choose to just throw away this whole ritual altogether. But, I don’t have the guts to do that, nor does my husband. We believe there is great significance to this ritual and we want to keep it. But G-d help me, it can be such a nuisance.



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