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October 18, 1991 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-10-18

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"Mikvall elevates women to

a higher, spiritual level."


In addition, the pit must be
built directly into the
ground. it cannot be made
in such a way that it can be
disconnected or carried
away. .
The Torah explains
mikvah as a process of
spiritual purification, an
elevation of one status to
another. Any association
with death or dying, such
as menstruation, brings on
a state of tumah, ritual im-
purity. Water, according to
the Torah, facilitates the
change from one status to
The Torah also requires
converts to Judaism to
undergo ritual immersion.
Pots, dishes and other
eating utensils also
undergo immersion before
they're rendered kosher.
Men also use the mikvah, a
separate one, before the
High Holidays and Shabbat.
Ellen, who has three
children, never went to the
mikvah during her first
marriage. She said her
husband never insisted on
it and they weren't that re-
ligious. Six years ago,
Ellen married Alan. They
have two children. "I didn't
go with my first husband
and that marriage ended,"
Ellen said. "Maybe if my
marriage had been better, I
would have gone. I'm not

Chaya Sara
Silberberg of Bais
demonstrates some
of the preparations
women do before



saying that was the reason,
but now I can see the dif-
ference it can make in a
"The closer it gets to my
wife going to mikvah, the
harder it is to remain
apart," Alan said. "The
three or four days before
mikvah aren't as hard for
me as the couple of days
before she goes to the
mikvah. I'm not sure I'd
feel this way if mikvah
wasn't a part of our mar-
ried life." The first time
Ellen went to the mikvah
was the day before her
wedding. All new obser-
vant brides, whether
they've been married
before, go to the mikvah
the day before their wed-
"I was a little nervous,
like I wasn't doing 'every-
thing right," she said. "I
must have checked myself
at least 100 times. I felt
completely pure. I 're-
member thinking how im-
portant it was what I was -
doing. Thousands of wo-
men before me had done
the same and I felt like I
was part of a continuum."
Alan, who grew up
observant, is relieved his
wife derives fulfillment
from going to the mikvah.
"I used to go to the
mikvah on High Holidays

before I would daven in
front of the congregation,"
he said. "I'd go real early
in the morning. It was a
spiritual time for me as
Ellen said most people
don't think about God until
great tragedy or happiness
enters their life.

"When a couple keeps
mikvah and taharat
hamishpachah, God is
more of a regular
presence," she said. "A
marriage is a contract bet-
ween a man and a woman.
A Jewish marriage, sanc-
tified by these mitzvot, is a
contract between man,
woman and God."
The Reform movement,
for a long time, considered
the mikvah an "anachronis-
tic, superfluous Jewish in-
stitution," said Rabbi Lane
Steinger of Temple Emanu-El
in Oak Park.

"Only in the last 20 years
have Reform rabbis and lay
people begun to reassess
the whole matter of
mikvah," Rabbi Steinger
said. "But only as it relates
to conversion."
He said . mikvah has
gotten bad press.
"Probably because it was
originally associated with
having menses, a long-
time, societal- taboo," he

The women's mikvah
at Bais Chabad.

said. "It was further com-
plicated by the unfortunate
use of words like 'clean'
and 'unclean' when
describing .a woman's sta-
tus before and after im-
mersion in mikvah."
Growing numbers of
Reform rabbis are now in-
sisting on tevilah (immersion
with conversion)," Rabbi Ste-
inger said, "but we haven't
gotten there as far as it
relates to niddah."

Neither has the Conser-
vative movement, accor-
ding to Rabbi Martin J.
Berman of Beth Achim.
"I'd say the subject of
mikvah as it relates to
niddah has been treated
with benign neglect,"
Rabbi Berman said. "I talk
to a couple. If I think it's
something that will be well
received, I'll bring it up. If I
feel it will be rejected out of
hand, I won't. I'd *rather
work on other areas of Jew-
ish observance like
kashrut or Shabbat."

Rabbi Berman said the
synagogue's mikvah is
almost completely used for
conversions. In the last
calendar year, 140 conver-
sions took place at Beth
Carol, who describes
herself as Conservative,
said none of the married
women in her family use
the mikvah. She said it
wasn't something she'd
want to do.
"I can sort of see how it
makes a reasonable degree
of sense when it's explain-
ed as not having anything
to do with a woman's
physical state of clean-
liness," she said. "The
mikvah part doesn't sound
too bad, but I'm not so sure
about the physical separa-
tion part."
Chaya Sara Silberberg,
who conducts weekly
classes at Bais Chabad on
mikvah and taharat
hamishpachah, said
Carol's reaction is typical.
"No one wants to give up

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