Beit Midrash

  • Family and Society
  • The Marital Relationship
To dedicate this lesson
Translated by Hillel Fendel

Stories from the Mikveh

Two small stories on how keeping the family purity Halachos come with devotion.


Various Rabbis

Tevat 10 5782
A rabbi of the Puah Fertility Medicine Halacha Institute in Jerusalem tells the following story:
Years ago, a young couple in their very early 30's came to us for consultation. Married for some 10 years, they had not been blessed with offspring, to their great sorrow. They had begun a process of fertility treatments in accordance with their specific issue, but these weren't working, and so the couple came to us. The couple appeared to be Torah-observant, but not strongly so. We discussed the problem, including the fact that they had undergone a traumatic experience years earlier when a deranged man forced his way into their home in the middle of the night and attacked them; the recovery process had been long and difficult.
Our conversation took longer than expected, and – amazingly fortuitously, as it turned out – it was time for the afternoon Mincha prayer. I suggested that we take a prayer break; the wife remained in the waiting room while her husband was happy to join me. On our way back from the synagogue, he turned to me and asked to tell me something – on condition that I not breathe a word of it to his wife. Emotionally and painfully, he told me that his wife had not immersed in a mikveh since their wedding, despite all his pleadings. He explained that she simply could not bear the thought of immersing before the female mikveh attendant (whose job it is to ensure that the immersion is kosher), or before anyone else. He felt tortured, and asked me for counsel.
I told him that first of all, he must take upon himself not to cohabitate with his wife until the matter is resolved – for the sin of doing so is a grave one – and that then the issue will come under Divine providence. I told him that the late Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu had ruled that if there is no choice, no attendant need be there for immersion, as long as certain procedures were followed. I suggested that he explain this to his wife pleasantly, and that he arrange to travel with her to the mikveh and arrange for the attendant to remain outside while she immerses on her own. We then returned to our three-way meeting, discussed other procedural matters, and they set out on their way home.
Soon after, the husband informed me that his wife had agreed to the new arrangement – and a few months after that, he called to say that she was pregnant! Now, years later, they have a son and a daughter, healthy and whole!
[Note: The ruling of Rabbi Eliyahu has become more widespread in recent years, and although for various reasons it is important that a female attendant help and monitor an immersing woman, in many cases it is permitted for a woman to immerse alone. A competent Orthodox rabbi should be consulted in cases of doubt or need.]

The following story was told by one of the rabbis of
A man approached me and said he wanted to start becoming Torah-observant – but that his wife was not interested in going to the mikveh as required. He said that she was very particular about cleanliness, and that the idea of going to a public mikveh, with its reputation for lack of cleanliness, actually repulsed her. No matter how many rabbis spoke to them and explained to them that there was no dispensation for physical contact between husband and wife without mikveh, she would not change her mind. The husband actually slept on the floor for a number of weeks, to ensure that he would not sin. Finally, G-d apparently saw his self-sacrifice and heard his prayers. The man heard one day that precisely opposite his house, a new, modern mikveh was being built. When the building was completed, the attendant contacted the woman and asked if she would like to come see it. The woman agreed, and when she saw its luxurious, spa-like conditions – it turned out to be one of the absolutely most lavish and well-appointed mikvehs in all of Israel! – and how clean and new it was, she agreed from then on to immerse there whenever necessary. Just another story of self-sacrifice for the mitzvah of mikveh with a happy ending!
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