By Vicki Polin, Michael J. Salamon and Na'ama Yehuda
(originally published by The Awareness Center in 2006)
The "Mikvah" is a ritual pool of water, used for the purpose of attaining ritual purity and is used in Jewish communities internationally, including those located in Skokie and the Chicagoland area.
Immersion in a Mikvah is performed for the following main purposes:
- in connection with Repentance, to remove the impurity of sin.
- in connection with Conversion.
the ritual act that divides two periods of time - the period of separation when marital relations are forbidden, because the wife is in the state of "niddah," and the period of union when such relations are not only permissible but regarded as essential to a healthy marriage.
The laws of purity and impurity apply to both men and women. In ancient times when the Temple stood in Jerusalem it was required of everyone to be pure prior to entering the Temple or when eating holy foods. Therefore, both men and women (married and single) would use the Mikvah regularly—if they wished to enter the Temple. During excavations at Masada a mikveh was found. During excavations in Jerusalem there even were mikvah’s found in privately owned homes.
The use of the Mikvah is a vitally important aspect of the Torah observant lifestyle and something that is extremely sacred. In the Hassidic community there is a custom of both men and boys going to the mikvah every day, especially prior to Shabbat and holidays. Unfortunately, there have been reports of boys being molested at a mikvah. For this reason The Awareness Center, Inc. is suggesting that the following five basic protocols be adopted by all communities as an attempt of preventing one more child from being harmed.
- All men should be required to wear a towel around their mid section when not in the shower or in the Mikvah.
- Children under the age of 14 must be accompanied by their parent. If this is not possible a credible supervisor must be present.
- Special times be established for boys between the ages 14 - 18. There should always be at least one trustworthy adult attendant present who will be responsible to be sure the boys don't get out of hand with each other.
- Underaged boys should not be exposed to the nudity of adult men. There is a custom in some communities that a boy cannot see his father’s naked body, nor a son-in-law seeing his father-in-law naked. The father does not have to be immersing himself at the moment in order to supervise his son. Another suggestion is that a substitute supervisor can be arranged with the signed consent of the parent.
- There has been recent discussion that a men’s mikvahs adopt the same policies as the women’s mikvahs in which there is privacy. When an individual goes to the mikvah, the purpose is for purification, and connecting with G-d. This spiritual task is compromised when the environment becomes a threatening place for boys.