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Bee

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PostSubject: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:50 am

I read all your stories about going to the mikvah for conversions, but I am puzzled on why all the inspections and strict rules on this and that? Why is dunking make you from a gentile one minute to a Jew the next? Maybe its a two part question but all the scrubbing and mirror checks, naked infront of an inspector as if quality control? Toe fungal will disqualify a person etc. Legs shaven? What? Maybe I'm reading the wrong manual.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:04 am

Do male conversions undergo inspections too? Because my hubby's toes are not FDA approved. tongue
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:45 pm

Is having tatoos a deal braker? My book doesn't mention it.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 3:48 pm

Tattoos aren't a dealbreaker, at least not in my movement (Liberal) - anything you did before conversion as a gentile doesn't count - it's what you're becoming that counts and your subsequent actions. If you got a tattoo AFTER the mikvah, then yes, that would raise eyebrows!

My Rabbi (who is female) checked my back for stray hairs before I dipped at my request, but it wasn't required. I wanted my conversion to be valid up to Masorti (conservative), so we followed halacha to the letter. The check is more businesslike if anything - they're not there to scrutinise your body!

As far as I know in Orthodox conversions, it IS required. Male conversions also require inspection, but usually a member of the beit din will serve as a witness for males, so it won't be a woman.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:00 pm

I was not inspected at my mikveh. The "mikveh" lady probably would have said something, but certainly not close enough to see fungus between my toes!
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:18 pm

I was not inspected though she wasn't exactly discreet either. No, having a tattoo shouldn't be a deal breaker.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:45 pm

maculated wrote:
I was not inspected at my mikveh. The "mikveh" lady probably would have said something, but certainly not close enough to see fungus between my toes!

lol!
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:52 pm

Dena wrote:
I was not inspected though she wasn't exactly discreet either. No, having a tattoo shouldn't be a deal breaker.
yikes not discreet? They don't discuss it with others right? I don't have tatoos but my husband does from his military days. Its a relief. Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Wed Dec 14, 2011 11:57 pm

Bee wrote:

yikes not discreet? They don't discuss it with others right? I don't have tattoos but my husband does from his military days. Its a relief. Embarassed

I just felt like she was staring at me and my Rabbi who was right there (female Rabbi) felt the same. I'm sure they don't generally discuss what they see with other people. They shouldn't anyway. Your husband's tattoo shouldn't be an issue.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:04 am

When it comes to Jewish ritual, I like to look at the end goal first (if its apparent), and then look at all the details with the actual observance.

For the mikvah, the goal is for the water to come into contact with your entire body. There should be no separation (chatzitza) between you and the water. Additionally you should be as a fetus, being reborn. That it why it is important to not tightly close your lips, and to let your hands and feet float loosely (you also lift your feet off of the floor a bit when immersing).

Loose hair, mature scabs, and nail polish are some of the things that aren't a part of your body, and create a barrier. There are a lot of details though...like for scabs, if it will bleed if it were to come off, you most definitely would leave it alone. Another interesting one is acrylic nails, which I always thought were not allowed. However my old rabbi, who was a Brisker Rav (so pretty charedi) poskened that they are fine as long as your real nails are not separated for the acrylic nail on top. If there is separation, then you need to cut away the real nail until the point it is bonded with the acrylic one.

I have a tattoo on my back (that I constantly forget about), and no one said anything about it at my (Orthodox) mikveh. Wink and Smile
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:54 pm

Some mikveh attendants (colloquially called "mikveh ladies") go overboard about their responsibilities which should be mainly to check for barriers and that all parts of the body (including hair) went under the water and your feet were off the floor so that the body was fully surrounded. Here is a recent article reminding mikveh ladies about how to do their job in a way that is respectful to the immersing woman*:
A Public Service Announcement for the Mikveh World

The "shomeret" (another name for the "mikveh lady") of the mikveh I use is very careful to "protect [my] modesty", as she calls it. She only checks areas like my upper back and neck that I can't see for myself or in the mirror of the prep room. She holds up the towel as suggested by the above article. And if she speaks to me after I have immersed while I'm still in the mikveh area but am standing their dripping, she looks down at the ground even though I'm holding the towel around me again. She starting working at the mikveh when it was built 1998, which is before the Mayyim Hayyim (of the above article) was built and thus before their training manuals were written, but she has participated in Mikveh Conferences sponsored by Mayyim Hayyim and subscribes to their philosophy of making the experience pleasant and comfortable. I have heard terrible stories of invasive and unkind mikveh ladies. I'd never have returned if I had had that kind of negative experience.

*Men immersing for conversion are witnessed by the Beit Din. Men immersing for other reasons are not checked at all and the mikvaot are communal. (Orthodox men often immerse before Yom Kippur, some do it before Shabbat, and some very religious men immerse every day before Torah study.) I have been told by a man who uses these male mikvaot that they are very different from mikvaot used by women for "family purity" not only because they are not private, but that the water is sometimes not very clean (eww.....) tongue
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Thu Dec 15, 2011 10:56 pm

I actually used the men's side for my conversion. I have seen the women's side with a bunch of "floaters" but I think it's styrofoam.

I would never have guessed it was okay to wear fake nails to the mikveh.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:14 pm

I haven't heard about most of this (I knew you had to be totally immersed); what's this about hair?

I have waist-length hair; wonder if it's supposed to be bound up or floating loose?

And getting all the loose hairs off my body is rather like getting all the cat hairs off velvet, LOL. My husband gets out of the bathtub pulling my hairs off of him. Sometimes they end up in the MOST unlikely places on him. tongue
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BRNechama

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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:34 pm

Mychal wrote:
I haven't heard about most of this (I knew you had to be totally immersed); what's this about hair?

The hair needs to be submerged. Women usually wet their hair before their immersion (wet hair will not "float")

Quote :
I have waist-length hair; wonder if it's supposed to be bound up or floating loose?

Under Orthodox auspices, it should be loose...however the rules for more liberal movements could be more relaxed regarding this.

Quote :
And getting all the loose hairs off my body is rather like getting all the cat hairs off velvet, LOL. My husband gets out of the bathtub pulling my hairs off of him. Sometimes they end up in the MOST unlikely places on him. tongue

This is a valid concern. I do not know the exact halacha, but apparently if there is a loose hair that you missed, and you toiveled...your immersion is still kosher. The goal is to make a good attempt at removing the barriers.

When it comes to loose hair, I would suggest this: wash and blow dry your hair at home. Comb or brush out your hair real good...also at home. Go to the mikveh with your hair loose (or loosely tied back...don't use an elastic or anything that will pull more hair out). Brush or comb again. Check for loose hairs. Then wet your hair. It is much easier to remove dry loose hair from your skin than wet loose hair from your skin!

Also for women that shave, I would suggest timing your shave so that you have at least one full shower in between the time you shaved and your mikveh visit. Use a shower poof to thoroughly scrub the areas that you shaved (they work wonders when it comes to catching the hairs in their netting). Examine your skin in natural sunlight sunny if possible...it really works so much better than any type of artificial lighting (and remember, the traditional time for a woman to immerse in the mikveh is after nightfall).
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PostSubject: more about long hair and the mikveh   Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:26 pm

Mychal wrote:
I have waist-length hair; wonder if it's supposed to be bound up or floating loose?
My hair was also waist-length when I converted. I had to kind of part my way through my hair as I surfaced. Hair certainly needs to be loose.

BRNechama wrote:
Under Orthodox auspices, it should be loose...however the rules for more liberal movements could be more relaxed regarding this.
The only streams of Judaism that might allow it to be bound up are those who don't actually require immersion anyway so they don't care too much how it is done. Some of those groups also use immersion in non-Halachic waters for conversion, but there are lots of strict rules on the water and the method for Halachic immersion.

I only get my hair cut every other year or so, and then I donate over a foot to "Locks of Love" which makes wigs for children with hair loss. I'm just staring to get a few grey hairs, but I've been told that I can keep donating because Locks of Love sells hair it can't use directly to help pay other expenses. It is a lot easier to prep for the mikveh with shorter than really long hair.

Another comment about long hair:
Conditioners must not be on hair when immersing in the mikveh because the residue is a "barrier" to the water directly touching your hair (as well as the fact that it would probably leave an oily residue in the water). So if you need conditioners or detanglers to comb out your hair, you should do a pre-wash at home and comb out your hair. Then you'll need to wash out the conditioner with more shampoo, but you can do that carefully and not get it too tangled, so that it will still comb out more easily. Or as as BRNechama suggests, do the combing out when it is dry and then just re-wet it before immersing.

I'm lucky in that I have very straight hair so it is not hard to comb out. I know an Orthodox woman with very curly hair who washes and combs out her hair at home before going to the mikveh since it takes such long time to do.

BRNechama wrote:
(and remember, the traditional time for a woman to immerse in the mikveh is after nightfall).
However, night time use of the mikveh is only for Jewish women who are immersing for "Taharat HaMishpacha" ("family purity"). Women immerse in the day for conversion just as men do. Men generally always immerse in the day.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Fri Dec 16, 2011 7:12 pm

I had waist length hair too. It's shorter now but it still tries to suffocate me under water. Razz Our mikveh lady is very careful about making sure everything is under water and not touching anything else.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:53 pm

Bee wrote:
I read all your stories about going to the mikvah for conversions, but I am puzzled on why all the inspections and strict rules on this and that? Why is dunking make you from a gentile one minute to a Jew the next? Maybe its a two part question but all the scrubbing and mirror checks, naked infront of an inspector as if quality control? Toe fungal will disqualify a person etc. Legs shaven? What? Maybe I'm reading the wrong manual.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm has an excellent article on My Jewish Learning that answers this very question very well. But in short:

1) The inspections are just to remove all possible barriers between yourself and the mikveh water
2) Water is used for ritual purification; not only by Jews, but many others as well. The mikveh is just part of the multi-part conversion process; the part that signifies re-birth
3) Your legs don't have to be shaven (because hair growing from you is still a part of you). Sorry if when I brought it up before, i wasn't clear (shaving can cause loose hairs to cling to the skin). I'm not sure about toe fungus though No Idea
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:56 pm

BRNechama wrote:
I'm not sure about toe fungus though No Idea

I would think that could be a health issue? I know there are filters and things of that nature these days but I can see where it could cause concern if it was noticed.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:42 am

Lol, I may be exaggerating on his toes. But according to the Niddah book or tractate, it is very clear that a thorough inspection must be done and such examples like toe nails and other minor things will make the mikveh ritual invalid. I understand the whole rebirth metaphor but how did it get so extreme with things like loose hair, dandruff etc. What's the history behind all that and why not extreme for men? How is that barriers? Unless you are in scuba gear, clothing or a bathing suit is not good enough? Prebathing should be a requirement just like it is for pools. Water is water and will saturate, the water is not the magic ingredient..its a heart issue and the water was and is for sanitation and purification. I think its overboard, especially since we shed skin cells, hair, all part of the body. Maybe its done so that the filtration process of the pool needs less maintnance? I got a packet including the prayers and checklist for the mikveh procedures and I am surprised. At least its not co-ed like the christian baptism. I do look forward to the day and its significance, I just want to know why this or that....I feel like a kid always asking why why why, but I just don't want to go back to doing things because I am told to and not question the reasons behind it, I don't need another religion...I just need Hashem. I just want to do what is right and what He requires of me. I can accept and not question the Torah where it plainly says about family law practices, its the fine tooth brushing and inspection stuff that has me in a loop. Hashem searches the inner heart, not if I have dandruff. Anyways, maybe as I mature in Torahs I will get the reasons behind the procedures of mikveh.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 12:46 pm

Bee wrote:
, I don't need another religion...I just need Hashem. I just want to do what is right and what He requires of me. I can accept and not question the Torah where it plainly says about family law practices, its the fine tooth brushing and inspection stuff that has me in a loop. Hashem searches the inner heart, not if I have dandruff.

I don't know what to tell you, Bee. I would say Judaism is a religion, there are rituals and we give significance to those rituals.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 2:54 pm

Bee, you may simply be indicating a preference for less Oral Torah in your Jewish practice.

The whole point, as I saw it, was to just really pay true intentional focus to the experience. At the mikveh, they had this shower room with all kinds of goodies that I don't at home. I took time and pleasure in cleaning every little bit - a far cry from my usual shower. When I mikveh'd for my wedding, the same thing. That's why I love the practice of the mitzvot - I see it as a very specific, intentional program that awakens your spirituality and awareness.

I tell people all the time it's something I needed/wanted in my life. The rules of Judaism sort of enable me to live a very intentional life, even if sometimes I choose not to follow them.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:12 pm

maculated wrote:


The rules of Judaism sort of enable me to live a very intentional life, even if sometimes I choose not to follow them.

I can related and I think a lot of others can too.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 5:07 pm

Thanks, I am just trying to understand the logic so that its purpose is more meaningful.
;-) I know Judaism is classified as a religion, but its more than that. It is a people, a heritage, a community, a way of life. As a former xtian I did not question their logic, when I did it fell to pieces, now that I am free from idolatry...I don't want to have the same mentality with Judaism. I am following Hashem on my own free will. I may not understand all Jewish traditions, but I am willing whole heartedly to follow mitzvahs to attain understanding.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:06 pm

Good for you. In any religion, there is a culture of "do not ask questions." If the logic doesn't work for you, it's doesn't. If your faith and logic don't align, you're screwed, and don't expect others to do it for you.

There are many things that make me see a lack of divinity in some Orthodox rulings. For example, I learned early on that your pet is mukzeh (forbidden to touch) on Shabbat. Not everyone agrees with this, but it's what I learned. And who decided that? Rabbis with no experience with pets, that's who. My dog would die if I avoided contact with her because she wasn't "sanctifying Shabbat." But my argument is that she does, cuddling up to a dog with a good book on Shabbat is my favorite thing.

A lot of this stuff comes down the way laws we're familiar with come down. At some point a question was asked, people had to discuss it and rule on it, and then there you go. In Orthodox thinking, once something is ruled upon, it cannot be revised, so the questioning has to stop there. Other forms of Judaism are open to positive historical interpretations.

You might try reading the Daf Notes. It gets emailed to me somewhat regularly and you can see a lot of the way people were thinking when things were ruled on - it's nothing but a discussion of a situation. http://www.dafnotes.com/

I would also add that in all honesty, I've seen the following ways to approach Judaism and its mitzvot (if you're leaning toward the divine commandment being non-negotiable):

- Seeing, shrugging, and deciding it's not all for you. Jews by birth get away with this. Most converts cannot. Nor should they.
- Completely on board. Everything is right, other ways are wrong. There is no grey area. I see this with ba'alei teshuvot and Orthodox converts. These people really appreciate the structure and guidance of the stringent mitvot following and find ways to make it work with their mindset.
- Seeing Judaism for all its flaws and human inventions and working with that. Most people I know actively observant do this. I have a friend that's a ba'al teshuva who is always quick to point out wholes in traditional thinking. He loves doing it. I won't lie that he isn't questioning his complete observance right now. It's hard to live with this mindset and go full-on.

My personal approach is that people screw up stuff. You have to look past people and see the divine and find a way to be comfortable with the fact that at times, HaShem and people will be at odds, even if people have the best intentions.
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PostSubject: Re: mikvah   Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:57 pm

Bee, I'm sorry. When I went back and looked it realized I was being a bit short with you. I apologize as that was not my intention.
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