At My Age

At My Age
The following is a series of correspondence from a woman learning of Mikvah, post-menopause, for the first time. Please enjoy this inspirational exchange and follow her journey of discovery. We will post futher segments and hope they will touch your heart as they have touched ours.


Dear Mikvah.Org,

I have been enjoying your website and all the links very much ...especially regarding immersion of a post-menopausal woman (like me) even one who has never used the mikvah (like me) and even if it has been many years since menopause (LIKE ME).

I did not ever think of using the mikvah until after my childbearing years and always believed (mistakenly), that it was too late and I had missed out.  Then I read various things about how non-Orthodox women are "reclaiming" the mikvah for various different uses aside from those the Orthodox women use them for. 

That was interesting to me, especially since I am not Orthodox, but I still wondered what the halachic view would be. In reading through the information on your website I came to realize that I didn't miss out after all.  How wonderful. 

I do have a question or two though.  According to Rivkah Slonim's article, it is still permitted and a mitzvah to immerse after menopause even if it is the first time, many years after the end of childbearing years.  My question is... can you then do it again or is that it? 

Do observant women never go to mikvah again after the time after they have entered menopause?  It seems hard to understand... how that must effect marital relations if after years and years of observing the laws of family purity... now the husband and wife can suddenly "be together" all the time?  Can you explain how this works?  I feel like if I go once I might love the experience so much that I would want to go again.  Is this forbidden? ... I am curious to know what they are so I can make an informed choice.
Thank you so much for listening. - Sara Bas Yisroel

Reply from Mikvah.Org:

How beautiful that you wish to experience mikvah for yourself!  It can only spiritually enhance your life, as well as bring blessing to yourself and your loved ones.

Immersing the one time, post menopause, will bring sanctity to the remaining years of your married life, may they be long and sweet.

The questions you raise are valid and I will do my best to clarify. First of all, please understand that the laws governing the use of the mikvah for Family Purity were not created with the intent of separating husband and wife. The separation occurs as a result of the adherence to the laws of niddah, the resulting effect of time spent together intimately and time apart, can enhance the union between husband and wife.

This is a side effect, not the reason behind the practice. There are other instances when these separations will not exist, namely, healthy pregnancy (no periods or staining), breast-feeding (no periods, no staining), or any other reason a woman may not have a normal menstrual cycle in her life.  Then comes the longest stage, menopause, when all periods and staining cease.

At this stage of life, we are different from when we were younger, our needs and relationships have matured and changed. As people, we can cherish this time that we have to spend with our spouses without the boundaries of the laws of niddah. Indeed, G-d must feel that we have no need of that particular aspect any longer at this point of life. As many who have gone through the 30 to 35 years or more of observance of these laws will attest, they look forward to the next phase of life, the next stage, with all its’ own gifts to present.

Compare it if you will to the day you received your wedding ring! You received this ring as a sign of commitment, love and devotion from your spouse. No other ring or piece of jewelry you ever receive for the rest of your life will have the same significance. You wear it, enjoy it and cherish it all the days of your life.  So too - the mikvah. You cherish and observe it throughout the childbearing years - that is its’ time. When that time passes, you cherish the fact that you did all you had to do with faith and love for G-d, and now comes the next stage, to do so many other things in service to the A-lmighty. But this particular mitzvah has had its time.

Please do use the mikvah. Please remember to prepare properly and follow the protocols for immersion so that your immersion will be valid in every sense. (This is best done after instruction from a qualified teacher of the laws of niddah. If you like, we can provide a referral to someone in your area. She can direct you in the proper procedure, which is not lengthy, for this single immersion at this stage of life)

After that single immersion, it is customary (not required by Jewish law – halacha) for women past menopause to immerse once a year on the morning of the eve of the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. At that time you can refresh your spirituality with the mikvah, revitalize your soul and your being for the coming New Year and know that this is the start of your prayers for a blessed, healthy and happy New Year for your family and yourself.

I hope that I have answered your questions satisfactorily. If there is any way I can be of further assistance, please let me know.  Again, if you need a referral for preparation for that wonderful first time, please let me know.
May you be blessed in every aspect of your life with all that is good, always.

Chaya

Dear Chaya,


I do understand your point about the different phase of life after niddah.  I imagine that part of why I questioned this comes from my own point of view as someone who has never experienced mikvah and suddenly feels... well... like I missed something.  Hence my feeling of wishing that I could experience this more than once if my first time is all I fully expect it to be.  But then you gave me a gift -  the knowledge that it does not have to be the one and only time, since I may go each year before Yom Kippur.  Thank you for that, as I had never known it before.  There certainly is always something new to learn in this world. 

My only point of disagreement with you is regarding your example of the wedding ring.  The time of the mikvah may pass with the childbearing years (although not entirely as you pointed out), but I hope to have my wedding ring for my whole life.  It does mean all you said.  In fact, it is actually my grandmother's wedding ring, may she rest in peace, promised to me while she was alive.  Her life continues to bless and sanctify my marriage as I look at my ring every day.  So, in my opinion, the time for this ring will never pass as my childbearing years have.  But I enjoyed what you said about the wedding ring anyway!

Interestingly enough, my own mother (the child of that grandmother) was raised in an Orthodox home (of sorts... my grandmother was observant but my grandfather not entirely) but when she became an adult she sort of rebelled as so many young people do.  Although my mother eventually had a kosher home in respect of her mother, who would not have eaten there otherwise, she made the decision not to go to mikvah before her wedding.

 From what I understand this was quite a disappointment in the family, at least for my grandmother.  I always wondered about it.  And now I feel as if I am about to complete the circle so to speak and come back (for her???) and will definitely share my thoughts and feelings regarding the experience with my mother as I think she will really appreciate it... not to make her feel guilty for what she didn't do, but just to share the beauty of a part of my life with her as I often have, because my level of observance (although not Orthodox) has gone beyond that of my childhood and this has pleased her.

Chaya, I appreciate your offer of a referral to someone who can instruct me. However, I suspect that when I attend the open house for this new mikvah (which sort of sparked the whole thing for me or more accurately brought it from the back of my mind to the front) I will be able to get whatever information I need including referrals if necessary.  I don't quite understand though, if I am no longer having a period and so don't have the issues of staining and checking that... what kind of preparation is really involved for this one time immersion.  What would I have to be careful of in order for it to be valid?  I understand that there are various preparations at the mikvah itself, such as removal of nail polish, jewelry and careful cleaning and combing out of hair and more... but are there other things to consider?  I actually thought the people who work in the mikvah would explain all I have to do.
Oh, one last question (and thank you so much for your time)... I have been debating whether I should approach this very special mitzvah with a friend who is familiar with the process who could sort of be my guide and mentor or whether I should do it completely on my own (with just the assistance of whoever works there) and have it be a sort of "just for me alone" experience.  Do you have any advice?

Thank you again for your detailed reply and the warm way in which it was written.

B'shalom,
Sara


Dear Sara:

I am so happy I am able to help in this way and most glad that my words made you feel better, there is the old saying, "…words that come from the heart, enter the heart…" 
 
Regarding your comment on the wedding ring - my apologies for not making myself clear. Indeed, as you cherish your wedding ring throughout your life, so too, can you cherish the past observance of mikvah as well as reap the blessing such observance brings to your life and the lives of those you love. In your case, your onetime immersion will confer sanctity upon your marriage and your own life, and can only bring blessing to those you love. How beautiful that you have such a honored part of your grandmother’s life to call your own. Your mikvah immersion can indeed only add a precious link to the heritage she bestowed upon you.
 
The protocol of the immersion is more than just the preparation of cleansing your physical person, important though that is. There is also, the counting of the seven white days leading up to the immersion, the immersion taking place on the night following a counting of seven complete days. There is a method to the counting to ensure a valid immersion and it is best if someone sits for a short time and explains the process to you so that you do it correctly. Something that means so much to you can only be enhanced by following halacha (Jewish Law) and doing it all correctly.
 
I am aware that the lady in charge of the new mikvah in your city is Mrs. G. She is more than qualified to guide you in your preparation for mikvah and would be more than happy to do so. If you like, I can mention your name to her, but I will wait to hear from you before doing so.
 
Regarding your question of doing this with a friend, I can only say that mikvah in and of itself is a very private, personal matter. As you can understand, observance during the childbearing years, with all its significance, makes it something to keep private between yourself and your husband, a gift for the two of you to share. Perhaps you would like to experience some of that feeling for yourself and your husband!
 
It has been a pleasure to ‘speak’ to you this way and an honor to feel I have helped. Thank you again for your good wishes.
 
 All the best, 

Chaya

Dear Chaya,

Thank you once again for your prompt and helpful reply. Regarding your comment on the protocol for immersion being more than just the cleansing that (usually) takes place at the mikvah, since I am way past menopause I do not understand how counting of seven white days would apply to me.  I have had only "white days" for many years now (seven at least) so what would I have to do before coming to the mikvah? 


Thank you for letting me know of the lady in charge of the new mikvah in our city and her qualifications.  However, I don't really see any reason for you to mention me to her, unless of course you feel it would be helpful to me.  You are the "expert" here, not me.  Based on all you've told me so far I would certainly respect your judgment and if you were to tell me that it would be in some way an advantage to me for you to mention my name to Mrs. G I would certainly consider that.

Thank you, too, for your advice on whether or not to go with a friend.  I was somewhat leaning in that direction myself anyway.  At first it felt like something new and different that would be comforting to have some female support in, particularly a woman who uses the mikvah herself and so would in a way initiate me and afterwards sort of welcome me into the "sisterhood" so to speak.  I still feel this has validity, but at this point, I at least don't feel that I need to have someone with me the way I once did.  I am just as likely to end up doing this by myself with only the help and support of the staff at the mikvah as you suggested.

It has been a pleasure to "speak" with you as well and I hope I haven't "spoken" too much or too often.  I would hate to think that I may have inadvertently imposed myself in any way.  I tend to be a rather talkative person especially when I am excited about something.  So thank you for your time and patience as well as the heartfelt advice.  I look forward to this experience with joy and if you would like I will let you know my reaction afterwards.  The new mikvah is having an open house this Sunday so I may stop by to take a look and inquire about how to make an appointment and also to meet with Mrs. G.

Thank you again,
Sara bas Yisrael

Dear Sara,
 
First of all, you have not imposed upon me in any way. You have rather given me great satisfaction as it always is to communicate with someone with such wonderful interest in something that is dear to my heart; so rest assured on that count, please!
 
Please let me explain that although you have been free of all periods and staining for many years, indeed had lots of ”white” days, your preparation for the mikvah immersion is comparable to one who just had a period and needs to go the mikvah. The status of ritual and spiritual impurity remains until such time as a valid mikvah immersion occurs to make the transition to a ritually and spiritually pure state. Therefore you need to prepare the same way. It is not difficult but does require explanation and instruction so you know what to do.
 
I know how important this is to you and I know you wish to do it right. So again, my best suggestion would be for you to call Mrs. G prior to the mikvah opening. This way you can explain what you need and reach her at a time when she will be able to speak to you personally, rather than at the opening where she will be busy with so many people. I am sure she will then be more than happy to set up a time good for both of you to go over the requirements, as well as give you an appointment for your immersion. I have merely told her that I have given her name and number to a woman who wishes to speak to her about a post-menopausal immersion. You can tell her who you are when you call.
 
Your offer of letting us know of your experience is marvelous! We would indeed love to hear from you, especially since you write so beautifully and eloquently! We could post it online in our Personal Stories section with your permission of course!
 
Once again wishing you all that is good, 

Chaya 

Dear Chaya,

Thank you for your kind words of reassurance, as well as your explanation of why I do need some instruction prior to immersion.  I will certainly contact the Mikvah lady at some point to arrange a meeting for that purpose before I make the actual mikvah appointment.

I certainly have wondered in recent days and weeks why it has taken me so long to discover that I wanted to do this and why it couldn't have happened many (many) years ago.  In fact, my husband is Israeli and we were married in Israel, but because we were married on his kibbutz I was not required to go to mikvah before the wedding like the brides in the "city" (or a religious kibbutz) are.  Again... I never even thought of it!  Well... actually I know the answer.  Everything happens for a reason and everything happens at the time that it is right ("There is a time for every season" was so true that many years ago it became a popular song).  G-d takes care of this.  So perhaps if I had come to this earlier it just wouldn't have been the right time for me and I would have rejected it entirely or... I don't know.  The point is that it happened now because now is the time it happened.

Perhaps I am going on and on again because it is hard for me to say goodbye to you but I will certainly write again "afterwards" and I look forward to that.

Chag Chanukah Sameach... may each additonal candle you light increase the light in your life as you have done for me,

B'shalom... Sara

Dear Sara,

Thank you so much for your very beautiful words. They have indeed touched my heart! Yes, it is true there is a time for everything, as you mentioned the words of the song - in truth, these words are from King Solomon's Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and of course are as true today as they were many years ago when written.

I look forward, with great anticipation, to hearing of your mikvah experience. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance in any way.

May G-d grant you blessing and serenity in every aspect of your life,

 Have a wonderful  Chanukah 

Chaya

Dear Chaya,

I attended the open house at the brand new Mikvah in my area and it is absolutely beautiful... like a spa.  The women who led me around were lovely and I even got to meet "Chana" after whom the mikvah is named.  She is in her 90's and a great-great grandmother!  I don't think I've ever met one before.  And here is the amazing part... I didn't realize up to that point that the mikvah was named for someone.  I thought Chana was just a biblical name they picked.  I thought perhaps there is some connection between Chana in the Torah and mikvah.  But when I found out about this Chana and was introduced to her by her granddaughter who showed me around the facility, I was really hit by a total feeling of this being beshert for me.  The grandmother of mine, that I wrote of in an earlier e-mail - whose wedding band I wear - was Anna and her Hebrew name was Chana!  Not only that but when the granddaughter introduced me she first called out to her grandmother, who was dozing... she called, "Nanny, Nanny"! Now that is what I called my grandmother and in my experience it isn't a common name to call a grandmother like "Bubbe" or "Nana" is... in fact I haven't heard it much at all.  I'm sure you can imagine my amazement. 

On the way home I immediately called my mother on the cell phone and told her the whole story.  She is Anna's (Chana's) daughter and the one who never went to mikvah even though she was raised by a woman who did... every month.  So now... my mother got so emotional and started to cry, especially when I told her that this mikvah was so special it even has a handicapped accessible pool... and she said she was thinking of something... and I knew what... she was thinking that after all these many years she might like to go herself.  She said it would bring her closure.  I was so touched. 

But I am not telling you this story only to touch you... I have a question from my mother and don't even know if you would have the answer.  My mother had a colostomy over two years ago and wears a bag which she cleans and changes.  She never bathes at home as it is difficult to get into a tub so she showers and wears the bag when she does.  My question is whether she would be permitted in the mikvah.  What happens in a case like this?  She is afraid that if she removed the bag to immerse there could be a little leakage.  However although it wouldn't bother her to enter with it on (and then there would be no leaking) I suppose that wouldn't be Kosher since a part of her body would be covered by the adhesive that attaches the bag to the opening in her body.  Now there is a question you probably haven't gotten too often.

My mother and father live in Florida but are planning on moving up north again, probably in the spring or summer.  We are investigating where they might live.  So there is no rush in this because I believe she would want to do this here with me if she indeed does want to.  If you have any thoughts on this situation or can refer me further I would appreciate it.  I am cc-ing my mikvah lady on this in case she has a thought and this way I don't have to explain it all over again.

I said I wasn't going to write again until after my immersion but here I am "talking" to you yet again.  However the two things I really wanted to tell you about:  the "beshert" feeling and my mom were both important, as I'm sure you would agree.

Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

And may G-d grant you the same blessing and serenity you wished for me,

Sara  

Dear Sara, 

Once again, it was wonderful to hear from you! Your story gave me goose bumps, as I again marveled at the ways of the A-lmighty!  Plus, your words are so heartfelt and eloquent, I know you are writing from your heart!  

I have personally called Rabbi Schusterman of Los Angeles, CA regarding your question on your mother and her immersion. He told me as follows: Regarding her preparation, if bathing in a tub is too difficult for her, she may take a very thorough shower to prepare. Of course, all other preparations should be performed as usual (as the mikvah attendant will teach you).  

Regarding her immersion itself: The bag should be removed. Regarding possibility of leakage into the mikvah waters, there are two options depending on how the mikvah functions. If the mikvah has a filtering system, then she should schedule her appointment the last appointment of the evening so that this way the waters will be fully filtered clean by the time any one else has to immerse. If the mikvah does not have a filtering system, then she should schedule her appointment as the very last immersion before the water of the mikvah is changed. This way again, any leakage would be eliminated by the time another woman has to immerse.  

I have cc’d this email to your mikvah lady so she can advise you accordingly regarding the way her mikvah works. If your mother uses another mikvah elsewhere, then she too should consult them prior to her appointment regarding how that particular mikvah works, explain her needs and schedule her appointment accordingly. 

I cannot explain to you how wonderful it is to ‘speak’ with you over this period of time. I feel your warmth and sincerity deep in my bones and know that your performance of this wonderful mitzvah can only bring great joy to G-d as well as to your grandmother Chana and all of your ancestors, whose souls can only benefit by your wonderful actions. 

Once again may you and your family be blessed in everyway,  

I look forward to hearing from you very soon,

Chaya

Mikvah.org 


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