Preparing for the Mikveh

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The halachot on this page are specifically for married individuals.

Preparing for the Mikveh

  1. Before going to the mikveh a woman must wash herself to remove anything that will interpose between her body and the water and also check herself to see she is clean. The practice is for a woman to wash and scrub[1] her entire body with hot[2] water.[3]
    1. Included in the cleaning involves cleaning the follow areas: armpits, neck, between the legs, between the toes, under the breasts, and any folds on the body due to weight or age. Additionally, the openings on a woman's body don't need to have water reach them but do need to be clean that would make it possible for water to reach them. These areas include the nose nostrils, ears, mouth and teeth, and private area. [4] These areas should be scrubbed and not merely bathed in water gently.[5]
    2. The hair on a woman's head should be washed in hot water and also combed with a comb while it is still wet. The rest of the hair on the body should be cleaned with hot water and lightly combed with her hands.[6] The purpose of washing the hair is to untangle it[7] and remove any dirt.[8]
  2. Besides the washing a woman must check herself to be sure that she doesn't have any chatzitza on herself before going to the mikveh.[9]
  3. A woman must clean between her teeth before going to the mikveh.[10]
  4. A woman shouldn't wash her hair before going to the mikveh with cold water or a type of cleaning agent that would make her hair tangled or fall out.[11] The minhag is for a woman to use shampoo or the like and then afterwards to just use hot water and comb the hair. Even though we're not sure that the shampoo or the like are acceptable for this washing, the washing in hot water without any shampoo and combing suffices.[12]
  5. The practice is for the woman to take a hot bath to accomplish this cleaning, though if a women couldn't take a bath but could take a shower that is sufficient.[13]
  6. A woman should clean her ears from earwax and nose from mucus.[14] Hard mucus in the nose doesn't need to be removed.[15]
  7. A woman who needs to go to the bathroom she do so before going into the mikveh.[16]

The day of the Mikveh

  1. The minhag is that the day before the mikveh the woman shouldn’t knead so that they don’t get stuck under her nails.or elsewhere.
  2. The minhag is that on the day before a woman does to the mikveh she doesn’t eat meat.[17]
    1. On Shabbat and Yom Tov the minhag is to eat meat even the day before going to the mikveh.[18]
    2. After the fact if a woman ate meat the day before going to the mikveh she may still go to the mikveh.[19]
    3. Some say that it is permitted to have meatballs on the day of the tevilah since it doesn't get stuck in one's teeth.[20]

Timing

  1. Initially a woman should do her washing immediately[21] prior to going to the mikveh. A proper minhag is that a woman start her washing for the mikveh at the end of the day and continue into the night until she goes to the mikveh. [22] A proper practice is for a woman to take the comb with her to the mikveh so that she can comb her hair until she goes into the mikveh.[23]
  2. In cases of extenuating circumstances it is permitted to do the washing before going to the mikveh entirely during the day or entirely at night.[24] In such cases a person should consult a rabbi.

Friday Night

  1. The tevilah night is Friday night the washing and preparation should be done on Friday afternoon[25] and completed before sunset.[26] Nonetheless, between doing the preparation and the tevilah the woman shouldn't be involved in anything that will cause a chatzitza such as touching something sticky.[27] Immediately before the tevilah on Shabbat the woman should wash her concealed areas with water that was warmed before Shabbat, clean in between her teeth, and check herself.[28] Some say that she shouldn't eat between the preparations for tevilah and tevilah.[29]
    1. If a woman's tevilah night is Friday night she should light candles after doing the preparations for tevilah and then go to the mikveh. If that's not possible, she should light earlier with a stipulation that she isn't accepting Shabbat and then do the preparations and go to the mikveh.[30]
  2. If Friday day is a Yom Tov and the tevilah night is Friday night then the preparations and checking should be done before Yom Tov. The woman should tie her hair so that it doesn't get tangled over Yom Tov before the tevilah.[31] Additionally, in between the preparations and the tevilah if it is possible to avoid touching sticky items one should do so and if not, one should wash one's hands immediately afterwards.[32] Lastly, on Yom Tov on Friday afternoon the woman should wash her concealed parts with warm water even that which was heated on Yom Tov and check herself right before the tevilah.[33]

Saturday Night

  1. If a woman's tevilah night is Saturday night according to Sephardim the preparations for the tevilah should take place on Saturday night.[34] According to Ashkenazim, the preparation should also take place on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday night.[35]

Unique Cases

  1. In all of the following cases the preparations are separated from the tevilah and as such if possible the woman should be careful not to touch anything sticky and if she does touch something sticky she should wash her hands immediately. Additionally, the preparations should include her tying up her hair[36] so that it doesn't get tangled before the tevilah.[37] Right before the mikveh should check herself from any chasisa. Additionally, she should wash her folds with warm water, and brush her teeth.[38]
  2. If Saturday night is a Yom Tov and the tevilah night is Saturday night the preparations and checking for tevilah should be done on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday night she should wash her concealed areas with warm water heated up on Yom Tov[39], clean in between her teeth, and check herself.[40]
  3. If her tevilah night is after a one or two day Yom Tov she should prepare before Yom Tov and also the night of the tevilah.[41]
  4. If her tevilah night is after a two day Yom Tov on Sunday and Monday, some say that she should prepare before Shabbat and again after Yom Tov, while others say that if unless that is the practice she should just prepare after Yom Tov.[42]
  5. If her tevilah night is Saturday night and Yom Tov is Thursday and Friday, some say that she should prepare before Yom Tov and again after Shabbat, while others say that if unless that is the practice she should just prepare after Shabbat.[43]
  6. If her tevilah night is Sunday night and Yom Tov is Sunday and Monday she should do her preparations on Friday day and again on Sunday night she should wash her concealed areas with warm water heated on Yom Tov, clean between her teeth, and check herself before tevilah.[44]

If She Forgot to Prepare

  1. If a woman forgot to clean herself even if she checked for any chatzitza her tevilah is invalid.[45]
  2. If a woman forgot to check herself before going to the mikveh even if she cleaned her hair her tevilah is invalid.[46] If she cleaned her hair and body but didn't check herself there is a dispute if her tevilah was valid.[47]
    1. If a woman forgot to check the bodily cavities such as nostrils, ears, mouth, and private area, her tevilah is effective after the fact.[48] Additionally, even if she found a chatzitza in the bodily cavities after the tevilah and she didn't check those areas before tevilah, nonetheless, if she was dealing with the same type of material as the chatzitza she found on herself her tevilah is valid.[49]
  3. If a woman forgot to clean her entire body but did wash and comb her hair and checked herself, after the fact her tevilah is valid.[50]
  4. If a woman washed and checked herself one day and didn't go to the mikveh until the next day, after the fact, her tevilah is valid.[51]
  5. If a woman prepared for the tevilah and nonetheless found on herself a chatzitza after coming out of the mikveh, if she prepared immediately[52] prior to the tevilah, she should go to the mikveh again if it is easily possible. However, if she didn't do the preparations immediately before the tevilah she needs to go to the mikveh again, unless she was dealing with that same type of material as the chatzitza she found on herself.[53] Ashkenazim are strict unless she is certain that the chatzitza didn't exist on her during the tevilah.[54]
  6. If a woman prepared for the mikveh and then touched something sticky and then went to the mikveh, her tevilah is invalid.[55] However, if she checked herself before going to the mikveh then her tevilah is valid.[56]

Sources

  1. Sidrei Tahara 199:9 s.v. heneh, The Laws of Niddah v. 2 p. 346, Badei Hashulchan 199:1 s.v. lahadi'ach
  2. The Laws of Niddah v. 2 p. 343 allows warm water but not lukewarm. Badei Hashulchan 199:20 says it should initially be hot water according to whatever people generally call hot water. Taharat Habayit v. 3 p. 245 also allows lukewarm.
  3. The gemara Bava Kama 82a records that Ezra Hasofer established ten institutions and one of them was that a woman should wash herself before going to the mikveh. Tosfot Niddah 66b s.v. im cites a dispute between Rabbenu Tam and Rabbenu Shemarya in the name of Rashi about what this institution included. Rabbenu Shemarya held that it included washing the entire body, while Rabbenu Tam held it only included the hair. Tosfot concludes that one should be strict for Rabbenu Shemarya and also such is the practice. The Rosh (Mikvaot no. 37) holds like Rabbenu Tam but says it is a proper practice to wash the entire body. The Rambam (Mikvaot 2:16) also holds that the institution was to wash one's hair before going to the mikveh. The Shach 199:2 concludes that the agreement of the poskim was like Rabbenu Tam nonetheless the proper practice is to wash the entire body. Badei Hashulchan 199:18 explains that this good practice is binding except for medical reasons. Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 238) agrees. Badei Hashulchan 199:19 notes that even though technically only hot water is necessary for the hair the practice is to use hot water for the entire body as Shulchan Aruch YD 199:1 writes.
  4. The Gemara Niddah 66b states that a person should teach his wife to clean the folded areas of her body before going to the mikveh. Rashi s.v. kemateha explains this includes her armpits and any cavity in the body. Badei Hashulchan 199:1 based on various rishonim and poskim includes a number of other areas to clean including the neck, between the legs, between the toes, under the breasts, and any folds caused by weight or age. Additionally, he lists the areas that are included in the bodily cavities that should be clean including the nostrils, ears, mouth, and private area.
    • It is noteworthy that from the Rosh (Mikvaot no. 37) it is clear that according to Rabbenu Tam this washing that the gemara Niddah 66b describes isn't the same as the institution of Ezra as Ezra's institution only applies to hair and this includes specific areas. Whereas for Rashi it seems that this obligation of the gemara Niddah 66b is a clarification of what is already included in Ezra's institution.
  5. Badei Hashulchan 199:4
  6. Gemara Bava Kama 82a requires a washing before the mikveh. Rashi (ad loc s.v. haisha) explains that this washing primarily means combing with a comb. All rishonim (see Tosfot niddah 66b and above footnotes) agree that this includes the hair. The Shach 199:1 cites a dispute whether the washing includes just the hair on the head or all hair. His conclusion is that all hair should be washed and the practice is to comb the hair on her head with a comb and the rest of the hair combed with her hand. Badei Hashulchan 199:11 agrees. The question of whether a comb is necessary is discussed by Sidrei Tahara 199:9 and his conclusion is that it is necessary for the hair on the head. If one doesn't have a comb consult a Rav. The Badei Hashulchan 199:9 explains that the combing should take place while the hair is still wet.
  7. Rashba (Torat Habayit Hakatzar 30b)
  8. Badei Hashulchan 199 fnt 10 citing the Chayei Adam
  9. The gemara Bava Kama 72a explains that the idea that a women has to check herself before going to the mikveh is a biblical obligation. The Rashba (Torat Habayit 31a), Ran (Shavuot 6a s.v. masrich), and Ramban (cited by Tur 199:1) write explicitly that the obligation to check oneself for a chatzitza before going to the mikveh (iyun) is biblical. Shach 199:2 agrees. However, the Bet Yosef 199:6 s.v. lechen suggests that the Tur held checking was only a rabbinic obligation. See the Shaarei Tzion 30 who suggests that this might also be the opinion of a number of rishonim, though he admits that his approach isn't supported by much evidence.
    • Taz 199:4 explains that washing one’s body also accomplishes the checking, however, the Shiurei Tahara 199:5 argues that washing doesn’t fulfill the obligation of checking, though one could check oneself while one is washing and that suffices for the checking. Badei Hashulchan 199:12 quotes both opinions without ruling one way. The Laws of Niddah v. 2 p. 438 seems to side with the Taz; to quote "generally when a woman bathes and washes herself thoroughly with the intention and concentration to remove any chatzitza it is considered the equivalent of physically or visually inspecting her body."
  10. The Raavad (Baalei Hanefesh cited by Bet Yosef 198:25) and Rosh (Mikvaot no. 35) learn from the story of the Gemara Niddah 66b that a woman found a bone between her teeth after going to the mikveh and it was a problem that a woman should clean between her teeth before going to the mikveh. The Bach 198:24 writes that checking the teeth before the mikveh is only a good advice so that she doesn’t have an issue when she goes to the mikveh and finds something afterwards but it isn’t a real obligation. However, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch 198:24 quote this with the language that she has to check her teeth before mikveh. Additionally, the Shach 198:30 argues with the Bach.
  11. Gemara Niddah 66b, Shulchan Aruch YD 199:2
  12. Badei Hashulchan 199:24 explains that it is possible that some of our soaps or shampoos have ingredients from the types of cleaning agents that the gemara says not to use. Nonetheless, it is acceptable since afterwards the practice is to wash the hair with hot water and comb it which itself is a sufficient washing of the hair before tevilah. Taharat Habayit v. 3 p. 243 also writes that the minhag is to use shampoo and conditioner without jell and then wash the hair with hot water.
  13. Badei Hashulchan 199:17
  14. Darkei Moshe 199:2 citing the Shaarei Dura, Rama 198:43
  15. Hagahot Rabbi Akiva Eiger 198:2, Shiurei Shevet Halevi 198:7:2
  16. Rama YD 198:43
  17. The Rosh (Mikvaot no. 35) cites the minhag not to eat meat the day before she goes to mikveh in order to prevent a piece of meat getting stuck between the teeth and being a chatzitza. THe Rabbenu Yerucham (Netiv 26:5 cited by Bet Yosef 198:24) also records the minhag. Shulchan Aruch YD 198:24 records the minhag.
  18. Taz 198:25
  19. Taz 198:25
  20. Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 127) cites the Avnei Yishfeh YD 178 that a woman can have on the day of her tevilah ground meat in meatballs since it doesn't get stuck in one's teeth.
  21. Badei Hashulchan 199:38 writes that initially she should do the preparations at night right before tevilah as close as possible. However, after the fact if she couldn't go to the mikveh a few hours later that night she doesn't need to the preparations again. Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 246) quotes some who say that within 3 hours is sufficiently close.
  22. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:3.
    • Rashi 68a s.v. vetamah and s.v. ha lo efshar (according to the Bach’s emendation) explains that it is always better to do the washing prior to the tevilah during the day so that the woman isn’t a rush to finish the washing to be able to return home quickly. When it is impossible to do the washing during the day prior to the tevilah such as if the tevilah night is Motzei Shabbat and it is forbidden to do the washing on Shabbat, then the washing is done on Friday afternoon. The Rosh (Mikvaot no. 37) favors Rashi’s explanation.
    • The Shiltot (Tzav, cited by Tosfot 68a s.v. kach) argues that it is always better to do the washing at night immediately prior to the tevilah. When it is impossible to do the washing during the night such as if the tevilah night is Friday night then the washing done during the day. The Rashba (Torat Habayit Hakatzar 30b), Rambam (Mikvaot 2:16), and Rif according to the Ran (Shavuot 7a s.v. lo) agree with the Shiltot. The Shulchan Aruch YD 199:3 rules like the Shiltot.
  23. Shulchan Aruch 199:4, Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 246)
  24. Rama YD 199:3. The Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 249) writes that it is permitted to do all of the preparations at night even if it is a personal extenuating circumstance such as if she has older children who will find out if she does her preparations during the day.
  25. Badei Hashulchan 199:62 adds that the preparations should be done before sunset but leaving herself enough time to light the candles.
  26. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:5, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 160:5. According to the Shiltot (see Tosfot Niddah 68a s.v. kach), this is the case of the gemara where it is impossible to do the tevilah by night and so it is done during the day. According to Rashi the preparation are always done during the day.
  27. Taz 199:8
  28. Badei Hashulchan 199:61 based on Shulchan Aruch YD 199:6
  29. Badei Hashulchan 199:62 based on Sidrei Tahara 198:48. Rabbi Willig (Niddah Shiur 20, min 2-15), however, is lenient if the couple made early Shabbat to eat the meal between the preparations and the tevilah. Even Badei Hashulchan (Biurim 199:6 s.v. tachuf) is willing to be lenient if she's eating with guests or is a guests and she'll be very embarrassed if she doesn't eat.
  30. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 160:5, Taharat Habayit v. 3 p. 249
  31. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:6. According to Rashi and the Shiltot (see Tosfot Niddah 68a) this is a situation when it is impossible to have the preparations right before the tevilah and so the tevilah is done beforehand in accordance with Rav Chisda (Niddah 67b). Even though Shulchan Aruch only requires preparing (chafifa) for the tevilah before Yom Tov, the Shach 199:11 also requires checking together with the preparations.
  32. Tur and Rama 199:6. The Bet Yosef argues that this is an unnecessary stringency and therefore he omits it from the Shulchan Aruch. He proves contention from the Ran and Rashba that in such a case the most critical element is the checking which is done right before the tevilah. The Taz 199:10 explains that the reason we are careful to avoid a chatzitza is between the preparations for the tevilah are done before Yom Tov far in advance of the tevilah.
  33. Tur and Shulchan Aruch 199:6.
  34. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:4. According to the Shiltot (see Tosfot Niddah 68a s.v. kach) the gemara Niddah 68a states that whenever possible the preparation for the tevilah should be at night immediately prior to the tevilah. Additionally, according to Rashi (with the emendation of the Bach) the gemara Niddah 68a says that if it is impossible to do the preparation during the day such as if the tevilah night is Saturday night the preparations should take place at night. The Tur and Shulchan Aruch YD 199:4 therefore write that the preparations should be on Saturday night. Taharat Habayit (v. 3 p. 246) writes that Sephardim do not accept the practice to prepare on Friday also.
  35. The Tur 199:4 writes that although the preparations could happen on Saturday night a proper practice is to prepare on Friday and again on Saturday night. The Bet Yosef 199:4 questions why it is a good practice if according to all opinions the gemara warrants doing it at night. The Rama YD 199:4 quotes this practice.
    • The Shach 199:6 has an alternate explanation of the gemara and Rashi. According to the Shach, the preparations should always be done during the day even if it is impossible to do it during the day immediately prior to the tevilah, though if it is impossible to do the tevilah during the day immediately prior to the tevilah, such as if the tevilah night is Saturday night, the preparations should be done both during the Friday day and Saturday night. According to the Shach 199:9 this practice isn't just a stringency it is required. The Shiurei Tahara 199:14 validates the idea of the Shach regarding the Saturday night tevilah night but is very skeptical of his extension to every case that preparation is necessary during the day even when the tevilah isn't for another 3 days.
    • The Levush 199:4 has another explanation for the practice. Once the preparations are done before Shabbat and she was careful about chasisot on Shabbat the preparations on Saturday night will be much quicker and there won't be a concern that she'll rush and do an improper job.
    • The Badei Hashulchan 199:55 writes that it is proper to also check herself before Shabbat.
    • The Rama 199:4 writes that the preparations on Saturday night only include a little combing, but the Taz 199:7 and Badei Hashulchan 199:59 explain that once it is done before Shabbat the combing will go quicker.
  36. Badei Hashulchan 199:72 adds that she can do anything to prevent her hair from getting tangled.
  37. Rama 199:6, Shach 199:10, Taharat Habayit v. 3, p. 249-251
  38. Shulchan Aruch 199:6, Taharat Habayit v. 3 p. 251
  39. Badei Hashulchan 199:84 clarifies that if she doesn't have warm water, she could use cold water.
  40. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:6. Shach 199:11 holds that she should also check herself when she prepares on Friday afternoon. Badei Hashulchan 199:67 clarifies that the preparations don't have to be done right before sunset on Friday since anyway the tevilah isn't for another day.
  41. Badei Hashulchan 199:58 and 199:60 based on Sidrei Tahara
  42. Badei Hashulchan 199:58 cites this as a dispute between the Shach, who is strict, and Sidrei Tahara, who is lenient.
  43. Badei Hashulchan 199:58 cites this as a dispute between the Shach, who is strict, and Sidrei Tahara, who is lenient.
  44. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:6, Badei Hashulchan 199:68
  45. Shulchan Aruch 199:8
  46. Shulchan Aruch 199:8
  47. According to the Taz it is effective and according to the Sidrei Tahara it is not. Badei Hashulchan 199:1 s.v. vechen connects their dispute with our case in Shulchan Aruch, which implies like the Taz.
  48. Shulchan Aruch 199:9
  49. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:12
  50. Taharat Habayit v. 3 p. 272
  51. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:8
  52. Shach 199:14 is strict if the preparations weren't immediately before the tevilah even if they were on the same day and also if the preparations were immediately before the tevilah but the tevilah was at night preparations during the day or the opposite. Badei Hashulchan 199:117 agrees.
  53. Shulchan Aruch 199:11. Even though in Shulchan Aruch 199:10 the majority opinion distinguishes whether or not she prepared for the mikveh immediately beforehand or not, the Rambam requires her to go to the mikveh either way. The Badei Hashulchan 199:122 writes that we're strict for the Rambam if it is easily possible.
  54. Shach 199:16
  55. Shulchan Aruch YD 199:13
  56. Rama YD 199:13