Heh - got your attention with that one eh?
There has been a bit of banter in the comments of my "Supercuts" post about modesty.
Unfortunately there was also bit of really ugly name calling involved so I couldn't post them all (sorry I have my standards.)
While I feel that what goes on at the mikvah is a very private matter and one I'm reticent to discuss in such a public forum I'd like to set the record straight about what goes on a woman's mivka (ritual bath) as it seems that many men (and perhaps some women as well) have some gross misconceptions about what goes on there.
1) There are no men ANYWHERE on site.
Zero. Ziltch. None. No Rabbis, no yeshiva boys at the windows, no spouses in the waiting room. I even get annoyed when I see husbands waiting in their cars at the back of the parking lot or down the block, but that's as close as they are ever going to get during women's mikva hours. EVER.
2) Women are treated with privacy and respect.
While women may have to wait in a communal waiting room for a bit when they first arrive this is the only time you will be together with other women. Each woman is given a turn in a private room to prepare herself. The doors lock. No one comes in unless YOU tell them to.
In fact, the mikvah attendant is very careful to only allow one women at a time in and out of the corridor to and from the mivkah so that women will not see each other passing by.
When it is a woman's turn to walk down the short corridor to the mikvah she is dressed in a long robe and slippers (usually provided by the mikva) she can even cover her hair with a towel if it makes her feel more at ease.
3) The mikvah attendant's review is quite limited and often optional.
I have been to about ten or mikvahs all around the country. Some were quite modern, while other were a bit decrepit. Some were in modern orthodox areas which others were Charedi owned and operated, some were in tiny jewish communities and others in large metropolitan areas. I do not claim to have attended every mikvah on earth but my experiences have been both diverse and random. While each has it's own set of customs and practices I have never been asked to remove my robe while standing in front of the Mikvah attendant. Her job is to help you, not search you. I've had much more degrading experiences being searched at the airport than I have at the mikvah and in fact at many mikvahs you can ask not to be checked at all (just try THAT at JFK!)
Generally the attendant will check your hands and feet (while you are fully robed) and perhaps ask you a few questions about your preparation. Sometimes she will offer to check the back of your neck (or upper back) for any hairs that may have come loose during brushing.
AND THAT IS IT.
The woman will avert her eyes (often holding something up over her to block her view) as the woman enters the mikvah. When you tell her you are ready she looks down from above only to check that you have fully immersed in the water. It is pretty difficult to tell if every strand of hair has been submerged on your own, and frankly I don't think it's safe to walk barefoot down slippery marble stairs into a deep pool of water on your own with no one else around.
As you come out the woman will once again avert her eyes and allow you to put on your robe again before looking at you.
After that, you take the short (private) walk back to your dressing room and immerge fully dressed.
Now I'm sure that even the process I just described may sound pretty harrowing to the uninitiated, but I assure you it's a heck of a lot better than what some of you have been thinking (and/or posting) about what goes on there.
If you have any additional questions about the mivkah feel free to email me privately at Shifraq@gmail.com
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