Why I Stopped Going To The Mikvah

I don’t go to the mikvah anymore.

For many years I did, and it wasn’t terrible. The balaniot were always nice. But the process to get there was a monthly struggle between my religion and my common sense.

Before I was married, menstruating did not interfere with my day-to-day activities. No one had to know about it, unless I complained to a girlfriend if my cramps were especially uncomfortable that day.

But once I began to keep the laws of taharat hamishpacha that monthly flow became the focal point of my existence. It changed how I slept, it changed what I wore, it changed who I could touch. I was required to do internal inspections, which I did not wish to do. I was required to drop everything and run to the bathroom before the sun went down so I could check if I was bleeding. I was required to cancel plans, miss events I wanted to go to, in order to go to the mikvah. When I was not a niddah I would feel pressure (not from my husband, but from myself) to sometimes be intimate when I had absolutely no interest in such activities, because I was expecting my period in a few days and we had only been together twice that whole month.

In addition, we struggled to find a method of birth control that suited our needs. Hormonal birth control made me gain weight, become depressed, and tanked my libido. My doctor recommended against IUDs because of my medical history, and diaphragms caused an endless cycle of bladder infections and yeast infections.

When we were first married, we consulted a rabbi over all these issues, and I was constantly feeling let down. I was taught in kallah classes that Judaism’s view on sex between husband and wife is “the more the merrier,” and that as much leeway as possible would be given to allow them to be together. But, at every turn, it seemed like we were being prevented from being together. I just felt like I was constantly worrying about what was going into and coming out of my vagina.

I finally said something to my husband about my discontent, and after much discussion, we made our first decision: No more rabbis. We will decide together what kind of birth control to use, halachically sanctioned or not, and we will decide together if we want to have another baby or not.

I was happier, but still frustrated over the extreme impact my period had on how I went about my daily routine for 12-14 days out of the month. Once again, I voiced my vexation to my husband, and we made another decision: No more harchakot. Sex while I was a niddah was still out of the question, but we both felt that all the stringencies were extremely unnecessary in our relationship. We’re not going to both suddenly rip all our clothes off in middle of the dining room if he passed me the mashed potatoes at dinner. And if one of us is feeling low, why shouldn’t we be allowed to get a loving, reassuring hug from our life partner?

The final blow came when, after a full period-free year and a half while nursing my third child, I noticed the signs of my returning fertility. When I stopped bleeding, I realized I had no desire, no interest, and actually felt a level of revulsion, at starting the process again of internal checks to count seven clean days before I could go to the mikvah.

I knew the magnitude of this decision was much greater than the others. I wasn’t sure how my husband would feel about a complete violation of the very bottom line of the halachot of taharat hamishpacha. I knew he had every right to be insistent that I do my bedikot and go to the mikvah, and that fact alone made me realize both how much I abhor halacha’s restrictive grip on the agency women have over their own bodies, and how much I love my husband. Because if he felt like this was a red line, if he felt we could not have an intimate relationship without my use of the mikvah, if I had to choose between being married to the kindest, most caring, thoughtful, and devoted husband in the world and going to the mikvah once a month, there wouldn’t be a contest.

I broached the subject with trepidation.

“It’s your body,” he said. “I can’t tell you what to do with it. I obviously would prefer if you did go, but if you have objections, I respect that.”

“I’m not ruling out the possibility of ever using the mikvah again,” I assured him. “It’s just…the thing is…it’s just blood. It’s healthy, it’s normal, it’s a regular occurrence in 50% of the world’s population. I’ve heard all explanations about how niddah doesn’t mean I’m dirty, and going to the mikvah is about spiritual cleanliness, about rebirth and renewal and all that jazz. But that bottom line is, even if you see beauty in the idea, it’s still a Big Deal. And I just need to feel what it’s like to live a life in which having a period is not a big deal.”

And so I have. And so far it’s been wonderful.

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  1. Anonymous husband January 26, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    My wife also stopped going years ago. She hated the experience and I felt I had no right to insist. Outwardly, we are shomer shabbat & kashrut, but nobody knows we don’t keep taharat hamishpacha (though of course we don’t have sex during her period).

    1. Anonymous August 30, 2017 at 9:28 am

      Its says in the torah that if you touch a lady when she is not clean there is an issur of cures, i dont think thats this is something you wana play around with

    2. sara September 6, 2017 at 9:52 am

      You are keeping Niddah in the Karaitic fashion. Karaites wash in a regular bath or shower, 7 days after the START of a regular period (not 7 nekiiim).

  2. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    Thank you for being yourself.

  3. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you for writing about what was clearly a very difficult decision. I sometimes wonder if the rabbinic restrictions that have been layered on top of the basic din d’orayta of niddah (immersion after seven days, no bedikot, no harchakot) have made taharat hamishpachah unbearable – a set of rules that the community cannot tolerate – such that they create the risk of (pardon the pun) throwing out the baby with the bath water. Some conservative rabbis rule that the chumrah of rabi zeira (i.e., the additional five days and the bedikot) is just that – a chumrah, which is optional. They might be on to something.

    1. Anonymous February 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

      I agree

  4. Anon woman January 26, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    I’ve never been married yet but I used to go to the Mikva for my partner. He considers himself religious and keeps Shabbat, kosher, and niddah. I myself do not observe anything, and don’t believe in the laws. I went because I really wanted to have sex with him and the only way he would was if I would go to the Mikvah. I stopped going because it was such an ordeal and I couldn’t deal with having to make sure we had sex in the 2 weeks I wasn’t a niddah. I don’t plan to go to keep taharat mispacha at all when I’m married so I hope my husband doesn’t request that. I really relate to you

    1. 900windows January 28, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Might be good to discuss this before marriage to know where you both stand…….better sorted sooner than later

  5. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    I understand where you’re coming from. We do our own version of the laws (definitely still hug and hold hands!) For me, it is not a big deal at all, so I keep going.

  6. A thought! January 26, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    I wonder why women can’t go to the mikveh during the day. It would make the process so much easier. For a working woman, it seems really hard to run home after a full day of work. take care of your child only to run out again when all you want to do is go to sleep.

    1. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 9:30 pm

      Exactly. How I wished for years that I could go during the day. Having to go at night was absolutely miserable.

    2. Francesca January 26, 2017 at 9:36 pm


    3. Anonymous September 14, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Another chumra on top of The tora law. it is permissible to go during the day but another restriction was added for some odd reasons.

  7. chutzpah January 26, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Wow! You perfectly described how I felt but was unable to articulate to myself or my husband, who I did love very much at the time.Unfortunately instead of being with him I found myself sneaking off to a fast food restaurant and wetting my hair in the sink so he would think I went. I got caught. The Rabbis had him divorce me. He fought me for custody and despite our 50/50 split he managed to alienate 2/3 of my children. When I turned 50 I had a procedure that cauterized the uterine lining to stop heavy bleeding. Now that I now longer have a monthly cycle I look back and wonder if I could have faked it a little longer for the sake of my children. Thank you for the insights and I’m so happy it worked out for your marriage.

  8. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Oh wow, what an article! As if I had written it myself!! Thank u!

  9. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    I’ve heard of women keeping dropping the seven “clean” days and keeping only those days when there’s an actual flow, as biblical law (rather than rabbinic law) required.

    1. Anonymous January 27, 2017 at 6:33 am

      I considered doing that before I stopped going altogether. I found the actual dip in the mikvah very nice but all the chumrahs around it and to get there were oppressive.

    2. Anon August 29, 2017 at 10:39 pm

      Actually, the seven clean days are in the written Torah, very specifically. That is why it’s near impossible to get a heter to shorten them. You can shorten the 5 days, but not 7.

  10. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 5:30 pm

    you spoke to me. the only problem is i also have lost my sex drive – which isn’t coming back anytime soon – even went to the mikveh hoping that the dipping, the ritual, etc would bring it back. is this normal?

    1. sara September 6, 2017 at 10:01 am

      no. see a dr, or find a new relationship. unless you are nursing, its normal to have decreased libido while nursing due to hormones and/or sleep deprivation.

  11. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    We’ve done the same. We just got to a point where we were both too depressed and needed each other. One thing led to another. Since then we haven’t kept it. We are shomer shabbat and kashrut and so many other things but barely anyone but the closest friends know we aren’t keeping taharat hamishpacha. We feel so much more relaxed and happier now that we don’t have rules defining when we can and can’t touch.

  12. Becky January 26, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    I stopped going to the mikva for an all together different reason. There had been one too many times I had been told off by the assistant for coming late Friday night.(my husband had to go to shul first as it was out of the question for him to daven at home)I was nervous as it was with her rude comments adding to my upset. I threatened the rabbis that I would stop going unless that particular assistant was sacked. The rabbi gave me excuses why he couldn’t. Little did I realise that my words had more meaning than I realised. Over the next months my anger at religious extreme laws intensified together with me getting more and more disinterested in my husband due to his lack of understanding and apathy of my feelings. I have never been back.

  13. anon January 26, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    if you think just dealing with mikvah and all the laws that precede it,is hard, try dealing with it all and at the same time dealing with years of infertility. if i resented the laws of taharas hamishpacha before, i totally abhor them now. they just add a much huger stress to our battle for a child. i cant even tell you how much i hate it. . and the notion about asking rabbi permission for things about my personal body , don’t even get me started!! if the rabbis just knew how many women secretly do what they want , and if they would take away half of the rabbinic laws, then many more women would go to the mikvah.

    1. 900windows January 28, 2017 at 10:01 am

      My personal view is that a woman should not have to consult a man, even if he is a Rabbi, about anything to do with the female body, especially about periods, and when to have sex……menstruating is a natural process – without it, that Rabbi, or any of us, would not exist! _ so, I find it difficult to understand why it is regarded as being ‘unclean’. It’s certainly sometimes inconvenient, and sometimes extremely unpleasant for the woman going through it, which is bad enough without adding rules to it.

      1. Anon August 29, 2017 at 10:42 pm

        It’s not unclean, it’s a spiritual thing. There is a loss of potential life with each flow.

        1. sara September 6, 2017 at 10:03 am

          an egg lives for about 24 hours after ovulation. by the time the period starts, its long gone

  14. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    I struggled with the same issues. Now I am older and it is no longer relevant. But it is very reassuring for me to hear other women have had the same struggle and made the same types of decisions. You have a wonderful husband. Blessings to you for writing this.

  15. Elizabeth Liz Kirshner January 26, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    So much respect for your honesty and thoughtfulness. It’s so hard to be in a position that feels like you have to choose between a sincere commitment to halachic values and your own sense of well-being. May you continue to have the clarity to know what’s right for you. I believe that’s what Hashem wants from us, even if it’s not always what halacha would want.

    1. 900windows February 6, 2017 at 12:12 am

      “May you continue to have the clarity to know what’s right for you. I believe that’s what Hashem wants from us, even if it’s not always what halacha would want.”

      Oh, I love that…… Halacha and Hashem are not always of the same opinion, so to speak. And Hashem is the ultimate.

      Thank you for say this

  16. Anonymous January 26, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    I totally hear you. I personally went through this, not just with mikva, but with Kashrut and Shabbat as well. The difficulties, stress, oppression, made it almost impossible to see the positive of it. I don’t believe the rabbis get to dictate what I do or don’t do in my own home! Woth my own body! The laws are just restrictive, repressive and sometimes ridicules. I’m sure g-d understands, and would never want to ruin our lives!

    1. 900windows January 28, 2017 at 10:05 am

      You took the words right out of my mouth. I know G-d understands me(though I am past the time of life for the ‘periodical concerns’) I am doing my best, and He knows that.

    2. 900windows February 6, 2017 at 12:14 am

      ” I’m sure g-d understands, and would never want to ruin our lives!” …..similar to Elizabeth’s point above….
      I so agree. I do not believe that G-d wants us to get all twizzled up and uptight – and .I know He understands.

  17. Ezer January 26, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing. As a rabbinical student currently studying the laws of Niddah it is helpful to understand what people are struggling with. I will also share that I have had my own struggles with resentment towards specific rituals. I have OCD and I got very resentful at all the pressure I felt Judaism was placing on me. My experience was that I was able to step back and let go of some of the emotional baggage while still keeping the laws but giving myself a feeling of a breather. Things have improved a lot thank God, wishing you well.

    1. ccziv February 3, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      As just an ordinary Jew with plenty of struggles, I deeply appreciate a rabbinical student who strives to understand the real struggles of real people. I predict that you will be a beloved rabbi with a direct line to Hashem. Many blessings to you!

  18. Devora Rochel January 27, 2017 at 12:58 am

    I hope this is supportive although I’m not agreeing. To diet via a fad diet or proper nutrition and exercise are two ways of getting to a similar point but not the same. The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s directives of finding a mashpia (a friend who you look up to with regard to their connection to Hashem through Torah and Mitzvos yet who can guide and understand you at your level) as well as having a Rav you trust gives us the tools to journey through life – which is by the grace of G-d as well as with His trust in us that we will connect to Him and bring Him into this world through keeping the Torah and Mitzvos as commanded by Hashem and expounded by our chachomim and rabbanim – with clarity know what’s right and the strength to follow through. Otherwise we grope through the dark unsure of what’s real.
    Emunas Hashem ahavas Hashem and yiras Hashem are definitely our heritage but needs to be nurtured through learning and although there are many wonderful reasons and outcomes for many or even all of the Mitzvos they don’t always resonate but it’s up to us to encourage and strengthen ourselves to be able to keep the Mitzvos as best we can (we all have challenges) and really for the only reason that Hashem asked and wants us to.
    Wishing you all the best in whatever choice you make.

  19. Chaya January 27, 2017 at 3:53 am

    My husband travels half of every month. We LOVE each other and it has been excruciatingly painful when my dates didn’t measure up with his travel dates and sometimes we were together just once a month. Yet, we believe that this is what God wants, we commit to Torah. Our times together are filled with love and joy. I don’t regret it. I think living for something you believe in in the long run gives more strength/fulfillment than immediate physical gratification/fulfillment.

  20. grateful January 27, 2017 at 6:48 am

    thank you for this brave honesty! and yes – mikva was an extremely negative thing for me that was only damaging to my relationship to halacha and judaism – which i value deeply as an orthodox jewish woman raising an orthodox jewish family
    i was “lucky” enough to have to preventatively have my ovaries removed at age 40 due to being a carrier of the BRCA gene that gave me a very high chance of getting ovarian cancer Gd forbid. Who knew what a bracha early menopause could be!!!!! no more periods or being frustrated /angry over bedikot and mikva – just free to be together whenever it feels right and all that crazy pressure gone away – so grateful!

  21. Yechezkel January 27, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Thank you for sharing yor story. I’m a orthodox rabbi in training and I wish to serve all Jewish people to my best abilities. perhaps you know this already but let me suggest following:

    the rabbis in the talmud and over centuries made a lot of additional decrees on taharat ha mishpacha, and demanded all these additional days and bedikas etc.
    But from the Torah you are perfectly fine to go to the mikvah after 7 days, whether or not the period has stopped. In addition to that, for the torah every pool that is built on firm ground such as e.g. a swimming pool would fit for a mikva, and a bath suit is not chozez when you make sure the water reaches all parts underneath.

    I wish you wholeheartedly many broches from above on your spiritual journey…

    1. YAM January 27, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Yechezkel, I 100% agree with you and this would be tolerable for me. I don’t need rabbinical approval to do this, but my husband won’t be ok with unless he has a Rabbi tell him so. I wish you could point me in the direction of someone who would be able to say this to my husband.

    2. Tuvia January 29, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      While I am not here to comment on this article (which breaks my heart), this last comment by a rabbinical student is wholly incorrect in its description of what is biblical and what is not. At the very least, I feel Achroy to state that. (And, as a point to the other comments in this thread: at least respect Halacha to be as complex as American law, as it is not unique for ANY system of law to be complex and mired in years of back and forth, with nuanced legal judgements etc. only that Judaism makes us ALL aware of ITS complexities. But let’s not pretend that it is unique in its spiders web of legalese and that it needs to be simplified and ‘normalized’, as that would make it then the exception of legal systems and not the norm)

  22. YAM January 27, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Great article. I too feel your pain. You articulated my thoughts and feelings exactly and I feel a lot better knowing that many women feel this way. There is something def off with the way this “mitzvah” is kept. Dislike is not a strong enough word. I would stop keeping it 100% if I could.

  23. Girl who reads January 29, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks for posting this article. It was beautifully written. My husband and I find it difficult to keep our hands off each other during the seven days. For the sake of out marriage we do as we feel is right for us. I’m glad we are not alone in finding the rabbinical restrictions impressive. We keep a kosher home and Shabbat. This however is too much for us. Thanks for your article and to everyone else who expressed themselves so beautifully.

  24. Anonymous January 29, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I too chose not to go to the Mikva. I think it’s a beautiful mitzvah for those who don’t struggle with their cycles.
    I am irregular and found it very difficult and I truely resented going. I do feel a guilt about it… I do feel that those who keep it are truely blessed. But I also believe it’s not for everyone.
    This is my and my husbands secrrt. I would not share with anyone the fact that I don’t go to the Mikva. And I don’t close the idea of going back to it if I’m ever spiritually ready. But for now I’m content with my choice!

  25. Sharonah January 31, 2017 at 3:46 am

    It was very interesting to hear your side of what you’ve been going through, and I’m so glad for your honesty. I guess these feelings are more common than I imagined and probably never heard expressed due to the taboo nature of it. For myself, deciding to keep Taharat hamishpacha totally saved my marriage and I would never give back this gift from the Abeshter.
    Gd bless and my you always be fulfilled in all your decisions.

  26. mg February 3, 2017 at 12:32 am

    As a working woman, the afternoon checks were really inconvenient. My rabbi at the time, who is mainstream Orthodox, said it is fine to just do the morning checks. That really helped.

  27. ccziv February 3, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    Wow! Good for you! And Mazel Tov for marrying well. A woman’s monthly cycle is absolutely natural. I think some in very strictly religious communities sometimes forget one of the most beautiful things about our faith: that we do in fact change our beliefs and practices according to evidence and community agreement, at least historically.

    Honestly, I think many men fear women because we have the ultimate creative power: the ability to bring a new life into this world. This is an awesome (as in awe-inspiring) super power. And it is high time that we (ideally in conjunction with our partners) reclaim control and redefine as normal and beautiful our reproductive processes. Women do not *only* have babies, we also have beautiful brains that are capable of deciding how best to handle our bodies. I’m proud of you!

    1. 900windows February 6, 2017 at 12:20 am

      So beautifully put. Thank you.

  28. Yitzchak Horowitz August 30, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I would like to make an analogy. I used to play a lot of online video games. These games had rules about how to play and that involved not being allowed to do certain things (don’t cheat, don’t harass other players). When agreeing to play the game you agree to the rules and if you don’t keep to the rules you get banned from the game.

    Judaism is an all or nothing proposition. You can’t believe you need to keep shabbos but taharos hamishpacha is not important. (Obviously no one is perfect but we should constantly be trying to perform these acts not giving up on doing them). You agreed to these rules before you were born and when you break them you are risking getting yourself into a heck of a lot of trouble.

    In regards to everyone calling it oppressive. It would seem to me that it is up to each person to make it into something special instead of viewing it as a burden. Having a set of rules isn’t oppression. We tell children when to go to sleep, when to eat, and how to act and no one would consider that oppressive. It is incredibly important to have a set of rules to live by. (By the way, one of those rules is that rabbis get to add on restrictions).

    I try not to judge anyone since keeping Judaism is incredibly difficult (I have my own areas that I struggle to not view as a burden). However, I find this post deeply disturbing considering it says outright we don’t need to speak to Rabbi’s because we can figure it all out on our own, which is the equivalent of self diagnosing an illness and deciding on treatment instead of seeing a doctor.

    1. Anonymous November 11, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Now, imagine this. A few people have to follow rules on top of the ones already listed in the game. These people were told that they agreed to follow them, but they have no recollection of signing on to them. They have to have these burdens for the rest of the time playing the game while everyone else did not have to abide by these extra rules. Is that really fair?

    2. RiverdaleYid May 28, 2019 at 8:13 am

      The Judaism of Yitzchak Horowitz is alien to me. People are not robots and God is a merciful and forgiving God. We try our best and know that Rabbinic Judaism is filled with flaws as it was instituted by men and not God. Halacha is flexible not rigid and should adapt to the times.

    3. Anonymous August 23, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      I think it’s important to realize that there is an unseen reality that is underneath everything that we do. We can keep all of the laws because of societal pressure, cultural norms, or peer pressure/fear of rejection, but those are ultimately shallow and superficial reasons for keeping them. Ultimately, there is a spiritual reality and truth to kashrus, shabbos, and taharas mishpacha that is both very real and yet distant from us at the same time. Just because we can’t viscerally experience it, doesn’t mean that it’s any less real or that the consequences are any less real. As humans, we all make choices and we need to deal with the outcomes and repercussions of those choices. I don’t know the author’s full situation, but it seems that there are many different options that could have been explored before making the ultimate choice to drop taharas mishpacha. At the end of the day, it’s obviously the author and her husband’s choice if they want to keep taharas mishpacha or not, but that also means that they need to deal with the consequences. The fact of the matter is that if a woman doesn’t go to the Mikva after her period, she remains in niddah. For her husband, the accepted opinion in Halacha is that having sex while in niddah is kares, which is a pretty big deal. I’m not judging, just stating the fact, not an opinion.

  29. husband February 11, 2018 at 10:08 am

    Thanks for sharing this. This helped me understand my wife’s position. She went to the mikveh throughout our whole marriage until just recently. She said it eventually made her miserable. Part of it was the stress of the limited hours, which made it difficult with work and family obligations. They really need to make it available during the day. Not doing so is causing many people to sin. Now I’m in a position of accepting my fate for the sake of shalom bayit.

    1. Anonymous July 14, 2019 at 3:50 am

      I completely agree that they need to make it available during the day. I think making this one change would allow SO many more women to feel comfortable doing this mitzvah. (Not to say that it’s the only change I would suggest if given the chance! But it seems like the easiest fix that would make a biggest impact.)

      1. Steve613 August 10, 2020 at 8:53 pm

        Agreed! And someone should talk to the people running the mikhas in those cities.

  30. Chana November 21, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    Just thinking outloud with a question to the author- What about going to the mikvah once a month after your period is over? And forget about all of the harchakot, internal checks, white underwear etc. How does that feel to you? Is it really an all-or-nothing halachically?

  31. Ssss January 15, 2019 at 11:46 am

    I want to convert to Judaism and really I can´t wait to get into the mikvah and purify my soul. I have been Catholic since I was born, and from my point of view, Judaism is not comfortable but it makes sense. I have also studied some occult stuff, and I see the relations (not explaining here…). If you would have never immersed into a mikvah, I´m sure you´d like to.

    1. Pinetree October 15, 2019 at 7:13 am

      Having converted to Judaism myself, I suggest you not to make this step, or at least think very well about it and take your time. Orthodox Judaism is a very hard religion to observe, and very restrictive for men and women. You should know that if judaism makes sense to you, it’s great, but you have no obligation to convert. You can still observe the 7 Noah laws as a non-jew, this is all Torah demands from you. You can still accept Torah as the Truth and study Jewish thought, Hebrew, etc…..

  32. Raizel April 8, 2019 at 11:59 am

    First of all, I am super impressed! Everyone is so respectful and kind with their answers and comments here. Kol hakavod! (all the honor) I feel like I sympathize and relate with everyone here, from the husband who is trying to accept his wife not going to mikvah for shalom bayit (peace in the home) to the lady who is struggling due to irregular cycles to the age old debate on the divinity of rabbinical law. This is a great discussion but the actual discussion here is the divinity of oral/rabbinical law and its authority to seemingly redact, rewrite, edit and redo written Torah law.

    Are the rabbis really in charge of our interpretation of the Torah? Or perhaps better, should they be? Do we need to follow them even when we feel they have over reached and perhaps even invented? Or do we simply trust their “wisdom” as superior and approved by Hashem (G-d). Do we believe that Hashem gave Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) the entire oral as well as written law and this has been passed down and is now authorized by Hashem to be interpreted by Rabbis? This is both a toughie and obvious. Right out of the cage, Rabbis don’t even agree with each other and there are a crazy large number of interpretations, leniencies, and stringencies among them. It would truly be impossible to follow every interpretation by every rabbi (unless you had numerous, multiple personalities perhaps).

    Also, to share as this stemmed from a mikvah issue, I also struggle with mikvah. No, I am not young and frisky, those days are gone for me; I am a recently remarried grandmother, but I miss my husband hugging me, sleeping next to me, holding my hand. I went for years alone raising my children, and the two weeks are a sad reminder of lonely days. They also make me feel depressed, unloved and touch deprived. We are considering touching after the initial 7 days, but abstaining until mikvah. We are definitely way too old to be that aroused by holding hands or hugging. Even when I was younger and married to my former spouse that would never have been an issue if I had been religious (he would have wanted, but he ALWAYS wanted no matter touching or not touching). I am not conflicted about Mikvah as a valid spiritual, Torah-directed modality of purification. We have definitely had mikvahs from the time of the second Beis HaMikdash (Temple) and the priests created them in order to help people obey the purification laws. There are many, many ancient mikvahs in Israel. We may even one day uncover ones from the first Beis HaMikdash. Bottom line, Mikvah appears to be legit. How we actually go about the details of observance is another issue.

    Personally, I am torn as well. From the Torah saying we cannot seethe a calf in it’s mother’s milk, to waiting six hours after licking a burger (even a turkey burger, and no, turkeys do not lactate) before touching a piece of cheese to a moratorium on asparagus, broccoli and raspberry consumption due to potential bugs, rabbis have a lot of rules. Where do we draw the line (and do we draw the line at all)? You could make yourself crazy with the Rabbis. Cover your hair. Wait, sorry, no sheitel (wig), that’s provocative. Or only eat bedatz. Tablet K is assur! (Forbidden) Cover with a hat and a kippah. No, just a kippah is fine. Or whatever. I feel that without the rabbis, we might not have survived as a people and we might not function so well today. Most of us want and need unity, community, belonging, rules. Every club has its rules. Some we don’t like, but if we want to be in the “club” we either conform or pretend to. It’s hard enough to be Jewish and observant, creating your own Karaite* cave apart from others is alienating and no one will ever eat at your house. *Karaites proclaimed to only follow written Torah law, not oral. There was a huge, huge battle between them and the now Rabbis after the destruction of the second Temple. Karaites lost.

    This is Hashem, however, we cannot hide from Him. So it makes it even more of a challenge because, what if I am wrong? What if Rabbis really do have this right to create this giant fence with barbed wire at the top and then electrocute it? I really don’t know. I want to be close to Hashem, to have spiritual joy, children who follow Torah, shalom bayit, redemption, the whole megillah (sorry, had to).

    What my conclusion has been is that there is much wisdom in the teachings of our sages as well as containment and consistency, which have probably been a vital part of our continued survival and success. Orthodoxy is thriving and the only Jewish population that is growing. There is also some (narishkeit) nuttiness. I’m just being honest here. We are playing an over 5,000 year old game of Oral Law telephone. No matter what Rav you hold by or not, my PERSONAL belief is that it is always VITAL to go straight to Hashem and talk it out in personal prayer and discussion, maybe for days, weeks months or longer, and figure out what is going to work for you and your family. Saying I just don’t “feel” like doing something or it’s inconvenient seems kind of lame to me. Almost everything is inconvenient if you think about it. So you have to come clean with Hashem and either say, I can’t do this or please help me to do this or even please help me to WANT to do this. At the end of the day I feel that Hashem wants us to go to Him directly to discuss these important topics. Judaism is a relationship with Hashem not your rabbi. We are going to have to stand before Hashem and be accountable to Him only.

    May Hashem bless all of you that you should have clarity, peace, health, success and joy.

    1. Anonymous July 14, 2019 at 4:02 am

      So well said! I have expressed these same exact thoughts
      time and again. There are plenty of things that I do, even though I’m not “buying it” that Hashem really needs or wants me to be THAT neurotic. Yes, the rabbis kept us together in many ways. We survived thanks to how brilliant Judaism was crafted, for sure. And yet, all these extra rules… it is simply not doable for the average person! I am a highly detail oriented, perfectionist person and even for me it’s a struggle. How much more so for people with less motivation & mindfullness? I often pray for Hashem to “modify Judaism and make it more accessible for more people,” because as it stands now, it seems it’s gone a little too far, and perhaps we need to find a way to backtrack and get to a time when it was all simpler. (Without just throwing ALL the rules out as we see in the reform world…) Please Gd help us figure these things out. Give us clarity!

  33. Pingback: Episode 27: If I Show You The Real Me Will You Still Love Me? w/Elad Nehorai – Rabbi Misha Clebaner

  34. Steve613 August 10, 2020 at 8:40 pm

    Guys I am a bal tshuvah, from my late teens. For me it was largely an intellectual proposition, not a religious, spiritual, or even ethical one. The question came down to; was I comfortable with my degree of certainty that God wrote the Torah or not? Once I found my first “proof” that man couldn’t have written the Torah, then I was comfortable with my certainty that God authored it (the words not the ink) and once you’re comfortable that God write the Torah…you really have to pay attention.

    To all of you whose rationale is “have the Rabbis overreached”, I would suggest that halacha was not invented within the last 100 years. And the “Rabbis” that set the precedents lived throughout the last 3300 years.

    Questioning halacha individually is a slippery slope. Going to the mikvah, for example, isn’t about spiritual cleanliness, the ‘reasons’ aren’t about blood and no-blood and cleaning after blood. The reason women go to the mikvah is because God ordained the practice…and most importantly…the spiritual ramifications are infinitely more complex and far reaching. The answer to every “Why do we do this?” really have the same answers…because God asked us to do it. We don’t do it for Him, women don’t go to the mikvah for God, just like we don’t learn, pray and keep shabbos for God. EVERY mitzvah in the Torah, enumerated by God and taught by the Rabbis, are ALL opportunities for us to elevate ourselves and our households. And that is the purpose of a Jewish life.

    So sure, we can apply our own logic and importance (and lack thereof) to individual mitzvos (starts with one) if we want to. But we are missing the point. If one doesn’t appreciate the unique opportunity presented specifically to Jews through the ABILITY to observe the Torah, then…one loses the rewards of doing so. And loses the distinction of being Holy – as the existence, methods, in fact the very definition of “holiness” can ONLY come from God, in the Torah. We are now living in a moment where the world IS trying to redefine what is holy, what is moral, and it’s a huge, hot mess. This is what we are talking about here…just like people have convinced themselves that post-birth abortion is a “womens right to control her body”, and that gay marriage isn’t simply legal but must be celebrated by all, so to we Jews are going down THIS path here, in this discussion.

    The answer to the author MUST be, in my opinion, she has the right to not go to the mikvah. That choice is hers to make and nowhere in the Torah are we taught that we should judge her disrespectfully. However, denying the importance of the commandment to go to the mikvah will only do exactly what it’s done on this chat…spur other conversations of other commandments whose ‘logic’ is similarly ‘flawed’, according to the authors of those opinions. And that right there disrespects the existence of the Torah, the awareness that God wrote the Torah, and judges disfavorably everyone who chooses to follow halachas. By presenting logical arguments against the halachas, you’re deeming them unnecessary. Thats not really necessary JUST to give yourself your own excuse to make your own decisions for yourself. You want the respect and support to make your choices, don’t invalidate the premise altogether by saying, it’s not YOUR choice – it’s a flawed halacha to begin with.

    In my humble opinion.


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