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Fri, Oct. 26th, 2007, 12:18 pm
onanothertopic: Links

Here are some (not exhaustive, not authoritative) resources on mikveh and family purity, both traditional and not. There are already many resource lists out there; scroll to the bottom for some of the best. Along with the basics, I tried to include interesting tidbits not found elsewhere. Email me at onanothertopic@yahoo.com with suggestions or original contributions.

Looking for the list of open-minded mikvaot? It's in a separate post below.

DISCLAIMER: An institution's or author's inclusion on this site does NOT mean that they agree with its mission. We are not affiliated with any of the organizations mentioned.


Non-technical, non-denominational, textual, and historical overview from Kenyon College, a highly regarded secular liberal arts school.

A more-or-less "mainstream Orthodox" overview at JewFaq.org. Don't be put off by the name; it's an excellent site.

RitualWell.org is a good starting point for Reform, Reconstructionist, and transdenominational approaches.

Sepharadim have slightly different laws of mikveh. See here for a (baldly legalistic) overview.

Some Sepharadim (that is, Sepharadiot, the women!) have a celebration at the mikveh for the bride's first visit before her wedding. See this excerpt from Toby Klein Greenwald's "Memoirs of a[n anonymous] Mikveh Lady," as well as the home movies in the "Images" section below.

The Shefa Network, a group of "dreamers from within the Conservative movement," has a page on mikveh and an active Yahoo! group.


The Mikvah Project, "a touring exhibit of photographs and interviews documenting the resurgence of the Jewish rite of immersion in a ritual bath."

Varda Polak-Sahm's work is a lot more "real," more compelling, to me. But what's the challah doing there? Some sort of segulah?

Boomers! TV has an interview with Anita Diamant, one of the founders of Boston's Mayyim Hayyim, which includes a clip of an immersion. N.B. that this is a very classy mikveh; the one in Varda Polak-Sahm's photographs is quite nice, but more the usual.

Here are some home movies of a pre-wedding mikveh shindig (in Brooklyn?). See also the God-fearing Francophone gentlemen doing some premarital reclaiming of their own (at 6:18).

Archaeology & History

In Hania, Crete, the medieval Etz Hayyim synagogue was restored and reopened in 1999, along with its spring-fed mikveh (see also here and here), where one can actually dunk.
It would be quite a feat to identify (and use) the world's oldest functioning mikveh. This one may be in the running, at least outside of Israel.
Thirteenth-century mikveh in Besalu, Spain. The site's in Catalan!

Medieval mikvaot, beautifully restored, at Speyer and Worms, Germany. Be sure to follow all of the links to get all of the material, including plans. Here is a (dark, blurry, but nonetheless interesting) video of Speyer's.

See a video tour of the Arizal mikveh in Tsfat, northern Israel. Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, the Arizal, lived from 1534-1572 and used the mikveh, but the facility itself is probably older, although I don't know. I believe it's for men only, so it's a chance for women to look inside.

Here are two videos about a mikveh of uncertain date (after 1680, when the town was founded) in Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

Truly alternative alternatives: bricks, mortar, bodies of water

Au naturel at Yoatzot.org:

         Immersing in a spring

         In a lake

         In the ocean

         In a river

HomeMikveh.org, out of Eugene, OR. Ladies (and gentlemen)! Consult one of the world's few experts before trying this at home!

R. Abadi at Kashrut.org is apparently interested in developing a prefabricated mikveh for home installation. He also holds that SOME, not all, swimming pools may be usable as mikvaot. Please email him before trying this.

R. Benjamin Kreitman, of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly, also holds that some swimming pools may be used as mikvaot if no other option is available. See this summary of his view. The full citation is in "Scholarly articles, lectures, and responsa" below.

R. David Miller's seminal (!) book, The Secret of the Jew, on building home mikvaot, relies on R. Kreitman's and R. Abadi's opinions, and, more important, was one of the first popular books on family purity. It is available free on HebrewBooks.org as Sod Netzach Yisrael, vols. 1 and 2, although it is in English. For the full citation, see "Scholarly articles, lectures, and responsa" below.

Voice of the people

New York's Jewish Week acknowledges the facts on the ground. A rare mention of the phenomenon in a mainstream publication.

Anna Sophie (Su Fei) Lowenberg, an American Jewish woman who lives in Beijing, tours the new Chabad mikveh there on "Sexy Beijing," China's answer to "Sex and the City." Go inside the building at 2:55, see the awesome mikveh pool at 3:54, and hear their policy on single women at 6:10. We need to empower Ms. Lowenberg! Onward to the local lake, sisters!

At Mayim Rabim:
Deciding to wait

"Don't ask, don't tell"

Marking life events

Tucker Lieberman, in "Hearing Beneath The Surface: Crossing Gender Boundaries at the Ari Mikveh," visits the same mikveh listed in "Archaeology & History," above.

Chava Willig Levy is a married Orthodox woman who uses the mikveh for taharat ha-mishpachah, but her story, like Lieberman's, is not the usual. "House of Hopes" appears in Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology, edited by Rivkah Slonim (Jason Aaronson, 1995).

Primary (Biblical and rabbinic) sources

It will take a while to get these together, as I am no scholar. In the meantime...

This blog post reviews rabbinic sources on concubinage, i.e., non-marital committed relationships.

Mechon Mamre has many texts in Hebrew and some in English.

AishDas maintains a vast directory of Jewish texts online--do a search for "English" (or other languages) to find translations.

The Unbound Bible sets up Hebrew and English results side by side, verse by verse. Scores of other languages too. (No, it is not a Jewish site.)

HebrewBooks.org contains free (public domain) copies of many rabbinic works, some obscure, some not.

Scholarly articles, lectures, and responsa

Needless to say, the authors named below are not affiliated with this site and may or may not agree with its mission. Please forgive any improperly formatted citations.

Adler, Rachel. “Tum’ah and Toharah: Ends and Beginnings.” Response: A Contemporary Jewish Review (Summer 1973). 117-127. At http://jwa.org/feminism/_html/_pdf/JWA001d.pdf.

Berkowitz, Miriam. "Reshaping the Laws of Family Purity for the Modern World." At http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/docs/Berkowitz-Niddah.pdf.

Bleich, J. David. "Can There Be Marriage Without Marriage?" Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought 33.2 (Winter 1999). Pages.

Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) Responsa Committee. "The Miqveh and Reform Converts." Contemporary American Reform Responsa. Ed. Walter Jacob. [City]: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1988. At http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=44&year=carr.

CCAR Responsa Committee. "Origin of the Miqveh for Conversion." Contemporary American Reform Responsa. Ed. Walter Jacob. [City]: Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1988. 196. At http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=43&year=carr.

CCAR Responsa Committee. "A 'Proper' Reform Mikveh." Responsum no. 5756.6 (1995-1996). At http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/respdisp.pl?file=6&year=5756.

Emden, Jacob. "Responsum of Rabbi Yaakov Emden from Sheylot Ye'avetz [sic] vol. 2, no. 15." In Sacred Secrets: The Sanctity of Sex in Jewish Law and Lore. Gershon Winkler. New York: Jason Aronson, 1998. 105-142. Although this is a copyrighted work, the chapter is available at http://pilegeshpersonals.com/Rabbi_Yaakov_Emden%27s_responsa_on_Pilegesh.pdf.

Emden, Jacob. Sefer She'ilat Ya'avets. Vol. 2. Jerusalem: Mir, [5]764 [2003 or 2004]. Pages.

Feldblum, Meir Simcha. "A Proposal for a Comprehensive Solution to the Agunah-Mamzer Problem." Dine Israel: An Annual of Jewish Law Past and Present 19 (1997-1998). 203-215.

Grossman, Susan. "Mikveh and the Sanctity of Being Created Human." At http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/docs/Grossman-Niddah.pdf.

Halevy, Schulamith C. "On Family and Purity." Midstream 41.7 (1995). 30-32. At http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/~nachum/sch/sch/family.pdf.

Henkin, J.H. (Yehuda). "Acharitah mi yeshurenah: teguvah le-Zvi Zohar." Akdamot 17 (Spring 2007): 33-40. ("Who can foresee what will come of this? : reply to Zvi Zohar.")

Henkin, J.H. (Yehuda). "Women's Immersion Before Yom Kippur." Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues. Ed. J.H. (Yehuda) Henkin. New York: Ktav Publishing House, 2003. 77-87. Google Book Search has a limited preview available here.

Jachter, Howard. "The Building and Maintenance of Mikvaot, Parts 1-5." Rabbi Jachter's Halacha Files (and other Halachic Compositions): A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County. Oct.-Nov. 2002. At http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/ravj.htm.

Kanarfogel, Ephraim. "Rabbinic Attitudes toward Nonobservance in the Medieval Period." Jewish Tradition and the Non-Traditional Jew. Ed. Jacob J. Schachter. New York: Jason Aronson, 1992. Pages.

Kreitman, Benjamin. "May a swimming pool be used as a mikvah?" Proceedings of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement, 1927-1970. Ed. David Golinkin. Vol. 3. Jerusalem: The Assembly: Institute of Applied Halakhah, 1997. 21.

Lichtenstein, Aharon. "Shiur Peticha--Opening Shiur on Massekhet Kiddushin." Translated, abridged, and adapted by Moshe Cahan, Yair Kahn, and Menachem Weinberg. Presented at Yeshivat Har Etzion, Gush Etzion, Israel. (1997?). At http://www.vbm-torah.org/archive/01petich.htm.

Miller, David. The Secret of the Jew: His Life--His Family. New York: Miller, 1930. [Available free as Sod Netzach Yisrael at HebrewBooks.org.]

Reisner, Avram. "Observing Niddah in Our Day." At http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/docs/Reisner-Niddah.pdf.

Shapiro, Marc (Melekh). "Ha-im yesh makom le-hatir et ha-pilegesh ke-pitron halkei le-mekutsat ha-agunah ha-zekukah libum?: iyun histori-hilkhati me-ha-dor ha-kodem." Beloved Words/Milin Havivin: A Student Journal Devoted to Torah, Society and the Rabbinate 2 (June 2006): 24-33 (Hebrew), 197-204 (English). At http://www.yctorah.org/content/view/121/53/. ("The potential for using the concept of pilegesh to tackle the agunah issue: A look at the previous generation.")

Zohar, Zvi. "Zugiyut al pi halakhah le-lo hupah ve-kidushin." Akdamot 17 (Spring 2007): 11-31. At http://www.bmj.org.il/pdf/akdamot/17zohar+.pdf. ("Couplehood according to Jewish law without a Jewish marriage ceremony.")

Links to links

JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, has a list of resources on niddah and mikveh. See the rest of their extensive Online Library for other matters related to women.

Yoatzot.org's list of links, among many less recondite topics, shows us where to buy black pantiliners. Ah, Orthodoxy. It's so you don't have to notice any dubious spots. Before getting out your credit card, note that many authorities recommend any color of underwear EXCEPT for white, red, or black. With red or black, you may miss a harmless spot, but you may also miss early signs of a serious condition. Lunapads is overlooking a market here, I tell you.

Mayim Rabim's links.

Mayyim Hayyim links to various liberal-minded articles that the other sites don't list.

MikvaTikva.org is a project of R. Immanuel Ravad. His resource list includes many small pamphlets that one would never find in other bibliographies. He is the force behind Brooklyn's Museum of the Mikveh. He also donated a clock (see here) to the Eugene, OR community mikveh.
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