I Went To The Mikvah With Nail Polish And The World Didn’t Explode.

Yep. Last month, I went to the mikvah with a fresh coat of Shelac nail polish on my fingers. The mikvah lady checked my nails and feet (what for, I’m still really not sure) but didn’t say anything about the polish. She didn’t ask me who my rav was or how fresh the polish was or what type of polish it was. All she did was say, “Oh, what a pretty color!”.

Now, I know the halacha. I know that wearing shelac nail polish in the mikvah is acceptable, specifically if the polish is not chipped. The reasoning is as follows: It is impermissible for a woman to immerse if there is a chatzitzah on her body. A chatzitzah is defined as both something that covers a majority of the part of the body, AND  something that a woman is makpid (careful) to remove. The rabbis have expanded the definition of chatzitza to mean EITHER majority OR makpid. The definition of makpid is viewed as both subjective and objective, meaning that it’s not just a matter of the individual, but also a matter of what women generally care about. Furthermore, a minority of rabbis have said that if something is going to have the status of makpid in the future, it will have the status of makpid at the time of immersion as well. Since most women are careful to remove chipped nail polish, it is considered a chatzitzah. Furthermore, following the minority opinion, many modern day rabbis have ruled that all nail polish must be removed prior to immersion, because it can chip at any time and once it chips, most women will be makpid to remove it. Freshly painted regular nail polish is considered okay if one does not follow the minority opinion that future chipping will constitute present chatzitzah. However, gel/shelac manicures are different. Gel and shelac manincures last for several weeks, and even then, it is advised to have a professional remove the polish, as the polish is actually bonded to the nail. This type of manicure specifically does not chip. Therefore, the concern that it will chip shortly and be something that a woman is makpid to remove is not present, and the nail polish does not constitute a chatzitzah even under the minority opinion.

However, I also know that mikvah attendants can be quite finicky, and might insist that no nail polish is allowed in the mikvah, ever. I was all prepared for a fight. I was prepared to tell her that  I had my nails done the day before with my friend who is terminally ill as part of a ladies day to help her get out of the house and have some fun, and that my rabbi (aka myself) had ruled that gel nail polish is not a chatzitza, and I was prepared to storm out in a huff and tell her that any sin I get from not immersing this month was going be on her. (anger problem? nahhhh….)

But I didn’t have to do any of that. She took one look at my nails and told me they were pretty and then proceeded to make idle chit chat as we walked from the preparation room to the mikvah. I dunked, and she said “kosher” and that was that. No fight. No making a statement. Just a regular day at the mikvah.

In my opinion, that’s how going to the mikvah should be: pleasant and non-confrontational.

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5 comments on “I Went To The Mikvah With Nail Polish And The World Didn’t Explode.

  1. Happy to hear you had a good, non-confrontational mikvah experience while wearing nail polish. I’m planning to wear nail polish to my next immersion. I’m prepared for an angry confrontation if necessary, but it’s also nice to hear that there might not even need to be one.

  2. Esther says:

    So glad you wrote about this experience! I’m looking for a mikveh that is easygoing like this one. (My usual easy-going one is undergoing renovation…) Any recommendations? In Brooklyn…

  3. miriam says:

    Hi. I stumbled upon this post, and I have to say that it made me really upset. Especially the part where you’re admittedly planning on being dishonest if necessary .

    “However, I also know that mikvah attendants can be quite finicky, and might insist that no nail polish is allowed in the mikvah, ever. I was all prepared for a fight. I was prepared to tell her that I had my nails done the day before with my friend who is terminally ill as part of a ladies day to help her get out of the house and have some fun, and that my rabbi (aka myself) had ruled that gel nail polish is not a chatzitza, and I was prepared to storm out in a huff and tell her that any sin I get from not immersing this month was going be on her.”

    To me, this seems to just be a mockery of orthodoxy.

    Also, in your “bio”, you write: “I am Orthodox Jewish because I am commited to living my life based on halacha (Jewish law)”. If you’re orthodox, how are you comfortable with telling an outright lie, being proud of that, and announcing that on your blog?

    • Thanks for your comment Miriam. I want say a few things:

      1. I don’t feel great about lying, and that’s why I was so relieved not to have been ultimately put in that position
      2. Halacha doesn’t always forbid lying. There are certain instances when lying is appropriate (possibly not the case in this instance, but it’s not so clear)
      3. Even if my idea to lie about having received a psak was halachically wrong, it doesn’t mean I’m no longer orthodox. It mean I thought to do something against halacha. In this case, it would have been violating one halacha in order to fulfill a different one. I don’t know which is worse honestly, but again, it doesn’t mean I’m not orthodox.

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