Recently, I attended the JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) conference. It was a fabulous, enlightening, and thought-provoking day, and my only complaint is that I have to wait another THREE YEARS before the next one. The one session that stood out among the many others was the session on mikvah. It was called No More Whispers: Talking Openly and Honestly About Mikvah. The session used anonymous polling technology to allow participants to have a conversation and ask questions to others in the room via text message. One participant asked, “How can men prepare for mikvah night”. I responded that my husband prepares for the mikvah by showering and shaving. The room laughed, but I think appreciated the sentiment.
I have come to realize that this ritual that we do–I leave the house after he returns from work, while I’m cleansing myself he cleanses himself–is more than just happenstance for him. It really is his way of making the mitzvah of mikvah relevant to him, too. While he doesn’t immerse in the mikvah, he makes sure that he is thoroughly cleansed for my return. He showers, shaves, cuts his nails, and maybe even puts on a little cologne.
I realized how important this ritual was for him, when this past week, mikvah night fell on Monday. Monday was MLK day, so I didn’t have work. I told him I was thinking of going earlier in the evening, say around 5pm, right when the mikvah opens. That way, I’ll be all ready for him as soon as he gets back from work. He looked sad. “But then I won’t have a chance to prepare” he complained. It was only then that I realized, he doesn’t just shower and shave because it’s a good opportunity-his shower and shave are part of his mikvah night ritual, just as bathing and combing my hair are part of mine.
Judging by the response at the JOFA conference, this is not the norm. Apparently most men don’t have a mikvah night ritual. Perhaps some men have child care responsibilities that prevent them from having any sort of personal preparation time. But for the men who don’t, I would like to humbly suggest taking some time to prepare yourself while your wife is at the mikvah. You don’t have to soak in the bath tub for half an hour–unless that’s what you want–but do something. I think it will make mikvah night more special not only to your wife, but to yourself as well.