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Author Anita Diamant, who penned the historical fiction novel —named after the separate place for menstruating women during Biblical times—helped found Mayyim Hayyim (“Living Waters”), a liberal “mikvah community” in Boston that is open to men and women of every denomination.
They are housed in synagogues, community centers and private homes—and in recent years, have become spa-like settings for women accustomed to the finer things in life.It was like a personal-sized swimming pool—not the water-treadmill kind advertised in the back of upscale magazines—but more like a four-by-four-foot tiled pool with water about four feet deep. Kohl explained that one entered naked, dipped completely under, and the mikvah lady—a rabbi’s wife or community volunteer—watched and pronounced the dip kosher. Kohl gave the tour, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that every single married woman I knew—every parent, teacher, relative—was secretly dipping in the mikvah each month and I knew nothing about it. ” And here I’d thought she had been going to therapy all along.After the visit I didn’t think too much about the mikvah.According to the Torah, a woman is impure during her menstrual cycle, and then rabbinical leaders tacked on another week afterward, which effectively means that Orthodox couples do not have sex for a minimum of twelve days each month (and longer, if a woman’s period is more than five days).Following her menstrual cycle, a woman immerses in the mikvah to make herself pure again.