The Mikveh

Whether you're dunking for conversion, before marriage, for niddah, or for any other reason, here's what to expect at the ritual bath.

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Other Mikveh Uses 

chabad mikveh

Mikveh in Chabad of Phoenix.

 Beyond the halakhically mandated mikveh uses (for conversion and for women getting married and keeping niddah), the powerful symbolism of the mikveh waters has inspired various mikveh practices. For example, many Hasidic men immerse themselves in the mikveh every day. Others immerse every Friday before Shabbat. In some Jewish communities, it is also customary to immerse before Yom Kippur, and for grooms to immerse before their weddings.

These immersions, which do not require a blessing, might take place in a separate "men's mikveh" large enough for ten or more to immerse simultaneously. Because of their non-required nature, most men's mikvaot are more casual--some might not have a constant attendant, and most operate on a walk-in basis rather than scheduling in advance.

In recent years, some progressive Jews have also begun to use mikveh to mark various milestones, such as a graduation or an important birthday, and to signify a new start after pain or loss. For example, immersion can mark the completion of a year of bereavement, or recovery from divorce, rape, abuse, or life-threatening illness. Often new prayers are composed to accompany these new rituals.

Finally, another kind of mikveh in use today is the kelim mikveh--a mikveh for immersing dishes. Typically much smaller than a mikveh designed for human use, this kind of mikveh is often located in the same building as the main mikveh.

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Shoshanna Lockshin

Shoshanna Lockshin is senior editor at MyJewishLearning.com.