Whether you're dunking for conversion, before marriage, for niddah, or for any other reason, here's what to expect at the ritual bath.
The Big Dip
Before you enter the mikveh, the attendant may offer to check your hands, feet, or back for stray hairs or other potentially unwanted barriers that may get between you and the mikveh waters. If you are comfortable with this, you can accept the offer. But if you do not want to be checked, you usually do not have to.
The mikveh attendant will take your towel or bathrobe and look away as you go down the stairs and enter the water. Though it can feel awkward or uncomfortable to be naked in front of a stranger, it may help to keep in mind that mikveh attendants attempt to be discrete and look at your body only once you are under water, ready to immerse your head. They are watching to check that every part of your hair and body is submerged, and they are also there to ensure your safety in the water.
The Sephardic custom is to recite the blessing first--"Blessed are You, God, who sanctified us with Your mitzvot, and commanded us regarding immersion"--and then submerge completely for a moment or two. Ashkenazic Jews usually submerge once, then recite the blessing, and then submerge either one or two more times. The mikveh blessing is the same for converts and for women before marriage and keeping niddah. Many mikvaot provide the text. (we should try to get Hebrew in here as well)
Barukh ata Adonai Elohenu melekh ha'olam asher kideshanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al ha'tevillah.
Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.
בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל הַטְבִילָה
After you have blessed and immersed, if you like, you can spend some time in the mikveh for personal reflection or prayer.
As you come out of the water, the mikveh attendant will give you back your towel or bathrobe, and might give you a little blessing too--for a healthy marriage, or a happy life as a Jew, depending on the reason you immersed.
You can return to your preparation room and get dressed. On your way out, you may be asked to pay a fee (usually in the $18-$36 range, though it can be more for a conversion), or to make a donation, for maintenance of the mikveh.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.