Mikva letter – Restoring the Honor of the Jewish Woman
All that is holy in the nation of the G‑d of Avraham and is fundamental for the House of Israel – in establishing and raising an upright generation, kashrut of food, the lofty holiness of Shabbos – was entrusted and endowed by the revered and awesome G‑d Almighty to the woman of Israel to guard and to cultivate.
The woman who fulfills her obligation and destiny in the life of the family, in conducting the home, and in seeing that the education be according to Torah, this woman is the subject of the verse, “The wisdom of women constructed her home.”
Regarding efforts to ensure and increase the observance of taharas hamishpachah (sanctity and purity of the family) in your locale, contemplate on this: If G‑d enabled you to save an entire Jewish community from destruction, you would certainly be willing to sacrifice your life to do so. Moreover, you would praise and laud Him for His kindness in granting you this great merit. Now, such a merit, and even greater than that, is accrued by ensuring the laws of family purity. This is literally saving lives. (שֶׁהִיא הַצָּלַת נְפָשׁוֹת מַמָּשׁ)
To The Esteemed Rabbonim and Community Leaders, שליט’’א:
The Jewish women in all generations have fulfilled G-d’s vision of the world teeming with good human beings (pru urvu) with faith, dedication and persistence, even when the men were overwhelmed, distracted and demoralized.
The Jewish women have been gifted with responsibility of the special mitzvah of taharas hamispocha, which is not a technical set of rules, but rather an expansive and loving world-view that honors the woman’s central role in elevating her home with the spirit of holiness and purity and closing the door to foreign and distracting ideas that take the Jewish person away from growing and increasing in the world. This ownership of the mitzvah of taharas hamispocha and dedication to it is reflected in the writing of our Sages that record extra careful measures that were adopted by the women of their own accord.
Central to our lives as Jewish women is the mikva (ritual bath). It belongs to the women. It belongs to all the women of the community. It does not belong to the donors, to the rabbis who oversaw its construction, to the supervising rabbi, to the rabbi on call who answers questions, nor to the rabbis of the community. It belongs only to the Jewish women.
In recent month we have seen horrifying violation of the honor of the Jewish woman by public health declarations made by rabbis in deference to doctors and public health authorities. These have varied in each community but have included dissuading or preventing women from immersing in the mikva, scaring women and mikva attendants into thinking they were in danger by going to the mikva, encouraging women to delay going to the mikva out of fear instead of reassuring them there was nothing to be afraid of, barring women whose husbands prayed with a minyan from using the mikva, and so forth.
We write to re-assert that ownership of the mikva belongs to the Jewish women. This should be self-evident, but unfortunately it needs re-stating: a rabbi may be consulted as to certain areas of expertise in Jewish law as to the construction of a mikva and the understanding of certain details of the laws of taharas hamispacha, but he may not under any circumstances close the mikva nor may he bar any woman from using the mikva.
We do not permit the mikvas to become tools in the public health campaign to reshape our lives. We remind you that the public health authorities have long sought to close mikvas under various scientific and health arguments. These are the foreign ideas that we as Jewish women are entrusted to block from entry into our communities. A delayed immersion is likely a missed conception in addition to the difficulties and complications that it poses to a couple. That violates the fundamentals of our Judaism and relationship with G-d Almighty.
We do not consent to the closure of the mikvas. They were built with communal funds and are the first communal structure that a community must build. They cannot be closed, not even closed to one woman.
We do not consent to women being barred from the Mikva for any reason including but not limited to symptoms or a positive test for any condition or virus or the prayer activities of her husband. We will not accept a requirement that we must take a test before coming to the Mikva or consent to having our temperature taken as a condition of entry. Regardless of the varying opinions on mask wearing, mask wearing may not be a condition of mikva use.
We do not consent to the change of attitude from honoring our desire to be careful in all details, each woman according to her personal service of Hashem, by answering all our questions and concerns to being told by Mikva attendants that the Rabbonim have said just keep moving and not ask questions.
We do not consent to the closure of the preparation rooms. These are for some the only available appropriate facilities to prepare for immersion and there can be no reason to close them. Every effort must be made to encourage the use of the mikvas and make it as pleasant as possible and easy as possible.
We do not consent to the unnecessary delays in tevilah such as 30-minute spacing.
If a current Mikva attendant is afraid to serve under traditional terms, let them step aside and we will provide and train our own Mikva attendants.
Our position applies regardless of the alleged danger of any disease and the rabbis may not lock the mikva, nor bar a woman, no matter how scary the doctors make the world to be and the rabbis may not lock the mikva, nor bar a woman, in response to an order of the government or of the public health officials. It is not within the powers of the rabbis nor the community leaders to comply with an order regarding something that belongs, not to them, but to the women. If G-d forbid there is to be such an order, the only response the rabbis and community leaders may give to those issuing the order is that “it is not ours to close.”
Nothing in this letter prevents you from advising your congregants personally but is intended to remind you that we do not agree to decrees that interferes with our responsibility for our own health and bodies and fertility.
Signed respectfully but with unwavering determination,
The Jewish Women of _________________________
What follows is a cover letter written by Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Smith regarding the above letter: (PDF Version)
Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Smith
Passaic Park, New Jersey
By the Grace of G-d
27 Elul 5780
September 16, 2020
To the Righteous Women of the Jewish People, ה׳ עליהן תחיינה
As a result of my letter of 10 Elul, which has, with the help of G-d, reached Jews and non-Jews in every corner of the world, providing relief and clarity between light and darkness, I have received many letters and calls from Jewish women of all levels of observance, crying out in despair and pain over the use of COVID-19 to spread fear among the Jewish women and prevent their use of the mikva (ritual immersion bath). It became clear that the honor of the Jewish women must be restored.
As set forth in my letter, through tampering with the mikvas, in this way a war is waged on the mitzvah (Divine Commandment) of “be fruitful and multiply,” in the name of public health.
“Be fruitful and multiply” and the mitzvah of family purity is the holy responsibility of the Jewish women. The honor of the Jewish woman must be restored. I can write and I can speak but the ultimate responsibility lies with the Jewish women to set forth clearly and unequivocally that the mikva belongs to the Jewish woman and no one, no rabbi and no community leader, no doctor and no government officer, has the authority to shut a mikva or to prevent a woman from using the mikva.
While the Jewish women are modest, it is their dedication and determination that has been the foundation of the Jewish People in all generations and the principle driver in the Redemption of the Jewish People from each exile.
In order to provide the absolute clarity in this matter, I have drafted a letter for the Jewish women to use and sign, making clear their right to use the mikva without interference in any way. While each woman or group of women can modify it as they wish, I am writing in the strongest terms to give the women the confidence to know that their position can be expressed without any sugar coating. The letter is designed to be signed by one or more women in each community and delivered to the local rabbis and community leaders.
This is in keeping with G-d Almighty’s words in the Torah, to listen to the Rabbis. On the verse לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל (Do not depart from the words they shall tell you, neither to the right nor the left. Devarim (Deuteronomy) 17:11), the starting point is that the G-d fearing sages are teaching according to the Torah. However, as set forth in my letter of 10 Elul, public health ideology is the driving force in the decrees against Jewish women and the mikva, not Torah.
The right and honor of the Jewish women in connection with the mikva is true and eternal and cannot be surrendered, even by those, who for whatever personal calculations, fail to sign this letter at this time. Do not be disheartened if they do not sign. Many will not sign because they are afraid of other calculations. However, even those that do not sign will come around if, G-d forbid, further decrees are issued.
With blessings for a ksiva v’chasima tova, tefillos for a year of nullification of harsh decrees, refuas hanefesh v’refuas haguf and beas goal tzedek, כימי צאתך מארץ מצרים אראנו נפלאות and it should be with rachamim and b’simcha u’b’tuv levav.
Yitzchok Dovid Smith
Did public health policy hinder your ability to access or use a Mikva at this time? In order to better understand which mikvas were interfered with and by whom, an anonymous form is available to report on the use of public health to interfere with mikvas.
 Public health is not for the benefit of the individual nor is it ‘health’ of the Torah. Rather it is government control measures directed at the population as a whole, disregarding the best interests of the individual.
 Literally meaning the “plans of Haman.” Book of Esther. Haman was a member of the nation of Amalek, who infiltrated the Persian government to manipulate the Persian government and its enforcement mechanisms into destroying the Jewish People. He instituted a reign of terror and sought to quash all opponents, forcing everyone to bow to him as the new ruling ideology. One determined man, Mordechai, the Jew, refused to bow. While Haman’s wrath at Mordechai’s refusal instigated even more harsh decrees, it was Mordechai’s stubbornness to serve only G-d Almighty that provided the rock upon which Haman and his supporters were destroyed. Queen Esther put aside her personal calculations to plead for the saving of the Jewish People and together, she and Mordechai, brought relief from tyranny for the Jews and the Persians as a whole. Torah teaches us to see that the plans of Haman continue from generation to generation, because it is about an ideology not personalities, and that the story of the Book of Esther is playing out now in real time.
 It has also become distressingly clear that there is a reduced number of Rabbis who are able to answer questions in the laws of family purity without being tainted by the ideology of public health. I encourage all Rabbis who are untainted by the public health ideology and to whom G-d’s vision for His Creation is dear, to make his knowledge available to Jewish women and make themselves known so that they can be a resource to those with questions and ensure that “be fruitful and multiply” increases with ever increasing strength.