Training a Male Mikveh Guide: a reflection

As a Male Mikveh Guide you are about to embark on a marvelous journey through uncharted waters. You will become, with a little patients and practice, the “Mikveh Lady” for your male peers.

During the first part of the training you will learn a great deal about the rules of contact between a man and a women during her days of Niddah.  You will study Leviticus 12, 15 18 and 20. And just when you thought you’ve had enough you will read Numbers 19 and wonder with others what a red heifer has to do with a Mikveh.  You will be fascinated by the laws of family purity and the laws governing sexual relationships, as well as the rules that define when a man is to go to the Mikveh. You will be taught the awesome power of these laws and the punishment of karet.

If you choose you can read  Aryeh Kaplan’s Waters of Eden or download the Soncino Talmud and read the full text on the discussions of family purity and niddah.  You will learn what color stain allows for zavah and niddah.  For the Jewish man you will read about the kinds of discharges that required an emersion in the Mikveh and be able to explain the difference between ba’al keri and zav.

For the engineers in your congregation, the construction of the Mikveh can be discussed. You will learn it contains 40 se’ah of water. You will find that the unit of measurement that allows for the modern computations of the Mikveh is a “thumb” (within 2% of 1 inch).

If you read carefully you will learn a little about how men have used the Mikveh. You will learn that with the destruction of the Second Temple most  “reasons” for men to go to the Mikveh were no longer necessary. Although the tradition of men using the Mikveh is kept by some observant men, most Reform, Conservative, Renewal (add whichever groups you think are appropriate) men spend little or no time in the Mikveh.

Most of all you will learn that your role as a Male Mikveh Guides is to make a safe and welcoming space for his Mikveh experience. You will learn about the Mikveh itself and how an individual is to prepare himself for immmersion. You will become an educator and guide. You will learn to hold a sacred space as you guide him through his immersions toward his Kavanah.

Again and again through the training you will be reminded that this is still a woman’s place.  Do not be surprised when a conversion student or fellow congregant says: “I thought the Mikveh was for women only”, or “How can you do that, that’s a woman’s job”. And especially don’t be surprised when a male Rabbi looks at you with the same questioning stare. Here is that moment you were trained for, where the knowledge you gained will serve you as you educate your friend, fellow congregant and maybe your Rabbi about the Mikveh.

As you move through the Biblical and Rabbinic periods and fast forward to modernity you will realize that as a male Mikveh Guide you will be asked to bring a present day voice to the way of using a Mikveh. Do not expect to get your friend or a congregant to go with you to the Mikveh after he has had a nocturnal emission.  You can, though, ask him if he would like you to help him set time in the Mikveh where he and his close friends can celebrates his life transition from parent to grandparent.

Maurice Kamins is a male mikveh guide in the San Francisco area.  He is also a licensed psychotherapist and master shofar crafter.

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About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
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