Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah Redux...

Top of the evening everyone...

A few years back, I wrote an entry to this blog entitled Jennifer's Favourite Mitzvah.  It was a posting about mikveh.  I would, first and foremost, like to reiterate some of the points of that posting.

The mikveh attendants of any city should meet once a month.  Each mikveh has its own practices and customs.  Often there is a great deal of logic behind those practices that should be shared with the world.

I also mentioned that a mikveh should be a place of physical health as well as spiritual health.  To that end, the dressing rooms should have instructions for a monthly exam, as well as phone numbers to shelters and crisis counsellors.

There is a certain etiquette to the mikveh.  In general, the women who go are there for the same reason.  It is the end of the monthly cycle.  They are there to immerse.  They will then go home and resume intimate relations with their spouses after having taken an 11-day hiatus.  That is not discussed, obviously.  When we were still living in New York, there were times that I would go with Jennifer.  When that happened, I would wait across the street or across the parking lot.  There was NEVER eye contact with the women who were going.  Again, this was an intimate moment for them.  It is not to be intruded upon, especially by a stranger, and especially by a male.  I call it a secret sorority.  Most men have not been privileged with the password.

I write this now due to the pending case of a prominent rabbi in the Washington DC area.  Allegedly, he had rigged a camera in the mikveh area.  He is being charged with voyeurism.

This is appalling.  That he would (allegedly) violate both the intimate spiritual life and the intimate marital life of these women is a betrayal on a grand scale.  Frankly, it is a violation not just of the mikveh at Kesher Israel, but at every mikveh throughout the world.  Every woman now must enter the mikveh with the knowledge that if it can happen in DC, it can happen anywhere.

What to do?  First and foremost, the communities should pronounce a herem on him if and when he is convicted.  This is effectively a communal silent treatment.  He is not to be allowed to daven anywhere.  No one is allowed to do any sort of business with him.

Second, no one person should ever be allowed into the mikveh area alone.  This means the rabbis.  This means the women who go.  Usually, there is an attendant in there with the women.  This is normal.

Third, every mikveh board should have women on it.  It is in and of itself ludicrous that this needs to be said.  Women are the primary users.  Men often do not fully understand the intimacy involved.  It is the natural result of being wired differently.

I am at present wrestling with the fourth thing to do.  I have said that men should likely go on a monthly basis.  The rabbis of the Talmud teach us that the monthly observance of mikveh is to maintain a woman's enticing nature to her spouse.  Men are also involved in that.  We should also be enticing to our spouses.

There may be another level to consider men's attendance at the mikveh.

As healthy men, we have very few violations of our bodies.  We do not have to endure yearly pap smears that accompany remarkably personal physical examinations.  We have a brit milah, and then a digital exam when we become men of a certain age.  I do not think that we will ever fully understand the physical and spiritual vulnerability of the mikveh without using it consistently.  Perhaps if we can come to understand it, we menfolk might be more able to react to what has happened here.  Please note here that I have read at least six different editorials on this incident today.  Only one was written by a man.

Gentlemen: a violation of our spouses is also a violation of us.  What happens to one spouse happens to the other.

On a separate note, both the Rabbinical Council of America and the rabbanut in Israel have decided that the conversions he has thus far overseen are valid.  Out of respect to those people who have undergone conversion with him, that is the right decision.  However, putting on tefillin, keeping kosher, and observing Shabbat are simply not sufficient.  Henceforth, until the teshuvah is done, his kashrut is not to be trusted.  His testimony before a beit din is not to be trusted.  The failure to keep the national laws in my mind renders all of his Jewish practice suspect.

Have a good evening everyone.


P.S.  The synagogue and the mikveh are separate organizations.  I have looked at the synagogue's website.  If you would like to see a superb example of how to respond to this correctly, go to www.kesher.org.  I give them a great deal of credit.

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