Taken from The Plain Dealer article of Saturday, January 14, 2006 by Nancy Haught
For many Jewish women, keeping mikvah - immersing themselves in natural flowing water - is a private matter.
Their husbands probably know when they leave home to visit a mikvah. Attendants may know if a woman immersed herself so completely that not a strand of her hair floated to the surface. But only God knows the sincerity of a woman's prayers.
Water flows through many religions in rituals that symbolize transformation, from death to life, rebirth and renewal. The mikvah is an ancient Jewish tradition still practiced in the modern world because it is required by Jewish law and for a handful of other, more contemporary reasons.
The word mikvah is Hebrew for a "gathering" of mayim chayim, or "living water." Centuries ago, in accordance with Jewish law, women immersed themselves before their weddings and monthly thereafter, seven days after their menstrual periods had ended. Only then did they resume physical contact with their husbands. Jewish men immersed themselves, sometimes as part of their daily spiritual practice and, in other cases, before Jewish holy days.
Today, many Jewish men and women never set foot in a mikvah, but the practice is preserved for those who find it meaningful and for those whose conversions to Judaism demand a ritual immersion. It is probably most important to Orthodox Jews, but others use it for non-traditional reasons, immersing themselves before or after surgery or after a divorce.
Women who visit the mikvah before their wedding often feel a strong connection to women of the past. They see it as a link to the Jewish woman who have preceded them and will come after them.