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High Court Hears Petition against Mikvah for Married Women Only


The Santa Fe mikvah, NM

The Santa Fe mikvah, NM
Photo Credit: Chabad Jewish Center of Santa Fe, NM

Israel’s Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Margi and the Chief Rabbinate Council to explain why they not allow single women to immerse in state-run mikvahs, Kikar HaShabbat reports.

Justices Eliakim Rubinstein, Esther Hayut and Uri Shoham have recently been discussing a petition requesting that any Jewish woman, regardless of her marital status, should be allowed to dip in the mikvahs run by the religious councils.

The petitioners are Oriya Pliah, Amital Sachs and the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), who are seeking to change the policy.

The petition was initially brought before Justice Rubinstein, who ruled that the hearing should be moved to a panel of three judges. Now this panel has issued a conditional order requesting clarifications on a matter which could be seen as purely halachic in nature and thus outside the purview of the secular court.

According to their website, the Center for Women’s Justice is a public interest law organization dedicated to defending and protecting the right of women in Israel to equality, dignity and justice within Jewish law.

CWJ carries out legal activity and advocacy aimed at ending practices that discriminate against women in the name of the Jewish religion. CWJ files key lawsuits in civil courts across Israel, with the aim of setting legal precedents and achieving systemic solutions to religious dilemmas that compromise gender democracy and threaten the Jewish future. CWJ also carries out Social Awareness activities which educate the public about marriage, divorce and social justice in Jewish life and promote social change.

About the Author: Tibbi Singer is a veteran contributor to publications such as Israel Shelanu and the US supplement of Yedioth, and Jewish Business News.


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23 Responses to “High Court Hears Petition against Mikvah for Married Women Only”

  1. auroraaronsson says:

    The issue of nidah, and the karet punishment for a man who is intimate with a woman who is niddah, have NOTHING to do with adultery, in spite of IGNORANT statements by some.
    The issue is that the karet mi-de-oraitha because of sleeping with a woman who is niddah is a much more severe issue than the sleeping with one you are not married too, for which, BY THE WAY, there is no imposed punishment in the Torah, which ALLOWS pilagshoth (in spite of the XII-XIII Cent. Ashkenazi Rabbis’ opinions and even excommunications of Sephardic Rabbis on the matter!) who MUST respect all the laws of taharà, hence ALSO miqweh!!!
    Never forget that Torah law has NOTHING TO DO with Xtian customs and mentality.

  2. Grace Acosta says:

    If they don't care about adultery, why to they care about mikvah?

  3. Roc Diaz says:

    I don't think its about adultery. sometimes people who are single and don't want to marry but are having sex, want to sin as little as possible. neda is a big sin if violated.

  4. I may assume that a kallah who goes top the mikvah for the first time and is technically not married yet is not included in this rule? Anyway, they should give all women a chance to go!

  5. Yori Yanover says:

    I don't think sex out of wedlock by two single people is a sin according to halacha. It's frowned upon as "znut" or whoring, and the woman who practices it may not marry a cohen (although how do you prove it nowadays?) — but it's not a sin.

  6. Salcedo Tina says:

    Sir, according to God's word, having sex before marriage is called fornication and it NEVER was in God's plan- no matter what you say, you can't change God's commandment and the CONSEQUENCES for disobeying our God- we can believe all different kinds of things and call them TRUTH… truth sets us free.l. fornication causes many fly by night relationships, broken hearts, diseases, and the worst of all… the CONSEQUENCES from God!

  7. Anonymous says:

    This has nothing to do with adultery, which, by definition includes a married woman. But, a totally different issue, in Israel those who want to go up to Har HaBayit want to immerse in a mikveh first, whether or not they're married.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There's always the ocean or a river if you can manage the tzniut issue.

  9. Yori Yanover says:

    It's still not a sin. We discourage it, we prefer that our children find mates for life and live happily, but if and when they seek intimacy with someone they're not wedded to, they haven't violated any commandment that I am aware of. I'm totally open to being educated on the matter.

  10. Yori Yanover says:

    The ocean has issues of safety — since women dip in the dark. There's also the issue of chatzitza — with mud and debris sticking to one's feet. And there's the problem of having to dip all at once, head to toes, which means the woman must go quite far from the beach.

    The river has fewer issues, but smaller, natural bodies of water introduce issue of the ratio of rainwater to standing water.

    It's really best to go to a mikvah wherever possible.

  11. Yori Yanover says:

    I'm pretty sure it ends up with the individual mikvah lady. If she's open minded or not about her clients. She really is not entitled to stop women at the door and ask for their credentials, especially if they live in the neighborhood. After all, in Israel, their taxes pay for it.

  12. Salcedo Tina says:

    I see the consequences of pre-marital sex and it IS called fornication— It is nothing less than sin— and look at the consequences of sex outside of marriage- all the babies aborted by the millions every year! is this a reward for not being a sin? very truly, we REAP what we sow, and MORE than we sow— all this open-minded modern way of thinking has corrupted the righteousness of God and is from the devil…. God has never changed HIS commandments to suit each of our individual opinions and open minded beliefs! what if I went out today and murdered someone because I FELT this person didn't deserve to be alive? why not? I'm being open-minded and believe what I BELIEVE- God will understand and overlook this because He knows I'm right! Really, truly, ALL.

  13. Salcedo Tina says:

    all of the rewards for pre-marital sex are unknown- what reward has God blessed people with who have premarital sex? Are there any rewards that people can say they have received? you be the judge, and consider logically- the reward of all evil is the reaping of all the evil- doublefold- babies killed everyday, people using each other (aren't we God's temple?) bodies and satisfying their lusts without consideration to the consequences. People always have seemed to think that God isn't looking, but He says, My eyes are watching over the good and the evil…. we DO pay for not believing God!

  14. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    Why the adultery obsession of some on this forum? There are several circumstances which warranty a visit to a mikvah for a woman, and they aren't all related to sex.

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    Fornication is an English word. Sex outside of marriage is clearly permitted by the letter of halachah and appears numerous times in Tanakh; the woman is known as a pilegesh. It is certainly discouraged by our sages but to say that it is prohibited by God is a distortion of the Torah.

  16. Charlie Hall says:

    Indeed the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says that all women, married or not, should go to the mikveh erev Yom Kippur.

  17. Charlie Hall says:

    Because it isn't adultery, which in Jewish law only applies with the woman in question is married to a different man.

  18. Plia Pesya Oryah says:

    Yori Yanover the guidance of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Israel today is not to allow unmarried women (single, divorced, widows) in to the mikvah. It does not depend on one or another mikvah lady. and all mikvah ladies fallow that guidance. Therefore the appeal to the High Court.

  19. Plia Pesya Oryah says:

    are u sarcastic? Are you serious? what ar u talking about?? because i cant take seriously someone who compares safe, beautiful, mutual, healthy love making to murder…

  20. Yori Yanover says:

    They check your ID at the door?

  21. Plia Pesya Oryah says:

    if they suspct. i try looking as married as possible- cover my hair, long skirt… but even then they sometimes ask, and once they acually did ask for my ID (which of cours i could not show because i am single… so i hand to tell some story.. that was a horrible night… i came out in tears ) if they suspect you are not marride- they will ask! and if they find out you are single- they will not let you in.

  22. Salcedo Tina says:

    Hello there.. :) I am sorry if you misunderstood what I was pointing out… God says, from his own mouth, that fornication is sin… fornication is sex before marriage…even if people love each other, and it feels right, we have to be careful to listen to God's warning and believe Him or choose our own belief… God gives us the right to walk in faith and believe HIM or do whatever we want… sin is sin… adultery, lying, cheating, fornication, murder… god has never stated that one sin was acceptable or one was worse than the other… what I meant to clarify about murder, is that, some people feel that they murdered for a just reason and it was right… to another one hearing this, that person may say that all murder is wrong no matter what. Truly, when we choose our own belief, instead of God, there is no safety we WILL reap the consequence of what we do. have a good day Plia. :)

  23. Yori Yanover says:

    That's disturbing. And if the court rules in favor of the women, it would be presented as stepping on religious rights.

    I think the constant friction between state and religion in Israel is good for the religion. It gets to grow and mature facing a modern, secular world where it no longer has the choice of exclusion.

    It's fascinating regardless of one's point of view.

    I cannot fathom why a mikvah that is open to unmarried men all day long should be closed to unmarried women. It totally sexualizes the mikvah, robbing it of its spiritual values.

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