The Laws of Immersion Intervening Substances Systematic Presentation Shulchan


When Is Re-Immersion Required?

External Body and Hair

In Halakha1 there is a distinction between the external parts and hair of a woman’s body and her internal parts and areas underneath folds of her skin.2

The external parts of her body require an examination to determine that they are free of any intervening substances sometime prior to immersion and with the lack of such an examination the immersion is invalid even if she examined herself afterward and found herself to be completely clean.3

As well, the hair of a woman’s body requires minimally, washing with warm water and minimally, an examination with her hand to determine that the hair is not knotted. Hot water and a comb for the hair of the head should be employed wherever possible.4

Internal Areas

The internal areas and areas underneath any folds of skin should be checked prior to immersion. If they are not checked, the immersion is still valid if they are checked after the immersion and found to be free of intervening substances.5

If however, intervening substances are found after immersion in the internal areas with no examination or washing performed on these internal areas prior to immersion then there is a difference of halakhic opinion. If she had contact with the intervening substances post-immersion she will not be required to re-immerse. However, there are authorities who, nevertheless, do require immersion and this stringent approach is the normative Halakha.6

If she had no contact with the intervening substance found in her internal areas or underneath the folds of skin that went unchecked prior to immersion, then upon finding an intervening substance she is required to re-immerse according to all authorities.7

Timing of Cleansing and Immersion

In Halakha, when a woman does her cleansing and examination in relation to her immersion affects the validity of her immersion when finding an intervening substance post-immersion.

Cleansing Immediately Prior to Immersion

If a woman found an intervening substance post-immersion that possibly could have developed post- immersion even though she did not have any contact knowingly with intervening substances post-immersion-then, if she did her cleaning, examination, and immersion both in the same time period (Night) and right next to each other, then according to the Shulchan Aruch her immersion is valid- again, even with no contact with any intervening substances post- immersion.2

However, in this circumstance, if a woman discovers such an intervening substance immediately after immersion while still at the mikvah or in her car near the mikvah she should re-immerse.3

This holds true when we can allow for the possibility of the intervening substances developing post-immersion. However, if a woman discovers an intervening substance post-immersion i.e. food stuck between teeth, adhesive tape stuck to body, makeup not removed and we know with certainty that the intervening substance was present before the cleansing and survived the cleansing/ examination and was present during immersion- then even if she did her cleansing prior to immersion and she did it within the same time period then she must still immerse after removing the substance. It is not necessary to do an entire cleansing just to address the specific removal of the intervening substance.

Cleansing Not Immediately Prior To Immersion

If however, her cleansing was not within the same time period and next to her immersion i.e. it was not at night and immediately preceding her immersion, then if she had “no” contact with the intervening substances post- immersion and then finds it on her body, she is obligated to remove the substance, re-examine herself and re-immerse.

However, even in this situation, if she “did” have contact with the intervening substances post-immersion she would not be required to immerse herself. This is true so long as the cleansing was done not prior to the morning of the day she immerses.5

It should be noted, that in a situation where the cleansing takes place at home well prior to the immersion, that taking a hot shower, combing one’s hair and examining oneself at the mikvah suffices to obviate another immersion even if there was no contact with the intervening substances found on oneself post-immersion.

In another situation, if the contact with the intervening substances came between the cleansing/examination and her immersion- without an additional examination prior to her immersion she is required to re-immerse even if she finds no intervening substance post-immersion.6

When the night of immersion falls on a Friday night it is not possible to perform the cleansing prior to immersion as this contravenes the Laws of the Sabbath. The result of this is that if one finds an intervening substance post-immersion that one had no contact with post-immersion one is required to re-immerse again on Friday night. In this circumstance, one does not perform an additional cleansing one just removes the intervening substance and performs another examination. Some are more stringent and require that one abstain from sexual relations until Saturday night where one can perform an additional cleansing as well.7

When Should Immersion Be Done

A Normal Evening

In Halakha1, the appropriate custom is to begin one’s cleansing prior to sunset and to continue it into the nighttime and then to immerse.2 If however, that is not possible then one can do the cleansing either at night in a relaxed manner or during the day.3 If done during the day or at night well prior to the immersion then one should shower, comb one’s hair and examine oneself prior to immersing.4

Friday Night

Regular Friday Night

If one’s Immersion falls on Friday night one should do one’s cleansing on Friday afternoon.5

Friday Night That Falls After 2 days of Yom Tov

If one’s immersion falls on Friday Night that is preceded by two days of Yom Tov then one should perform the cleansing and examination on Wednesday afternoon.6 The Halakha7 is as follows:

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Afternoon:
A) Fix one’s hair so that it does not become knotted i.e. through a hair net.
B) Avoid contact with foods that stick where possible and if not possible wash after each contact well.

At the time of cleansing on Friday Afternoon before Shabbat:

A) Wash internal areas and folds underneath the skin with hot water that were heated on Yom Tov- do not bathe the whole body at once and do not use a washing towel.
B) Clean & check one’s teeth to determine one’s mouth to be free of remnants of meat and bread etc8
C) Examine oneself again both one’s body and hair prior to immersion.

Saturday Night

Regular Saturday Night

If one’s immersion falls on Saturday Night then one should do one’s cleansing/examination at night prior to immersion and as well on Friday afternoon.9
Saturday Night Yom Tov

If one’s immersion falls on Saturday Night and this is Yom Tov i.e. Pesach, Succot, Semini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah one does one’s cleansing and examination on Friday afternoon.10 The Halakha11 is that one should:

On Friday afternoon before Shabbat:

A) Fix one’s hair so that it does not become knotted i.e. through a hair net.
B) Avoid contact with foods that stick where possible and if not possible wash after each contact well.

On Saturday Night:

A) Wash internal areas and folds underneath skin with hot water that was heated on Yom Tov, not on Shabbat.
B) Check one’s teeth to determine one’s mouth to be free of remnants of meat and bread etc12
C) Examine oneself again both one’s body and hair prior to immersion.

Acceptable Immersions After The Fact

Immersing On A Regular Weekday Or On Yom Tov

If a woman performs a cleansing and examination not immediately prior to her immersion even to such an extent that the cleansing is on another day prior to the immersion then her immersion after the fact is valid.1 This so long as that the time between the immersion and the cleansing does not extend the past 3 days. As well, this is only true after the fact. However, if she has not yet done the immersion she is obligated to perform the cleansing again prior to her immersion.2

Immersing on the 8th day

If a woman immerses on the 8th day during the day without extenuating circumstances then provided she did her cleansing and examination prior her immersion is valid. Nevertheless, she is prohibited from having sexual relations until evening and should conceal her immersion from her husband.3

Early Immersion in Special Circumstances

Mikvah Not Walking Distance To Home

If it is not physically possible for a woman to go the Mikvah at night on the night of her immersion then she may immerse earlier in the day.1 When she should immerse depends on the circumstances.

If her mikvah night is Friday night or the first night of Yom Tov and the Mikvah is not walking distance to her home then she may immerse prior to sunset and she should come home for candle lighting.

Her husband if possible should go to synagogue so that they avoid each other. However, if for instance, there are young children and this is not possible then it is permitted for him to stay home as it will not be possible to isolate themselves until after the children are asleep which is after nightfall.

If however, her Mikvah is on a regular weekday night then she should immerse as close to nightfall as possible and come home at nightfall.

The concern with waiting till nightfall for her arrival is that sexual relations between the couple are forbidden until nightfall by rabbinic law and on this there is no dispute.

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