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Thursday, August 28, 2008

"But She's Not Wearing Any Clothes!"

I thought that would get your attention!!

(Who says a blog about cancer can't be controversial?)

But, seriously, this post isn't about cancer, it's about S'rugim (or Srugim)... and going to the mikveh.

S'rugim, (lit. "knitted items", slang for the dati-leumi (religious Zionist) community, based on the knitted kippot that dati-leumi boys/men wear), is a TV series about 30+/- singles, living in the "bitz'ah" (lit. "swamp", slang for the Katamon/Rehavia singles scene, where singles can get stuck for years).

To our surprise, Moshe and I are totally into the show!

One night, Moshe brought home a DVD with three episodes. After the first episode, I suggested we watch the second. After the second, I suggested we watch the third. Moshe hesitated, pointing out the late hour. "I know," I responded, "let's watch it anyway!"

I was hooked!

Now, Tuesday nights, Moshe brings home the most recent episode, and we watch it together.

Afterwards, because we are such geeks, we analyze the episode. (I was not always such a geek. What can I say? I fell in with the wrong crowd....) We love analyzing TV shows together; it is one of the few things we both really enjoy!

We are not the only ones analyzing the show. After each episode, we check out Jameel's and Lurker's blogposts about the show.

This past Tuesday night, I was in bed by 8:00, feeling pretty miserable because of my toothache.

Moshe asked me if I wanted to watch something. At first, I did not feel like moving. But when he reminded me that he had the most recent episode of S'rugim, well...., let's just say I wasn't about to miss it for a lousy toothache!

But I digress....

-----------------SPOILER ALERT--------------------

In episode ten, Hodaya is not quite sure what to do at the mikveh. The balanit ("mikvah lady", who is there to assist women) gently guides her. After Hodaya immerses the first time, the balanit reminds her to say a b'racha (blessing).

"What?!?" shouts out my husband, "But she's not wearing any clothes!"

I burst out laughing!

My husband, with his yeshiva background, and all his knowledge, was completely unfamiliar with the rituals of women's immersions.

"Is that really how it is done?" he asks, incredulous.

I laugh again, and answer "yes, that's really how it's done."

"But how can she say a b'racha without any clothes?" he insists, beginning to quote various sources that discuss b'rachot.

I no longer remember the answer. I learned the laws of ritual immersion years ago, just before I married.

"You mean," my husband continued, not quite grasping the concept, "that every night women are saying b'rachot...." he left the sentence dangling in the air.

I laughed again, at my sweet, innocent husband, who was getting a glimpse into my ritual world, thanks to a TV show.

"Yes," I concluded, "every night, religious women are saying b'rachot, wearing no clothes."

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


Anonymous said...

I haven't turned on my tv in ages - so when is it on??


Juggling Frogs said...

O o o o o!

There's a DVD?!

We're in the US, and don't have a tv, but we do have a DVD player in my laptop. Is there an on-line site for ordering the DVD shipped to the US??

A Living Nadneyda said...

I love it! Just to keep those guys on their toes...

Of course it would never occur to us to bring it up as a conversation piece, but it's so funny to think that what's so completely obvious to us is almost completely unknown to them.

For me, the big shocker was seeing the kalla mikveh parties, a custom observed especially by the Sepharadim (Moroccans and others). All the women in the bride's extended family, along with 20 of her best friends, show up with her at the mikveh en masse complete with plates of very sticky sweets, which they offer
to everyone they see. Sometimes they sing and play musical instruments, all of them stuffed together into this little room. Then the bride goes home and has a party with her girlfriends. It's sort of a Jewish hen party, I guess. Not a very subtle mikveh experience, though.

Risa Tzohar said...

Sfardiot (some at least) get out of the mikve put on a robe and cover their hair, make the bracha and then go back in to finish the dunking. Frankly, it makes much more sense than the way we (Ashkenazi) women do it. I was always uncomfortable making the bracha in the water with a damp towel on my head. But, that's tradition.

Gila said...

Hilarious! I watched the show once and found it far too close to home. Rather painful..... Good to know that it is on DVD--some day, if I ever get married or at least no longer have any regrets about being single, I will watch the show. Right now, watching it involves me sitting there and identifying with the characters who are passed over in favor of their more attractive friends.

Commenter Abbi said...

On the brachot- I learned that the water is considered your clothes, which is why it's ok to say the brachot.(just like in the aggada with R' Shimon Bar Yochai and the cave- he only puts on his clothes infrequently to save them and otherwise his buries himself in the dirt to say tefillot/brachot.)

Also, your husband has never been to a mikveh? Doesn't he go in without clothing? What did he think women do?

I'm also surprised he wasn't more shocked about the circumstances of her mikveh trip. I'd expect those to be much more shocking.

Anonymous said...

What I learned was that wrapping your arms around your middle creates a separation between the 2 halves of your body (much like men do when they put on a gartel).

(posting anonymously for reasons of tzniut)

chavlene said...

I think that YES had posted some of the episodes online --- Hope they put them all up so I can relive those miserable years (ok - there were some highlights but I would never voluntarily go back to 25+ shabbos meals and the influx of upper west siders during the chagim.....shudder shudder

rivkayael said...

Abbi: I don't think men say a bracha when they go to the mikvah--because there is no commandment for them to do so.

Rivka: I love your blog and upbeatness! I'm delurking to say hi from chul :).

Miriam said...

That is so funny! I love how cutely clueless men are sometimes.

A Living Nadneyda said...

I did some research and found out that, as Risa explained, haRav Ovadia Yosef gave a psaq about 20 years ago which said women should make a bracha first, fully clothed, and then dunk.

Furthermore, my balanit (that's "mikveh lady," for all of you outside of israel) told me that in Morocco, where she was born and her mother grew up, it would take five people to do tevila: the woman herself would go down to the river with three other women, who would surround her and hold a sheet around her. The woman's husband would accompany them and sit aways off where he could guard against attacks on the women.

But the most fascinating thing? She told me they used to go during the day, since it was too dangerous at night. I've never heard of a posek who allows that, at least not in our era.

Anonymous said...

Commenter Abbi: Also, your husband has never been to a mikveh? Doesn't he go in without clothing? What did he think women do?

Yes, I have been to the mikveh. I go every year on erev Yom Kippur. And yes, of course I go in without clothing. What surprised me was the fact that women make the brakha without clothing. There is a halakha that prohibits saying any devarim she'bikdusha, which includes all brakhot, while undressed. Therefore, I had always assumed that women make the brakha before disrobing. I still do not understand how this practice of saying it while naked can be reconciled with the above-mentioned halakha. See the comments above by Risa and A Living Nadneyda, which indicate that Sefaradi women (or some of them, anyway) do, in fact, make the brakha while clothed, and that R. Ovadia Yosef has paskened this way. I presume that this is on account of the halakha I cited.

Commenter Abbi: I'm also surprised he wasn't more shocked about the circumstances of her mikveh trip. I'd expect those to be much more shocking.

The phenomenon of unmarried women who are sexually active and go to the mikveh is neither new nor unheard of in modern times; so no, I was hardly shocked by it. Historically, many rishonim and aharonim, including Ramban and R. Yaakov Emden, have actually permitted and even advocated this under certain circumstances. Their position was that a woman who is sexually active in a monogamous relationship has the halakhic status of a pilegesh, which is permitted. Today, there are Orthodox rabbis who have given sanction for unmarried women to go to the mikveh, based upon the reasoning that it is preferable for these couples to violate the relatively minor prohibition of premarital sex, but to avoid the far more severe prohibition of having sexual relations with a nida (which carries a hiyuv karet). Not surprisingly, these rabbis have not openly publicized their positions on this. But more recently, there have been some, such as Tzvi Zohar of Bar Ilan University, who have been advocating that Orthodox rabbis should make this practice openly permissible.

Anonymous said...

A small correction to my previous comment: Ramban did not permit the practice of pilagshut, except for kings. R. Yaakov Emden, however, paskened that it is allowed across the board.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Klara – it’s on YES

Juggling Frogs – You have to get someone to record it

ALN – I remember the first time I saw a group of Sephardi women dancing and singing through the streets of Baka, and learned that they were accompanying a kallah (bride) on the way to the mikveh, on the night before her wedding. I was a relatively new immigrant back then. I thought it was the coolest thing! I still do.

Risa – I wonder how common that is. That makes more sense.

Gila – I can understand that. Watching the show definitely makes me appreciate being married.

That said, I don’t think Nati is passing over Yifat because she is not attractive enough. He is emotionally “satum” (blocked). Not only does he not value Yifat, or treat her with respect, he doesn’t realize how happy he would be with her and how he is actually choosing to be alone and miserable.

Commenter Abbi -- men do not say a b’racha when they immerse in the mikveh.

This post was not about the content of the series. I purposefully did not discuss the circumstances, or other details of the show.

My husband responded to your points (in the previous comment)

Commenter Abbi & Anon – these explanations are not really satisfactory. There is no escaping the bare fact, literally, that Ashkenazi women say these b’rachot while standing naked. We would not find it acceptable for a woman (or man) to stand that way and say any other b’racha!

Chavlene – YES currently has two episodes available online (the link is in the blog)

Rivkayael – cool! (“delurking” – love it!)

Miriam – me 2!

ALN – fascinating!

My husband – I always find what you write interesting.

----------spoiler alert -----------

Regarding Hodaya – it did not make sense for her character to go to the mikveh. As we saw from the episode, it would have been totally wrong for her character to have sexual relations at that time.

Even a non-religious person would not feel comfortable jumping from abstinence to a fully sexual relationship. Developing a physical relationship takes time. Even in the religious world, there is an increasing awareness that newly married couples also need to take time to develop physical closeness.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Just one question: Where are you getting DVD's of the episodes? I am going crazy hearing all about them, and seeing those little excerpts on "walla," without being able to see the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Gila: ...the characters who are passed over in favor of their more attractive friends.

As RivkA said, Nati is definitely not rejecting Yifat because she isn't attractive enough, but rather because of his own unfortunate hang-ups. For the record, Yifat is quite attractive.

Anonymous said...

When I was learning these halachot before I got married I had the exact same reaction as Moshe. I asked my teacher why I was allowed to go make a bracha without clothes and she told me the water was covering me. (Hmmm, I thought, I'll have to remember that next time I want to go skinny dipping - it's OK, the water is covering me...) She then told me that the Sephardic minhag was to say the bracha first - while still covered. I said, Good. I'm marrying someone Sephardic, that's what I'll do. When I told the story to my husband, he pointed out another halachic problem with the ashkenazi minhag - you are supposed to make the bracha before doing the mitzvah. If you've already dunked once you've technically already done the mitzvah and should not be allowed to then make a bracha on the second dunking. It is one of the few Sephardic minhagim I've actually adopted, but saying the bracha before going in the water and while still covered up just makes much more sense to me...


RivkA with a capital A said...

ALN -- see comment above. Next year, it will be easier. S'rugim will be on Channel 2.

Mona -- I can't believe this never came up in conversation before.(seriously) I did not know this was an option. I will have to check this out further...

Anonymous said...

Women are allowed to make a bracha naked, provided they are sitting down. in this case i believe the water is a barrier between the upper and lower body and they usually wrap their arms around the waist.

A Living Nadneyda said...

Doesn't help -- no TV. Dependent on the internet. Maybe I can rent it on DVD - does anyone know about that?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 4:00 PM: Women are allowed to make a bracha naked, provided they are sitting down.

Source, please.

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

I love this thread!

That's all I wanted to say.

rivkayael said...

Anonymous @ 4:00 PM: Women are allowed to make a bracha naked, provided they are sitting down.

There is a source somewhere in ketubot or sotah (yes, I need to look it up)--discusses whether a woman can separate challah while naked, and it says that if the woman's legs are crossed, making the bracha is permissible.

Are you referring to this one?

Anonymous said...

This is really funny! I'm sure many other husbands would be surprised by this as well.

To answer the question - as other commenters have pointed out - (a) it is different for a woman, (b) the water "covers" us, and (c) many of us have the custom to cross our arms as a "divider".

As far as making a brachah BEFORE the mitzvah - yes, you're right, and that's why [Ashkenazi] women must dunk a minimum of two times: once before the bracha and once afterwards. Why do we need that seemingly superfluous first time? This is something that I find to be very beautiful: We do so in order to identify with the ger. A ger can't make a bracha until s/he dunks once, because s/he isn't yet Jewish. Then, once the ger dunks, s/he makes a bracha and then dunks a second time AFTER the bracha. We do so as well in order to show that although this is an intensely private mitzvah, it's also a mitzvah upon which the very future of Am Yisrael depends. And so we show that we identify with all of Klal Yisrael by dunking-reciting the bracha-redunking.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2:27 AM: To answer the question - as other commenters have pointed out - (a) it is different for a woman


Anonymous: (b) the water "covers" us

Would this work for a man, as well?

Anonymous: (c) many of us have the custom to cross our arms as a "divider"

Same question as (b).

Also, I'd be interested in the sources for these.

Anonymous: As far as making a brachah BEFORE the mitzvah - yes, you're right, and that's why [Ashkenazi] women must dunk a minimum of two times: once before the bracha and once afterwards.

But, as Mona pointed out, as a general rule, once you have perfomed the action of a mitzva, you are no longer allowed to say the brakha. For instance, if you pick up the arba minim (in contact with one another) on Sukkot -- even if you didn't intend to fulfil the mitzva of netilat lulav by doing so -- you have nevertheless fulfilled the mitzva, and you are not allowed to say the brakha afterward -- even if you go back and do it the "right way".

Perhaps the problem can be solved if the woman consciously intends not to fulfill the mitzva of tevila through the first dunk. But is this actually the case?

Juggling Frogs said...

@RivkA's husband:

"...is this actually the case?"

I think so. I've always kept in mind, when doing the dunk just after the bracha, "This one's for the mitzvah..."

Anonymous said...

Try here and here for a source which should answer your question.

And I agree with Juggling Frogs - I also always have in mind that the second one is for the mitzvah. But I'm pretty sure that even if a woman doesn't specifically have this in mind, she's still okay, because - whether she knows it or not - the reason she's immersing a second time is to have the bracha be "over l'asiyatan" (i.e. before the mitzvah).

Anonymous said...

Women are allowed to make a brocha naked... differences in physiognomy. They can also make a brocha in front of a naked woman, I believe. Need to check it up. It's in Halichos Bas Yisroel. You can check it yourself.

YMedad said...

Regarding tevilla and a bracha while naked, I cannot understand why one cannot make the bracha while clothed and then proceed to immerse. Is that not how we perform tevillat keilim, in that first we bless and then immerse? That's how I was instructed when immersing myself before entrance to the Har Habayit (before receiving a different psak but that's another isasue). And if we mention the har Habayit, it seems the permitted custom during the aliyah l'regel was to enter the public mikvah clothed in a loose-fitting garment which solved all the problems, except if you hold that even women should cover their heads when making the bracha.

And the challah source here:

מסכת חלה פרק ב
ב,ג האישה יושבת וקוצה חלתה ערומה, מפני שהיא יכולה לכסות את עצמה; אבל לא האיש. מי שאינו יכול לעשות עיסתו בטהרה--יעשנה קביים, ואל יעשנה בטומאה. רבי עקיבה אומר, יעשנה בטומאה, ואל יעשנה קביים: שכשם שהוא קורא לטהורה, כך הוא קורא לטמאה--לזו קורא חלה לשם, ולזו קורא חלה לשם; אבל קביים, אין בהן חלק לשם.

YMedad said...

And the Shulchan Arukh, OH, can be perused here (try Siman עה)

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