A Chossid, A Mikvah and the P-Word
I’ve been helping out for a few days in a small kosher business, basically just me and a fifty something Gerrer chossid. It was my turn to wash up, but that water was too hot for me (I don’t like hot water, seriously, I take lukewarm showers). Someone else mentioned how he likes to start the day with a scalding hot bath. The chossid nods and says, (heavy yiddish accent) “yeah, I like to start the day right in a hot mikvah“. I joked at the differences between us, we take baths, while he takes a mikvah. I then mention that I don’t like going to mikvos. “And why not? You’re a yid, you go to the mikvah.“ But I don’t like going to the mikvah I tell him, for one it’s gross. “Nu, you go early in the morning before anyone and the water’s clean.“ Isn’t it the same water from the day before? A mikvah is rainwater and it doesn’t rain enough to replenish the mikvah everyday. “Nu, its clean water every day.” He couldn’t explain how though.
He’s basically insisting that a mikvah is a requirement for a frum yid. I play along, and ask him if Moshe Rabbeinu went to the mikvah. “Of course he did.“ There were mikvas in the desert? “Nu, obviously.“ But it’s a desert. Where was the mikvah in a desert?
I then ask him if Moshe was a chossid or litvish. He thinks for a moment, and decides Moshe must have been a chossid. I ask him if Moshe was Ashkanazi or Sephardi. He didn’t have to think about that one, and says Moshe was Ashkenazi. I could have gone into the genetics and history of that one, but what’s the point?
Now, you’re in for a treat. I’m going to explain what I didn’t want to explain to him, why I don’t like the mikvah. And I’m going to have to use a word that is almost never used on a J-Blog. Penis. I’m setting a new standard here, and probably assuring that nothing I write will ever get reprinted in The Jewish Press. May as well say it again. Penis. My aversion to mikvos started from the very first time I went to one. I was about nine, I think. And my dad took me with him on erev Rosh Hashonah. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the sight of every adult male in the neighborhood naked, just chilling. I remember this next bit very clearly. I found a closet to change in, and wrapped myself in my towel because I just wasn’t feeling as carefree as everyone else seemed to be. I stepped out of the closet, with my modesty intact, only to discover that someone had decided to change right outside the door. Now I was a short kid, so I stepped out that closet only to be greeted by Reb Happyowitz’s Mister Happy dangling at eye level.
It was years before I went to a mikvah again. I was in high school, and feeling all pumped full of frumkeit for the new year I decided to go to the mikvah on another fateful erev yom tov. Nothing quite as traumatic as what happened all those years before, but as I came out of the mikavh, I noted that while I was supposed to be spiritually clean, it was hard to focus on that while picking other peoples pubic hair off my shoulder. I then glanced back into the murky green water and noted with horror the sheer amount of shedding that appeared to have taken place by everyone before me. I decided no amount of spiritual cleansing was worth the amount of physical cleansing I would have to do afterwards.