Religion Magazine

Woman Turned Away from Mikva Due to Dreadlocks

By Gldmeier @gldmeier
Mynet is reporting on an interesting case of a woman who tried to immerse in a mikva with dreadlocks (Rastot in Hebrew). The mikva lady saw the dreadlocks and told her she cannot immerse like that, as the dreadlocks are a chatzitza - they must be opened for immersion.
Technically, tight braids are a problem for immersion, and they are considered a chatzitza. Different rabbonim, though, do take different positions on the matter. for example, I did a quick online search of the question about immersing with dreadlocks, and out of 4 "ask the rabbi" sites I found, 2 said it is ok to immerse in the mikva with dreadlocks and 2 said it is a problem. All four sites I found were dati leumi websites/organizations/rabbonim.
According to the Mynet report, the mikva lady would not let her immerse, even though the woman told her that he rabbi had told her she could go to the mikva like that. The mikva lady, and another one that was called in to help, responded that their rabbonim do not allow dreadlocks immersion as they consider it a chatzitza.
A member of the mikva department of the religious council of Jerusalem responded that the mikva ladies are not allowed to get involved in such things and are only there to assist women who need assistance or if a woman asks a halachic question - they are not allowed to initiate on their own, and such instructions are repeatedly sent out to the mikva ladies around town.
This does raise the issue, again, of what the purpose of a mikva lady is, and what she is allowed to do. If she sees a clear chatzitza, is she not supposed to tell the woman immersing? Maybe the woman missed something and would want to know.
Personally I would say that a mikva lady seeing a problem should be able to mention something like that, but once the woman says she already checked it with her rabbi, she should be allowed to continue to immerse without interruption.
Normally though, the purpose of the mikva is really just to make sure the womans hair goes completely under the water when immersing, and to let her know upon egress from the water that her immersion was kosher. Beyond that, her involvement should mostly be limited to situations in which the woman immersing asks for help, or if she spots something that clearly might have been missed.
woman turned away from mikva due to dreadlocks
The issue of being machmir at someone else's expense is extremely difficult. What if this woman, or another woman, went home, having been turned away from the mikva, and tells her husband that she immersed, when she really did not? What if she left with a bad taste, and next time she refuses to go? All because the mikva lady wanted to be machmir. Is that chumra really worth it?
Rabbonim go out of their way to make it very easy for women to go to the mikva, allowing things in very lenient ways, out of concern that otherwise some women might just stop going. An example that comes to mind that i recently learned - the Shulchan Aruch says that it is prohibited to heat the mikva.water. Even during the week.
Can you imagine a woman going to a freezing cold mikva? Really they should be. However, the rabbonim have decided to be lenient and allow it - across the board. There is no such a thing as a cold mikva for women. The reason is because if we made women immerse in a cold mikva, many women would just not bother going. They might tell their husbands they went, but in actuality there is a concern that they might not actually immerse. So they are lenient and find a way around the prohibition to make it easy for women to immerse, and to not give them an excuse to not immerse.
Sure there is place to prohibit dreadlocks. But if a woman comes in and says she already consulted with her rabbi who allows it, it is not the place of the mikva lady to be more stringent on her.
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