Immersing Friday Afternoon Before Sunset

The longstanding policy of the Magen David Mikveh on 67th Street which served our community for decades under the stewardship of Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin a"h with the cooperation of other community rabbis, was that women - on their 7th clean day - were permitted to immerse Friday afternoon during the hour before sunset. It was understood that upon her arrival home her husband was to be out of the house or promptly leave and that they were not to be in privacy until night. When our community moved to Ocean Parkway, Rabbi Kassin arranged for Mikveh Taharat Israel in the Ave. J area to allow our community women to immerse Friday before sunset. In recent years, the Ave. S Sephardic Mikveh allowed immersing Friday before sunset in certain circumstances.

 The reasoning of Rabbi Kassin and the other rabbis undoubtedly included the considerations that:

 1. Immersion on the 7th clean day before sunset is valid (bedi`abad), the problem being rabbinical and focused on the fear of husband and wife having marital relations before night which in rare circumstances - when a woman had been a zabah - may possibly lead to a Torah violation.

 2. A woman being in a pure state for Shabbat adds to Kabod Shabbat, Oneg Shabbat, Shalom Bayit, often prevents major transgressions and generally contributes to a healthier family environment. It is a sorekh misva gedola' to accommodate women who might not be able to go Friday night.

 3. On Friday afternoon, it is a man's routine to be in synagogue before candle-lighting time. If not out of the home by the time his wife returns he normally will be prepared to leave, the proper procedure in such cases. (If he did not yet leave by the time she returned, a shomer is required or she should delay entering until he leaves. It appears Rabbi Kassin did not make a major issue of this point for all, as a wife's routine is to be busy with last minute preparations and candle-lighting and there often are children or guests around which render marital relations at that time improbable.)

 4. There are some not-fully-observant women who, if they cannot return home before Shabbat, will nonetheless go to the mikveh and drive home after Shabbat begins.

 The literature indicates that many great communities allowed women to immerse on Friday before sunset with appropriate conditions. Rabbi Yishaq Abadi (a distinguished poseq and head of a bet midrash l'dayanim in Jerusalem, with many disciples in our community) permits immersing Friday before sunset lekhatehila when the husband will be out of the house - until after seit hakokhavim - upon his wife's return or when there is proper shemira'. This was the p'saq of Rabbi Aharon Kotler a"h of Lakewood, who said only bene yeshivot should mahmir (related by Rabbi Abadi.) It should be noted that Hakham Obadiah Yosef generally permits immersing on the 7th clean day shortly before sunset in sha`at hadehaq cases when there is no yihud before night (but not in cases of mere o'nes, when she would be required to go the following night - Taharat Habayit v. 2, 14:5 and notes, also see 14:4 in notes; Taharat Habayit Haqaser 14:11.) As missing Friday night is often a very major matter many rabbis consider it sha`at hadehaq. &n

Mikveh Siporah's policy is to teach that on Friday it is preferable to immerse after sunset, lekhatehila before seit (not to immerse the whole body in hot water on vaday Shabbat.) It will suggest to a woman who complains of significant hardship to ask her rabbi if in her circumstances she may immerse before sunset with the understanding that when she returns home her husband will be out of the house or immediately leave not to return until after seit or there will be proper shemira. Proper shemira means someone present knows husband and wife are not to be in private before seit.

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