Halacha » Chafifa – Preparing for Mikvah

Chafifa – Preparing for Mikvah

Before immersion in a mikvah, it is necessary to be completely clean from any barrier that can come between the woman’s skin and the waters of the mikvah. Barriers include any foreign substance, even small amounts, which are on the skin.

How to do Chafifa

  • On the day of mikvah, one should refrain from eating meat or chicken. On Shabbat one may eat meat and chicken. Care should be taken to floss well after eating to remove anything left in the teeth.
  • One should be careful not to do activities that can leave behind residue on the skin which may be difficult to remove later on, such as kneading dough.
  • Remove all jewelry, contact lenses, bandages, and any other similar items.
  • Remove all makeup and nail polish. Special attention should be given to mascara and eyeliner.
  • Cut the nails on both the hands and feet. Although there are some who refrain from cutting the nails of their hands and feet on the same day, in preparation for a mitzvah such as mikvah this is permitted. Clean under any nails that are dirty.
  • One who regularly shaves hair in any area of their body, should do so before mikvah. Sefardic custom is to shave the pubic area, even if the woman usually does not shave there.
  • Brush your teeth, ensuring that there is no food between the teeth. If one usually flosses, they should floss in preparation for mikvah.
  • Take a bath in warm water using soap and shampoo. Soak in the bath for at least ten minutes. Special care should be given to all folds and orifices on the body where dirt may be. These include, but are not limited to ears, nose, underarms, and navel.
  • Remove any scabs that will not bleed. If in doubt if the scab will bleed, leave it on.
  • Shower or rinse thoroughly after the bath. Comb your hair to remove any knots and tangles.
  • Prior to immersion one should use the restroom.

The chafifa process on average takes about forty-five minutes. The chafifa should be done calmly and not rushed. If the preparations were done at home, upon arriving at the mikvah a shower should be taken, and one should comb their hair again.

Immediately prior to immersion, one must look over their body and do a visual inspection to ensure that there are no barriers.

Preferably, chafifa should be started right before sunset, and finish after nightfall, in time for immersion in the mikvah. If one cannot do chafifa at this time, either do chafifa earlier in the day and take a second shower when arriving at the mikvah, or one can do chafifa after nightfall. If the chafifa is done after nightfall, one should ensure that they are not rushed. It is common practice to set a minimum amount of time to do the chafifa, so that the woman does not feel rushed in any way.

There are many scenarios which are more complicated in which items cannot be easily removed. This includes casts, temporary dental work, and stitches. A rabbi should be consulted if such a case arises.

Friday Night Mikvah

If mikvah night falls out on Friday night, the preparations for mikvah should be done by day. Care should be taken to finish preparations with enough time to light candles before sunset. After chafifa one should be extra careful not to touch anything that can dirty her. She should also tie her hair in a way that prevents it from getting knotted or tangled. One may not put on makeup for Shabbat. If one must wear makeup because of an extreme case (for example, your mother-in-law will kill you for ruining the Shabbat Chatan by not wearing makeup), a rabbi should be consulted for possible solutions.

Immediately prior to immersion, one must look over their body and do a visual inspection to ensure that there are no barriers.

If one is going to the mikvah after the Friday night meal, meat and chicken may be eaten. Prior to going to the mikvah one should brush their teeth with a dry toothbrush, and floss if it will not cause bleeding. One may not immerse with food stuck between their teeth.

Motzei Shabbat – Saturday Night Mikvah

If mikvah falls out on Saturday night, one does chafifa on Friday. Chafifa is done as usual, with the exception that one does not need to clean their teeth. Meat and chicken may be eaten on Shabbat. On Saturday night one does an abridged chafifa, which includes a thorough shower using soap and shampoo, combing the hair, and cleaning the teeth. Makeup may be worn on Shabbat, however, care should be taken to ensure all makeup is removed prior to immersion.

Immediately prior to immersion, one must look over their body and do a visual inspection to ensure that there are no barriers.