Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Single women and the mikveh

A question on Lookjed, linked to by Sruliblog, contains the following paragraph:
At a gathering about a month ago, Rabbi Hershel Schachter of YU was asked whether single women who have no intention of keeping the severe Biblical transgression of nidah should be encouraged to go to mikveh. He answered that they should be encouraged to surreptitiously go to mikveh, but if the mikveh lady discovers that the girl is single, she should not allow her to be tovelet.
If this is true (can anyone confirm or deny?), no matter whether you agree or disagree with this opinion, I think there's cause to thank R. Schachter for one thing: taking a realistic view of the real issues to do with sex and sexuality facing the increasingly large single Modern Orthodox community. Until now, the only real answer available to singles struggling with issues of Negiah and sex was 'Sorry... We feel your pain, but nothing we can do.' The community has essentially turned a blind eye and, I think, left people feeling rather isolated as they grapple with their options and/or their guilt and/or their loneliness alone.
The paragraph was raised in the context of a question on the difficulties of being Shomer Negiah in today's dating scene. Whoever posted the question (they chose to remain anonymous) concluded by asking:
How concerned, as a community, should we be with the fact that engaged couples are generally not shomeri negiyah? Should the status quo "don't ask don't tell" approach be perpetuated? Will Modern Orthodoxy address sexuality?
I was disappointed to see that the only answer the few respondents could come up with was, 'get married younger and with (even!) shorter engagements.' One person even suggested banning casual dating altogether. Are these things realistic????
I don't know what the answers are, but I do know that this is yet another issue which sooner or later the community will have to talk about more openly and more creatively. It's in the community's own interest to grapple with this, both because it has a duty not to neglect its singles who are in a truly impossible situation, and because facts are being created on the ground which soon will be impossible to reverse.

UPDATE (After reading the first comments): Please note that I am not advocating any particular halachic position on this -- and certainly not advocating premarital sex -- but am merely drawing attention to yet another issue, generated by changing social circumstances, which the community may have been too slow to confront. Even as it is getting harder and harder to get married -- eg. because of ridiculous shidduch q's, pressure to make big weddings, etc. -- the rules of social conduct if you are single are getting stricter and stricter. You can't have both.


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