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AFAIK it is common practice for Jewish men to go to the mikvah erev rosh hashanna and erev yom kippur, but not for women to do the same. Why don't women also go? I'm asking about both married and unmarried women.

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{First: According to Nishmat's Yoatzot website, there are different customs, and one should follow her own tradition in this regard, but immersion does not remove Niddah status if she has had her period.}

This is from, and more information is available, here:

S'dei Chemed, Ma'arechet Yom HaKippurim 1:6, rules that single women should not immerse prior to Rosh HaShanah or Yom Kippur. R. Moshe Meth (c.1551-1606), Mateh Moshe no. 841, rules that in general, immerse prior to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is not applicable to women.

However (ibid.):

Maharil notes a number of practical differences between his approach and the approach that immersion is to remove tumat keri. First, if the immersion is to remove tumat keri, one can immerse whenever one pleases. However, if it is for the purpose of repentance, one should immerse as close to Yom Kippur as possible. [Maharil only discusses immersion prior to Yom Kippur. Perhaps he does not require immersion prior to Rosh HaShanah because repentance is not a main theme of Rosh HaShanah.] Second, Maharil notes that if the purpose of the immersion is to merely remove tumat keri, it would only apply to those who are actually impure. Those who are not impure would not require immersion. However, if the purpose is for repentance, everyone, including women and young children, should immerse. [See Sha'agat Aryeh no. 66, regarding a woman's obligation to purify herself prior to a festival.]

I guess the answer to your question is that they are following either the S'dei Chemed or Mateh Moshe.

  • Worth noting that women can have tumat keri, and men can have tumat niddah. – Double AA Sep 15 '13 at 4:54
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The Ben Ish Chai (Parshat Nitzavim 3, Parshat Vayelech 8) says they should.

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As pointed out, the general policy is that unmarried women not go to mikvah because that could cause them to do things they shouldn't.

There are different practices with regards to immersion pre high holidays; as Chanoch said, the Ben Ish Chai (a Baghdad rabbi about 200 years ago) said they should. If I recall correctly, there are different customs within Chabad-Lubavitch about this.

Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin discusses it, and there are questions and answers about it on yoatzot.org, for which he is the halachic authority. If I recall correctly there was a single woman who thought that mikvah immersion would do whatever fantastic spiritual things for her. She was advised to focus her energies on helping other people, and then maybe going to the mikvah before high holidays if she was in a community in which that was acceptable.

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