A bride after her immersion in the mikveh(Varda Polak-Sahm)

According to Jewish law, women are considered impure during their monthly period and are not allowed to have sexual relations or even casually touch their husbands until seven “clean” days have passed and they have immersed in the mikveh, or ritual bath. For Orthodox women, going to the mikveh is a fact of life from the time of their marriage until menopause. But as Varda Polak-Sahm discovered while researching her new book, The House of Secrets: The Hidden World of the Mikveh (translated from the Hebrew by Anne Hartstein Pace), in Israel, many secular women also choose to use the mikveh. Polak-Sahm spoke to Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry from her home in Jerusalem about the power of the mikveh for both the observant and the secular, the women-only rituals that take place within the mikveh’s walls, and her own vastly different immersion experiences before her first and second weddings.