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What is a Mikvah?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » Intimacy » Marriage | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A. The word "Mikvah" means "pool," as in a collection or gathering together of something to one place. In Judaism, Mikvah refers to a small pool of water, a ritual bath - usually found on the premises of synagogues or in separate facilities nearby - and the spiritual rituals associated with it.

B. Water: can’t live without it... can’t live within it. When you’re underwater, you’re in a state of limbo, a realm of non-reality. Whomever and whatever you are—your importance, your achievements—won’t help you: you can’t breathe down there. You’re gonna drown. You lose your ego. You’re reduced to a puny, helpless human. But come up for air, and you’ve left that realm of non-reality. You’re something again. You’re alive. You’re a new person. Immersion in a Mikvah is all that. Renewal. Rebirth. A return to your inner, pure, innocent self, and a refreshing restoration of your pristine spirituality. That’s the purpose of the Mikvah: restoration of spiritual status. The Mikvah is used by a bride on the eve of her wedding day, by married women once a month, by converts to Judaism, by Chassidic men every morning, and even by pots/pans/dishes/utensils before their new jobs in a Kosher kitchen (which is a spiritual place too, by the way). It is an uplifting and revitalizing experience. Ask anyone who goes.

Mikvah is... Renewal. Rebirth. A return to your inner, pure, innocent self, and a refreshing restoration of your pristine spirituality
C. As a spiritual concept, there are spiritual guidelines that govern the Mikvah experience. For example, not every body of water qualifies as a Mikvah. A Mikvah’s got to contain a minimum of about 100 gallons of natural water—spring water, rainwater, or even fresh melted snow. (This is not the pool in which one would actually immerse, though one technically could. Another pool of regular water that is heated, filtered, and changed regularly is connected to the Mikvah pool by pipes at least two inches in diameter. This effectively turns both bodies of water into one.)1

How do I use a Mikvah?

1. Mikvah usage depends on who’s using it. If, for example, you’re a pot, you only have to be dipped in once. See Which food-utensils must be immersed in the Mikvah?. For women and men, read on.

2. Women’s Mikvah usage goes hand-in-hand with a set of rules called Family Purity. Wouldn’t you like to keep the honeymoon going forever? Wouldn’t you like to keep your attraction for your spouse fresh as new? Family Purity is a great way to keep your marriage sizzling. According to Jewish law, while a woman is menstruating, and for seven days afterward, all forms of intimacy are forbidden. After the week is over, the woman goes to her Mikvah and rekindles the spark of marriage. See our section on Family Purity for a deeper understanding of this subject. If you’re a woman and would like to find the Mikvah nearest you, or for more information, visit Mikvah.org. If you’re a guy, read on.

According to Kabbalah, men should immerse in the Mikvah every morning
3. According to the teachings of Kabbalah, men should immerse in the Mikvah every morning for steady maintenance. If you can’t do that, at least before Shabbat. If you can’t do that, go at least before Yom Kippur, to prepare yourself for the holiest day of the year. Contact your nearest Chabad center. They usually have a Mikvah, or can tell you where to find one if they don’t.

4. Mikvah is rebirth, so, for everyone going to Mikvah, you go in the way you’re born. Boys will be boys, so a men’s Mikvah often resembles a locker room or public bath. Women enjoy a very private procedure, with an individual changing/preparation room and time alone in the actual Mikvah room.

Footnotes

  • 1. Do not try this at home! The technical laws of constructing a kosher Mikvah are very complex and a competent Rabbi (and architect) must be consulted.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Marriage » Family Purity » The Laws

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kosher
Literally means "fit." Commonly used to describe foods which are permitted by Jewish dietary laws, but is also used to describe religious articles (such as a Torah scroll or Sukkah) which meet the requirements of Jewish law.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Kabbalah
Jewish mysticism. The word Kaballah means "reception," for we cannot physically perceive the Divine, we merely study the mystical truths which were transmitted to us by G-d Himself through His righteous servants.
Family Purity
Laws relating to intimacy between husband and wife. The primary point of Family Purity is the woman's purifying immersion in a ritual bath which allows the couple to resume intimate relations after the woman's menstrual period.