What is a Mikveh?

Mikveh is a Hebrew word meaning “collection”, referring to a collection of water and is a bath used for ritual immersions in the Jewish religion. In the Bible, there are several instances when it is explained how full immersion in natural water is required in order to re-acquire spiritual purity after ritually impure occurrences have taken place.

Is Mikveh an important Jewish observance?

Suffice to say that Rabbis commanded that a new community should build a Mikveh before building a Synagogue or acquiring a Torah scroll. One may even sell a Torah scroll in order to build a Mikveh.

What is the Mikveh used for nowadays?

The Mikveh is used by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation and childbirth, by Jewish men to achieve ritual purity, as part of the conversion process to Judaism and to purify food utensils.

What are the requirements of a Mikveh?

The requirements of a Mikveh are based on Rabbinical teachings. The Rabbis taught that a Mikveh must be connected to a natural source of water. Furthermore, it must contain enough water to cover an average-sized body- the bottom line is that is must contain approximately 575 liters according to Orthodox Jews. The water must also flow in a natural manner from the source to the Mikveh- it may not be pumped or carried into the Mikveh. The water also may not pass through any kind of vessel such as a tap.

How is the requirement of Mikveh immersion related to Creation?

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan in his book, Waters of Life speaks of how Adam and Eve brought death into the world through their eating from the forbidden fruit and most of the laws of impurity relate to some form of death (in the case of menstruating women, loss of potential life). Therefore, one who comes into contact with some kind of form of death must immerse in water and water flowing from the Garden of Eden in the book of Genesis is referred to as the source of life. This contact with the source of life then cleanses one from death, the extension of the very first sin.

What does immersion in the Mikveh involve?

The ritual is extremely simple. The person enters the water, ducks underneath the water, making sure to completely submerge for a couple of moments then recites a short blessing. After this, one submerges again one or two more times, according to their custom, recites another blessing and leaves the water.