MIKVEH


Post –by Gautam Shah

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Mikveh (Mikvah, mikve, or mikva) is a Pool or Bath of clear water in which full immersion is required to regain ritual purity, after specific impure incidents. The Mikveh is a Jewish tradition, and several biblical texts spiritually associate it with the natural source of water.

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No specific architectural form is specified or has emerged over the years. However, several conditions based on classical rabbinical literature define the nature of the immersion ritual and its place.

According to these rules, a Mikveh must be connected to naturally occurring water or collection of living water. It requires groundwater wells, springs or rivers. It is believed that living water is able to purify with the flow as opposed to the rainwater which must be stationary in order to purify. A cistern filled by the rain is also permitted to act as a Mikveh’s water supply. Similarly snow, ice and hail are allowed to act as the supply of water to a Mikveh, as long as it melts and flows. Ocean is considered proper for immersion where there is no Mikveh available.

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According to the classical tradition and prescription, a Mikveh must contain enough water to cover the entire body of an average-sized man, which is approximately 40 seah (=interpreted as being 150 gallons). The depth must be such as to enable an average adult to stand upright and have the water reach at least 11 inches above the waist, so that immersion can be performed without much awkward positioning.

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A Mikveh must be connected to a natural spring (surface, depression or sub-soil or underground aquifer, or to a well of naturally occurring water — like rainwater. (The word spring comes from German word ‘springer,’ which means ‘to leap from the ground’)

Ancient Mikvehs dating from 1st C are found throughout Israel as well as in historic settlements of Jewish communities. ‘In the days of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem, the Mikveh was used by all Jews who wanted to enter the precincts of the Sanctuary’. In modern times, Mikvehs can be found in most communities in Orthodox Judaism. Jewish funeral homes have a Mikveh for immersing a body during the purification procedure (Tahara) before burial. Large numbers of stepped-and-plastered mikva’ot have been found in excavations in and around Jerusalem, Most of the installations in Jerusalem were in basements of private dwellings and therefore must have served the specific domestic needs of the city inhabitants.

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A convert to Judaism is required to immerse in a Mikveh as part of his/her conversion. A woman is required to immerse in a Mikveh after her menstrual period or childbirth before she and her husband can resume marital relations. Often newly acquired utensils used in serving and eating food are immersed in Mikveh. Today, Mikveh is ceremonially used by women prior to the marriage.

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