Aish HaTorah's
Tunnel Tour

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Sometimes referred to as a "ritual bath" or "ritualarium", the mikveh has been a cornerstone of Jewish life throughout history, and remains so even today.

A mikveh is a small body of naturally collected water connected to the ground. It may be a natural pool, as in a lake, or specifically constructed, as we find in many communities. The ancient mikvehs found througout Israel perfectly conform to the way they are built today.

Many people are unaware that mikveh was an integral part of daily life for men and women in the time of the Temple. Immersion in a mikveh was part of the preparation necessary before entering the Temple, an area of elevated holiness.

Mikveh was also a requirement for eating from the offerings. In fact, just as today the hands are washed before eating bread, in the times of the Temple the hands would be dipped in the waters of a mikveh before eating from an offering. One can understand why so many mikvehs are found in the excavations around the Temple Mount.

It should be noted that mikveh has nothing to do with physical cleanliness. It is, rather, a vehicle for spiritual elevation.

Every mitzvah (commandment) can be understood on a myriad of levels, and mikveh is no exception. A full discussion of mikveh is beyond the scope of our tour, but we can gain an inkling of its potential by examining the meaning of the number in its measure.

The Oral Tradition tells us that the size of a mikveh is 40 seah of water. (Seah is an ancient unit of volume. 40 seah is approx. 198 gallons or 750 liters.)


40 is a number denoting rebirth - a new beginning.
40 days and nights it rains during the Flood, and the world begins anew.
40 days and nights Moses is on Mount Sinai, and he descends with the Torah - a new way of life brought into the world.
40 years the Jewish People are in the desert and they are "born" as a nation.
40 days after conception, the developing fetus is considered to be formed.
40 weeks is the time of human pregnancy - and a new life comes into the world.
Using the 40 seah of mikveh, a husband and wife begin their marriage anew.

The Baal Shem Tov, the first Chassidic master, explains that a mindset for mikveh is to enter the waters, mentally nullify oneself, and emerge as though reborn - a new beginning as a human being.

Today, mikveh is still an integral part of every Jewish community worldwide.

If you would like to explore mikveh further as to how it can add tremendously to your marriage, contact JME, the Jewish Marriage Education Network.

 

JME NORTH AMERICA
6 Gel Court
Monsey, NY 10952, USA
Tel. 914-426-6678, Fax. 914-426-2268

JME INTERNATIONAL
POB 43206, Jerusalem 91400
ISRAEL
Tel/Fax. 08-974-1030

JME SOUTH AMERICA
Rua Pexioto Gomide 2054/5
Sao Paulo, BRAZIL
01409-002
Tel/Fax. 55-11-3064-4850

JME SOUTH AFRICA
195 Francis Street
Observatory, Johannesburg 2198
Tel/Fax. 27-11-648-5583

JME EUROPE
64 Whitehall Road
Gateshead, NE8 4ET, ENGLAND
Tel. 191-477-0620
Fax. 191-443-1210

Reading to explore mikveh further:

The Waters of Eden
Aryeh Kaplan

The Secret of Jewish Femininity
Tehilla Abramoff

Here is a world-wide Mikveh listing:
www.shemayisrael.co.il/mikvaos

Comments or questions:
rabbi.webmaster@aish.edu