What is Mikveh?
The word mikveh literally means “collection” and refers to a pool or gathering of water. The concept of using a mikveh for spiritual purposes is mentioned in the Torah “A spring or a cistern where there is a collection of water shall be pure” (Vayikra 11:36). While a river, large lake, or even the ocean would be considered kosher mikvaot, most communities choose to construct a building to house a man made mikveh pool which is constructed according to strict traditional guidelines. Most modern mikveh pools are filled with heated, treated tap water and are connected to smaller pools of collected rainwater which is also filtered and purified.
Immersion in a mikveh facilitates the transition to a new spiritual status and sensitizes our bodies to a higher level of holiness. This is why the mikveh has been used for ritual purification since our earliest history. Cohanim (priests) in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem immersed in a mikveh before Temple rituals. Immersion in a mikveh has always been a requirement for traditional conversion to Judaism. Many men immerse before the Sabbath and High Holy Days. Many married women immerse in a mikveh monthly in harmony with their menstrual cycle and to establish a time of personal and marital renewal. Brides and grooms immerse in a mikveh before their wedding day. Some liberal Jewish communities have also begun to use mikveh immersion to acknowledge other life cycle events such as milestone birthdays, personal loss, or recovery after illness.
Before immersion, one must be scrupulously clean. This is because the mikveh’s waters are for spiritual purification only. The use of water in spiritual purification is explained by profound Jewish philosophers, mystics and Rabbis. Water is the source of all life. G-d created the world from water. All living entities require water for their survival. An embryo develops enclosed in a sac of water. Immersion in a mikveh differs from all other mitzvoth (commandments) in one crucial way. All other mitzvoth involve the usage of just one limb or some other part of the body. By contrast, when immersing in the mikveh’s waters, the entire body must be covered completely. On an emotional level, this submersion, when combined with an appreciation of the holiness of the process, a sensitivity to spirituality, and a feeling of connection with G-d, provides a true personal transformation—a rejuvenation or rebirth and an intimate connection with creation and the Creator.
Connection and Continuity
The maintenance of a mikveh is a communal, not an individual, responsibility. In fact, traditionally, a community was charged to set aside funds to build a mikveh even before building a synagogue or buying a Torah scroll. This is because of its centrality to the continuation and growth of Jewish life. The Beth Tevillah Mikveh Society has undertaken the responsibility to build a modern, beautiful, and accessible mikveh facility for use by the entire Jewish community of Cincinnati. We are supported by many community institutions including the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, The Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Foundation, the Chevra Kadisha Society, and others. We hope you will support our efforts as well.
For more information on mikveh use, classes and other educational opportunities, please contact us.