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Kabbalah teaches that immersion in a ritual bath, or mikvah, is vital for spiritual growth.

The Mystical Mikvah

The Mystical Mikvah

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The Mystical Mikvah
Kabbalah teaches that immersion in a ritual bath, or mikvah, is vital for spiritual growth.

For many outside the world of Jewish mystical practices, the idea of immersion in a ritual bath, known as a mikvah, is limited to the Torah laws associated with niddah, requiring a Jewish woman to dip at the right time before engaging in marital relations. What is less known is that for men as well, immersion in the mikvah is a powerful spiritual tool—perhaps one of the most fundamental keys in divine service, according to the Kabbalah. Once an integral part of Jewish society in ancient times, when ritual purity determined many facets of daily life, today many individuals and communities are tapping into the spiritually cleansing effect that the mikvah offers.

Frequent immersion in the mikvah, even daily, is essential for attaining spiritual insights . . .

In some traditional Jewish communities of European descent, it is customary for men to dip in a mikvah before Yom Kippur; in others, before all holidays; in others, particularly chassidic and many Sephardic communities, men immerse themselves every Friday, before Shabbat. Those involved in the study of Jewish mysticism and its practices go to the mikvah even more. In the words of the 19th-century Kabbalist R. Yitzchak Isaac Safrin (the Komarno Rebbe), frequent immersion in the mikvah, even daily, is essential for attaining spiritual insights, granting clarity of thought and sweetening the spiritual forces of judgment. In fact, it is told that the great mystic, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, said of himself that the great mystical achievements that he accomplished were all in the merit of constant immersion in the mikvah. Many tales are told of holy tzaddikim going to great lengths and through many hardships to dunk in such purifying waters. (In fact, the strict Kabbalistic tradition is clear: after marital relations or any seminal emission, prayer, study and meditation should not be attempted until after immersion.)

In order to access the spiritually cleansing power of the mikvah, a few requirements are necessary. While here is not the place for a comprehensive discussion of this extensive topic, some fundamentals are important to understand. One is that the body of water must contain enough water, specifically 40 se’ah, or somewhat less than 1000 liters according to modern measurements. In addition, the water must be from, or connected to (without intermediate filters, valves, etc.), a direct source, such as collected snow or rainwater; with this in mind, a lake or the ocean is acceptable (and even preferable). Also, the person immersing should be free of all jewelry, dirt and bandages (and clothes!).

There should be at least a moment when the person is completely surrounded by water on all sides, suspended. Some dunk a specific number of times; there are a number of traditions, but a person is free to do as many immersions as they wish. For example: one dunk for purity from impure sexual thoughts, one for clarity in Torah study, one to merit meeting one’s soulmate, etc. Many people remain under the water for a while, engaged in specific meditations. (Specific meditations for the mikvah will be discussed in a future article, “Meditations for the Mikvah.”


Copyright 2003 by KabbalaOnline.org. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbalah Online.

Baruch Emanuel Erdstein was an associate editor of KabbalaOnline.org for five of the ten years he resided in the Old City of Safed, intensely studying Kabbalah He currently resides in Emmanuel, Israel. Originally from Detroit, he has an honors degree in anthropology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and has worked in cross-cultural and Jewish education for over a decade.
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Discussion (3)
February 22, 2012
The Mystical Mikvah

Thank you for this teaching. The other day I listened to a video about the three requirements to convert to Judaism. My ancestors were Sephardic Jews, massacred during the times of the inquisition from Spain, France, Greece, and Austria. I know this by my family history that I have been able to recollect. But have no proof of it. But if it by G-d's grace, and mercy, someday I will be able to convert, Which to me, in my spirit and soul, is not a conversion but a return to my roots which is the way I feel at present. Your article makes me dream of a day to come, when G-d will make this dream come through since He was the One to bring me to this revelation.
Anonymous
Mesa, Arizona, USA
February 20, 2012
mikvah
so what are the rules when one has on open wound? and what are the rules if the open wound is forever? if their is an answer please forward the source as well ...as far as i can tell open wounds were not in the talmud.
derek
kihei, hi
February 20, 2012
single women
why can't single women go to the mikvah? although I know the official answer, I am not so happy about it. We are taken away this incredible experience and for us it is reduced just to Nidda, even though, as the article states, it is more than that? couldn't there be other ways to "prevent" pre marital sex than forbidding access to something so special and powerful?
Anonymous
Berlin
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