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Tzava'at Harivash 15

Tzava'at Harivash 15


First and foremost be careful that every motion in the Divine service be without ulterior motives, Heaven forbid. 1 This requires profound wisdom “exceedingly deep, who can find it out?” (Ecclesiastes 7:24) There is then no alternative but to retain constant awareness of this principle. Do not divert your mind from it, even for a moment, for it is a matter that is flawed by distraction.

Secondly, you must also be scrupulous with [ritual] immersion, and to concentrate in the mikveh on the appropriate kavanot (devotions) for mikveh. 2

For the “three-fold cord that is not broken quickly” (Ecclesiastes 4:12): remove yourself from depression and let your heart rejoice in God. 3

See above, sect. 11, especially note 2. Ulterior motives may be the first step of spiritual decline.
Immersion in a mikveh (ritual pool or equivalent) is mandated by the Torah for removal of impurity. It serves also for those who are pure to attain higher levels of spiritual purity required by Torah-law. Mystics, therefore, encourage emphatically frequent immersions in context of the Divine service. It is common practice among Chassidim to immerse daily (except when precluded to do so by law, as on Yom Kippur) before the morning-prayers, aside of the additional immersions before the onset of every Shabbat or festival. They did and do so even in the most difficult conditions, such as in rivers or lakes in the winter. Kabbalistic and Chassidic texts offer a number of special kavanot for the immersions.
The Baal Shem Tov said (Keter Shem Tov, Addenda, sect. 164) that proper immersion is effective even without any kavanah (cf. Chulin 31a, and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 198:48 and 201:5). In Halachah, however, this applies only to the basic purification for chulin (ordinary, unconsecrated matters), but not for something that is consecrated. Immersion for greater purification for matters of Torah, prayer and sacred matters, therefore, ought to have at least the proper intent towards that end (e.g., for the sake of purity or teshuvah). See at length Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Yitro, note 19.
A statement nearly identical to the present one appears as a sequel in the parallel-version of sect. 1 above (and sect. 17-19 below) in Likkutim Yekarim, sect. 198: “One is to immerse as much as possible, especially when required to do so, and to meditate in the mikveh on the appropriate meditations.” Note there also, sect. 178 (which appears also in the Maggid’s Or Torah, sect. 205-d), that the Baal Shem Tov “merited all his illumination and levels by virtue of his frequent immersions. Continuous use of the mikveh is much better than fasting…”
This is another fundamental principle of Chassidism, often repeated at length in this text (see below, sect. 44-46, 56, 107, 110 and end of 137).
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