A mikvah is a ritual bath for specificmitzvot- commandments. Intricate laws and specifications govern its construction. Unlike an ordinary bathtub or swimming pool, a Mikvah must contain a certain quantity of "Mayim Chayim" (living waters) - gathered rainwater. Modern day mikvahs are equipped with filtration and purification systems; they are chlorinated and kept at a comfortably warm temperature.
What is a Mikvah used for?
The mikvah creates a transformation from the every day world to the realm of the holy and spiritual. In the times of the ancient Temple, the High Priest had to immerse in a Mikvah prior to performing sacred services. Mikvah is an integral part of Judiasm, and it is used to immerse new pots, dishes and utensils before use. A man might choose to go to a Mikvah on his wedding day and prior toYom Kippur, but the most important and general use of the Mikvah is by brides and married women.
Women and the Mikvah
For thousands of years, Jewish marriages have been strengthened through the sanctity and holiness inherent inTaharat Mishpahah- the laws of family purity. To keep thesemitzvot, a husband and wife must refrain from intimate contact while the woman is menstruating and for seven days thereafter. At the end of this time, the wife immerses in the mikvah and returns to her husband as his bride.
ThemitzvotofTaharat Mishpahahreveal Judaism's view that the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife is sacred and essential to marital harmony. By observing these laws, a couple can become passionate lovers as well as best friends.
By immersing in the Mikvah, a woman links herself to an ongoing tradition that has spanned generations, to Jewish women around the world and throughout time. As she brings herself in immediate contact with the source of life, purity, and holiness - with G-d who surrounds her and is within her always.
Myths about Mikvah
Myth #1: Immersion in a Mikvah is a humiliating, public procedure.
Reality: Immersion in the Mikvah is an extremely private, discreet event. Mikvah's are designed to ensure absolute privacy.
Myth #2: Judaism views a menstruating woman as "unclean"
Reality: The natural rhythms of a women's body bring her closer to G-d. A women has an ability to create life, and each menstrual period serves to remind her of this wonderful gift. Immersion in the Mikvah gives her a sense of renewal and rebirth, a chance to bring her physical being and spiritual nature together.
Myth #3: The Mikvah is dirty.
Reality: Most modern mikvahs are as beautiful and immaculate as an expensive spa. In fact, preparation for immersion requires a person to be meticulously clean, so Mikvah may be even cleaner than health clubs.