Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Mikvah - Purifying Waters of Life


Imagine the world before creation… the Spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the waters. A topsy turvy world flooded with water, the source of life. G-d brings light into the world… and darkness. He separates the waters and the dry land is seen. It is here where creation takes place. Life comes into the world. Even the dry earth is filled with a sense of life – or else it would be non-existent. The plants grow, the animals move, and man speaks.

None will survive without the waters, the very essence of all creation. Inside those waters rest a stillness, a purity of G-dliness. Without these waters, life ends. But the waters have been separated, and it seems we mostly associate them with the fluid that enters our body – that it is only here where life exists. Yet, in truth, we look upon that same fluid as the very element to bring comfort to ourselves, whether it be through taking a bath, a shower, a swim in the pool or in the sea itself.

Not for nothing do these waters bring life to the soul inside the body – and to the body itself as it becomes refreshed and rejuvenated through being in contact with them. It is from them that all life began. 

And G-d separated these waters into four main channels – and a river flowed out from Eden. That place of absolute purity, of absolute goodness and kindness, that place of heaven on earth. And through these waters, the rest of the world has some contact with the original waters originating in Eden itself.

When those waters gather of their own accord without any human intervention, into a specific sized vessel inside the ground itself, they become known as a Mikvah – a place used for the “purification” of every married Jewish woman once a month. She enters these waters after experiencing a “loss” of life some 12 days before. It is by no means a physical purity which she seeks, nor did she do anything consciously wrong to need these holy waters. Through the mystical process related directly to the concept of conception, and having lost the opportunity (often by no choice of her own) of conceiving a child, a spiritual “impurity” rests upon her. She must remove this through re-entering the womb of life itself. She enters the waters in the ground, covering her naked body completely – not even one hair of her head remains above the water, and then renews herself (through the mystical process of the Mikvah) as a baby leaving the womb filled with water around it. But more, she unites with the original water that lies in the Garden of Eden itself.

It is not something to be taken lightly, for every Jewish woman must spend much time and money in being able to fulfil this Mitzvah – this commandment. It is a most precious one, that ultimately brings into the world holy Jewish souls. Souls that will enter bodies – to bring goodness and kindness to this world.


One of our projects that we work on is all about helping women (who are struggling financially) to immerse in a Mikvah at no cost to themselves. (See for more information.)

I have received a variety of emails from people expressing their disgust at this project as well as our others. I have been told that there is no such a need - and that in fact the administators of Mikvahs should pay for everything on their own. It is their Mitzvah and they should do it for nothing. The following email was recently received, and I felt it important to quote in order to highlight just what people really think, and the urgency for our project to become well known - and for others to know how much assistance we truly need:

"I am fairly new to Israel - as an unmarried woman, I do not go to the mikvah.
I am shocked to hear that women have to pay to go do a mitzvah. How this this [sic] be allowed to happen?
I understand that mikavot need to be maintained - surely this could be derived from charging fees for men who have no obligation to do this but do it out of their own free will.
It is absolutely horrendous that a person is prevented from doing a galactic directive because of finances. And this in Israel!!"

Sadly, I was unable to convince the above person of the importance of this Mitzvah and the real need that we have in helping women and the Mikvaot pay for the huge fees they must pay. If that wasn't good enough, there was no way I would succeed in convincing this person that Mitzvah or not - the Mikvah administration must pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own upkeep - and if nobody would pay to use the Mikvah - there simply wouldn't be a Mikvah.

After being in touch with an administrator for a particular Mikvah to enquire about the real costs, I received the following reply:

"You asked about the costs per person using the Mikva.   We have not done an accurate assessment of this.   We only know that we have a shortfall!   Whenever there are repairs or exceptional costs, there needs to be a fund raising activity.   The fee charged per visit is nominal and certainly does not cover the total costs.   It would be an interesting exercise to do but as of now, any estimate would simply be a rough one.   I know you wrote, that your donation is for the purposes of helping women immersing and not for repairs and maintenance.   We will honour your request however, I am sure you would appreciate the immaculate condition in which the Mikva is maintained and most importantly, how much this is appreciated by the ladies.   International guests have remarked how well kept this facility is, with all the personal requirements a lady needs being available and included in the fee charged."

Based on these two points - and the holiness of the Mikvah - we appeal to everyone who can, to make a donation to help us. Since receiving this last reply, we have expanded our project to include helping the Mikvah administration as well, although all monies brought in, will go first to the women to help them. Once these amounts have been covered, the surplus will be given to help for the upkeep and building of the Mikvah.

Our project is now running successfuly in both Israel and South Africa.

As an overview - there are indeed real costs that are involved in the building of a kosher Mikvah. Most people never see them. But they are there. They include:

1. The costs involved in hiring a competent Halachic Rabbinical authority to oversee the project from beginning to end - and to watch over constantly to see that the Mikvah is kosher at all times. Did you know that the laws for a Mikvah are some of the most comprehensive laws of the Torah?! In order to be competent in these laws, it is not sufficient just to read through them quickly and know what to do, rather one must go through the process of "shimush" - serving another competent rabbi in order to learn just what is involved. There is no way possible to learn about building a kosher Mikvah without doing this. This can take *years* of learning. Most people never think about paying the rabbi for his efforts. It is something - they feel - that should be done as a Mitzvah!

2. The costs of the water: While it is true that rain water is what makes the Mikvah kosher, there is much more to the water issue, including bringing in water through other (halchically acceptable) means. In addition, women who prepare themselves at the Mikvah will run at least one full bath of water every time they go. There is a real cost to this - although many think that water is free!

3. The cost of the Balanit - the "Mikvah-lady". Once again, many women (and men) feel that this is a job that should be done as Mitzvah - for free. The fact that the Balanit has to put in tremendous effort to carryout various checks during the evening and spend a late night involved in strenuous work does not seem to feature into the equation of compensating another for their work.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Microsoft would give us software for free too, even though they may put in effort in developing a program to run on a computer?! Attending to the purity of a Jewish woman far superceedes the cost of a window on one's computer. For that matter, perhaps doctors and lawyers should also grant their services at no charge, since they do the favour of helping those in need, whether it's medical or legal and *that* is also a Mitzvah!

4. The cost of the actual building: Did you know this can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars just to set up the Mikvah? The Mikvah requires premises to be located on (property!) It also needs to be prepared halachically and beautifully. What an embarrasment it would be for a woman to immerse in a filthy Mikvah - inside a building filled with mold and creatures crawling around it. It costs much money just to prepare the basic design of the Mikvah.

5. The upkeep costs: Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be continually invested into the Mikvah in order to keep it running correctly. Pipes may break, walls may crack, heating elements stop working etc. Anyone who has recently called a plumber to fix their tap (let alone their million dollar Mikvah) will know just how expensive it can be just for a tap. Imagine the repulsion we would have, to walk into a bathroom to find a non-woking toilet?! A non-working Mikvah has the same effect upon the soul.

6. Banking fees: Today, adding money to one's bank account can cost one - as can withdrawing the amount. Let alone the real cost of interest. Because many Mikvaot do not have ready funds available - they must borrow from banks, being forced to pay back thousands of dollars - just on interest. This is done at the expense of the administrators of the Mikvah. Don't they deserve the right to run their "pool of purity" as much as any working person deserves to be paid honestly for ther job?!

These are just a few of the basic costs involved.

Our project is aimed at helping women who cannot afford the monthly cost. It is also now growing in order to help the Mikvaot who are struggling financially.

We need your help. While we thank you for all your support, your true thanks comes and will come from G-d Almighty Himself. For by joining us in this project, we all work together in fulfilling G-d's will, and ultimately bringing in beautiful Jewish souls into this world. Souls who contribute to the world with acts of goodness and kindness.

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