Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Mikvah of the Arizal - Rabbi Yitzchak Luria - Mystic: Why I Took This Photo

The picture may look a little dreary for some, but that's only because many are not aware of what they are looking at. I guess that's a little like someone involved in mining who seems to only see dirt - and then all of a sudden realises that while it may look like a lot of dirt - when one looks and searches, one finds gold and diamonds all around one! It's about putting aside the outward appearance and instead, focusing on what the treasure in front of us actually is!

Here I was in the holy city of Safed in Israel. Nobody who values this pool of water can be in Safed and not immerse in it... 

Here lies the Mikvah of the Arizal - Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (1534-1572). This is the very place that he would immerse in to purify his body every day. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria was one of the key rabbis involved in transmitting the authentic teachings of kabbalah to us - until today. His teacher was no less than Elijah the Prophet himself. While there will always be pessimists who consider that ridiculous, a sampling of his work is enough for anyone to realise that it is simply not possible for a person of flesh and blood to express himself in such a way - and in so doing, teach the most hidden secrets of Creation and life, unless of course there was someone from a far superior realm guiding him. Indeed - this was Eliyahu (Elijah) the Prophet! We may as well mention that when it came to teaching the Baal Shem Tov - Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem (1698-1760) - the secrets of Torah, it was Achiya HaShiloni - the teacher of Elijah the Prophet - who taught him! 

In the world of Torah, there is nothing strange about what lies hidden from the human eye. Just because a blind man cannot see, does not mean that physical human beings do not exist. There are certainly others who do see them. For those who purify themselves sufficiently, they too may be privy to the experiences of visions in seeing and learning from the Maggidim - the Angels from on High, from the souls of those who have already left this world, as well as from the great Prophets themselves...

The Mikvah is one the most mysterious of creations that God has blessed us with. Herein lies parts of the mysteries of birth. Just as the baby will find itself immersed in the womb, surrounded by water, so too is the Mikvah a womb for the "bigger" body to immerse itself in - in order to return to that womb, and to start life again, so to speak. Water has always carried with it that description, that property of purity. In fact the body itself is composed of some 73% water! Water is life! When feeling exhausted, it is to water that we will turn to refresh ourselves again! It is the most keen component in a healthy lifestyle. Drink water - and lots of it - every day! 8 glasses? Go for 12 - every single day! Our bodies love water, and it is the most basic of all healthy diets in order to keep the body working at its very very best! Without it, dehydration occurs, loss of energy, and simply an inability to do anything. One cannot survive in this physical for too long without re-hydrating ourselves!

Just as water absorbed into the internal part of the body has the effect of purifying one - so too does water when it is applied to the outside of the body. Yet again, after a hard day of work, after a workout, after just about any physical activity - a well earned shower and bath is taken by us all. The warm (or cool) water refreshes us yet again making us feel ready to start life again, or to just relax, feeling just wonderful!

The most mysterious of water is that that is completely natural - untouched by human hands! This is the water from the clouds - rain! It is God's own direct source of purity which He sends to us regularly - without which we would die! Once that water is handled by man, however, it does indeed lose something of its purity. So the Torah instructs us, that in the making of a system of water that will bring the highest levels of purity to us, we must make a Mikvah!

The Mikvah is a completely natural body of water made according to the strict laws as set down in the Shulchan Aruch - the Jewish work of law par excellence. After preparing a hole in the ground, one waits for the rain to fill it up. It is this water that will bring purity in the spiritual sense of the word - to the person who immerses inside it! Modern Mikvaot do not work in this exact way - but rather, they have a pool specially attached to the natural body of water, with an opening that connects the two. As long as the opening is open, then even the man-made pool connects to the holiness from the original water. If it is closed however, it is simply a man-made pool! That water is cleaned out regularly to keep the Mikvah clean and hygienic. The original rain-water however remains in the hole originally prepared.

Another type of Mikvah is a natural spring. After all, what can be more natural in terms of water than water which flows from a natural spring - with no human intervention at all?! While it is not always easy to get to a natural spring, there are indeed some around, and then there are those who use them! The Mikvah pictured in the image above is indeed from a natural spring. The water has flowed from the snow coming from the mountains - already for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Due to this, the water is absolutely freezing and immersing for even the most minimum of time is an experience one will never forget! Not all Mikvaot are like this however. Modern Mikvaot are warmed up through permissible means. Tradition has it that one who immerses in the Mikvah of the Ari will certainly do Teshuvah (he will repent from all his sins) before he dies - a very meritorious thing to do!

A story is told that when the Arizal died, as is the custom that a Jewish body be immersed in a Mikvah before burial - they took his body for immersion right here... When they placed the body inside, the body began to move on its own, and the Arizal immersed himself, by himself...

The Arizal would immerse in this Mikvah daily - even when he was very sick, suffering from a stomach problem, though his mother had constantly warned him not to immerse due to his bad health. He died at the young age of just 38! This is the very same Mikvah one can immerse in today! Not only the Arizal, but hundreds of thousands of people - some of them the greatest giants of the Torah world in every aspect of Torah - have immersed in that very pool! It is an awesome experience to immerse there - as one contemplates just how many people have stood in that exact spot - the greatest of giants of every generation! It must surely add to the holiness!

It is a Mitzvah for a woman to immerse in a Mikvah once a month i.e. when she has her menstrual cycle. This is the only time she needs to immerse. Men have the custom to immerse in a Mikvah before Rosh HaShanah - the New Year - and the day before Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. Yet others are careful to immerse once a week on the eve of the Sabbath day. Yet others - especially Chassidim and those who immerse themselves for their studies of kabbalah - will immerse themselves every single day, every morning before the morning prayers (Shacharit). 

There are other important times that a man should immerse as well (contact me for more details.)

In summary: The Mikvah is a pool of natural water. The water purifies a person spiritually from any type of spiritual impurity he may have - as he immerses himself, his entire body without any intervening substance whatsoever (including watches, jewlry or even dirty nails etc.) completely naked in one-go into the "womb" of life, emerging completely purified, to begin his service of serving God again, as if he were a new-born baby. When immersing, his body should be relaxed with his fingers opened slightly so that the water will reach every place of the body. His eyes may be closed gently and he should not hold on to anything inside the pool while immersing.

This picture is the Mikvah that was used by the Arizal himself, and it stands out as a reminder of how important it is for a man to immerse regularly. Those who wish to study the secrets of Torah (Kabbalah) should not do so under any circumstances if they do not immerse in a Mikvah regularly (every single day.) The experience is refreshing, rejuvenating, cleansing and purifying. Anyone doing so regularly will begin to feel like there is a whole different way of life, a newness to everything, and a clarity in one's way of thinking (even!)

Immersing in a Mikvah is for me - one of the most important parts of the day. It somehow gives a charged-start to all of my activities!

You can purchase this picture here, print it out and contemplate some of these thoughts whenever you look at it - or meditate on your own thoughts. If you have never been to a Mikvah before, do it today! If you have, but don't do so regularly - make a new start! And if you do go regularly - you are truly blessed!

By purchasing one of my pictures, or booking a time to learn with me online, or making a donation, you are not just taking a part in supporting a Torah scholar, but you are assisting a Jew to be able to live while giving him the opportunity to continue his own learning in Torah. Be a part of it - today!

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