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Mikvah 1: A Meeting With The Mysterious

The water is not just water. The bath is not just a bath. We cannot quite define the mechanics of the Mikvah, or Ritual Bath, other than by its numerous and complicated laws. Husband and wife have separated from any physical intimacy because of menstruation. The Torah uses the strongest language and most serious spiritual consequences when it prohibits relations between a menstruating woman and her husband. A spiritual wall separates the two people, no matter how deep their love for each other. The bricks of the wall dissolve in the Mikvah’s waters. A dip is all she needs, and physical intimacy returns. The water is not simple water and the Ritual Bath is most definitely not a bath. The waters work some kind of spiritual magic and the wife returns completely to her husband. Their connection is restored.


It is Halacha, not science. There are no physical terms to describe the powerful effect of the water. Each time a person steps into a Mikvah she is acknowledging that spiritual realities exist and that Halacha can transform water into purity and a bath into a Mikvah. The Mikvah waters must be fresh water that has never been contained. The water is usually caught in an open hole in a roof and flows straight through the pipes until the main collection of the water. We cannot hold water in our hands. It slides through. We cannot grab water. We can catch some but it slides and drips. The workings of the Mikvah cannot be grasped any more than the water it contains. Each time we step into a Mikvah we are having a very real, tangible meeting with the mysterious. The Mikvah lifts us from our physical limitations and raises us to a spiritual moment. The first step in our ability to access the mysterious powers of the Mikvah is when we stop and remember that this Mitzvah, perhaps more than any other, is a statement of our belief that there are spiritual realities in the world.


We cannot step into the Mikvah and expect that all will change and that we will feel different, or even holier. We rise with the waves of water that are lifted when we dip in them only if we are prepared for this meeting with the mysterious.


The work actually begins before we step into the Ritual Bath. We are instructed to be meticulous in removing any “Chatzizah” or separation. We remove nail polish. We carefully comb our hair. We rinse off creams and ointments. There can be no barriers between the mysterious waters and our body. We actually spend more time preparing for this magical mystery tour than we do actually in its waters. Our dip in the Mikvah’s waters must be whole and complete, just as the physical intimacy that usually follows should be complete connection.

That last part, the wholeness of our intimacy, is perhaps the greatest challenge of the Mikvah laws. Relationships often contain unspoken resentments, anger, questions, doubts and frustrations. Those ingredients obscure the totality of connection in physical intimacy. Each of those emotions can become barriers in the relationship between husband and wife.


We can choose whether the mystery of the Mikvah will be true of our physical relationships as well. The relationship can be completely physical or it can match the magic of the Mikvah. We can choose to believe that there is a spiritual reality to the relationship between husband and wife, one that cannot be contained in words. The connection works in mysterious ways, beyond our comprehension, but only if all barriers are removed. The meeting with the mystery of the Mikvah can prepare us for the mysterious power of love.

There is one “Chatzizah”, or, separation, that cannot be physically removed. We do not squeeze our mouths shut even when we dip under the water. We do not swallow the water, but we do not block it out. We are far more vulnerable when we dip with the risk of the water entering our mouths. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable. We actually make ourselves feel vulnerable by the way we hold our mouths when we dip. The last, and perhaps most formidable barrier is our fear of vulnerability. We limit our connection when our guard is up. The dip in the Mikvah’s waters, the meeting with the mysterious teaches us how to be completely vulnerable. We cannot fully access any mystery when we are in a self-protective mode. The Mikvah challenges us to step into the unknowns of the spiritual world without fear or hesitation. The Mikvah reminds us to shed all barriers to a total connection with our spouse. The Mikvah is not only mysterious, it prepares for all sorts of different meetings with the inexplicable.


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