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The Holiness Of The Mikvah PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tzvi Fishman   
Friday, 21 September 2012

By the Gaon, Rabbi Aharon Rota

(Excerpted from the article "Taharat HaMikvah" in the book "Taharat HaKodesh")

You should know, my brother, that in addition to the purification that comes from immersing in a mikvah, an exalted matter in itself, when a person immerses with the intent of sanctifying himself, he draws over himself a great holiness. Immersing in a mikvah is also one of the main paths to rectifying blemishes to the soul (nefesh), others being repentance through fasting, self-chastisement, and tears.

Behold, the principle entranceway to holiness is through he purity of the mikvah. It is known that the masters of Kabbalah, like the Baal Shem Tov, made mikvah an integral part of their Divine service. Also note that in order to convert, a non-Jew must immerse in a mikvah. Even though a brit milah be performed on him, if he does not immerse in a mikvah, he is not considered a convert to Israel.

The Baal Shem Tov revealed to his students that it was due to his mikvah immersions that he attained his transcendental levels of holiness.

You should also be aware, my brother, that there is an external and inner process of purification that transpires through immersing. There are myriads of external forces of impurity, called "plagues of the sons of man," and evil spirits that are created through a person's sins, whether it be transgressions in thought, speech, or deed. By far, the main source of these harmful agents of impurity are created through sexual sins, for these are considered his actual children, which he created, and which do not give him rest for a moment, both in his life in this world and in the next. They do not leave him until he has undergone many painful sufferings and scourging fires in the afterlife. And truly, he is fortunate if he is able to shed himself from them all, for their numbers are uncountable.

When a person immerses himself in a purifying mikvah with the intention of atonement from his sins and spiritual cleansing, all of the agents of impurity which surround him are cast away for a period of time. This interval of purity is beneficial indeed for it gives great strength to the soul (nefesh). And even though the forces of impurity return to cleave to him after the influence of the mikvah has worn off, nonetheless, when his intention is to sanctify himself, great numbers are vanquished, and his soul becomes immeasurably strengthened in holiness in the battle against the evil inclination.

There is also an inner purification that occurs during immersion, and this is the main thing. To illustrate, imagine that a person is stricken with a disease over all of his body. Though he cover his body with all kinds of ointments, they will only grant temporary relief. Only when the inner cause of the disease is treated will the outer symptoms cease.

Similarly, to affect inner purity, one must treat the sickness of the soul, which is caused by the evil inclination and its hosts. Every inner aspect of a person's being (nefesh, ruach, neshama) must be purged. This is the reason that we are in this world, and it is the essence of man's labor.

An ancient mikva at Masada
If a man immerses himself in a mikvah with the proper preparation and with the proper holy intentions, then he brings a great cleansing to his inner soul. This transpires because, concurrently, at the time of his immersion, the root of his upper soul is purified in the celestial river of Gan Eden, bringing purity down to the soul in his body. This weakens the power of the evil inclination, and his being is purified through the great holiness drawn down from above to his soul.

This purification is even greater if the water is cold, in that he fulfills the verse, "Cold waters on a weary soul" (Mishle, 25:25). For cold water heals the weak and weary soul from the blows of the evil inclination. For you should know, my brother, that just as it would cause you great anguish to see one man smash another man's skull and cruelly beat him to a merciless pulp with blow after murderous blow, so it is each time a man sins, the evil inclination pounds away at his soul with cruel and devastating blows. If our physical eyes could see this, and if our ears could hear the tortuous screams of the soul, we could not bear it for a moment. This is exactly what happens when a person sins against the Almighty, letting his evil inclination gain control within him and punish him with a plague of murderous blows from his head to his foot.

Thus, when a soul, weakened and weary from sin, enters the cold waters of a mikvah, this brings renewed life and healing from its sicknesses and wounds. And the more he strives to sanctify himself through the immersion by sanctifying his thoughts, he in turn receives greater sanctification from above.

The Baal Shem Tov revealed to his students that it was due to his mikvah immersions that he attained his transcendental levels of holiness. And even though it is also said that he attained his exalted stature due to his fervent praying, both explanations are true, for it is precisely the purification of the mikvah that brought an awesome holiness to his prayers.

Through the power of mikvah, a Tzaddik can bring about salvations, heal the sick, and facilitate women in difficult labors to give birth.  Just as the mikvah can help an individual to sweeten harsh judgments and annul evil decrees adversely affecting his life, immersion in the mikvah can enable the true Tzaddik to sweeten and annul harsh judgments from over the entire Jewish People, so great is the power of mikvah.

Therefore, know, my brother and intimate friend, that when you go to the mikvah, you are on your way to banish the evil aspect of your being and to banish myriads of the countless, impure husks that surround you. Know that you are going to do your share in rectifying the world and in purifying and rectifying your soul. Therefore, my brother, don't betray your soul by allowing vain and foolish thoughts to keep you from going to the mikvah, causing you to forfeit the awesome holiness it brings.

Last Updated ( Friday, 21 September 2012 )
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