Thursday, May 1, 2014

What is a mikveh?

A mikveh (also spelled mikvah) is a Jewish ritual bath. Mikvot are typically used by converts to Judaism, for brides, and for women observing the practice of monthly immersion after menstruation (Niddah). Mikvot have also been used by men before Shabbat or before holidays, and may be used today by anyone commemorating a transition or occasion.  Jewish law also requires that any metal or glass utensils or kitchen vessels made or owned by a non-Jewish person, must be immersed in a mikveh.  This is a form of conversion for the utensils. 

The water source for a mikveh must be a naturally occurring source of water: either underground/spring water, or rainwater, melted snow or ice, which must flow into the bath. A mikveh must be built into the ground or into an integral part of a building -- it cannot be a vessel that could be removed, like a tub or barrel.  The mikveh must be made of earthenware, stone, concrete, cement, asbestos, or plastic -- materials which are not prone to biblical uncleanness. The minimum amount of water is 200 gallons (according to the Torah, at least 40 Sa'ah).

Ida Zeidmann, who lived at Puddle Dock in the early 20th century, was interviewed in 1977 by Mary Pietsch.  Ida spoke about the Jewish community at Puddle Dock. When asked about baths, she answered, "Jewish people have a custom. Before the girls marry, and once a month, they were to go... similar to a Baptismal... They built a little cement insertion, they'd walk down some stairs. It was on Jefferson Street."  Ida must have been talking about the mikveh at 90 Jefferson Street!

Mikveh image by Margarita Korol 

1 comment:

  1. Your Rabbinically approved guide to Mikvah observance Receive email and SMS reminders Ashkenazic, Chabad, and Sephardic Customs