Mikvah. The Jewish ritual bath.
Two complimentary reasons emerge when contemplating the various times we are instructed to go to Mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath. The Torah prescribes going to the mikvah in order to become ritually pure after a temporary state of ritual impurity, or when a person or object changes status, such as when a non-Jew converts or when a vessel changes ownership from a non-Jew to a Jew. Though not a decree from the Torah, many men go to a mikvah at the end of the week in preparation for Shabbat. or a holiday. A bride immerses before her wedding day as do many grooms. All the above reasons have in common their being times of transition, from one spiritual state to another.
To become pure one immerses totally in the “living waters” of the mikvah, where life “swallows up death,” and thus the transition to a state of purity is completed. In order to fully enact the above-mentioned transitions in status one must also immerse in the living waters of the mikvah, whose experience raises one to new levels of consciousness.
When the letters of the word mikvah (mem, kuf, vav, heh) are rearranged they spell komah, meaning “standing” or “full stature.” Paradoxically, to attain our full spiritual stature and return to our true essential selves, we must strip ourselves of all extraneous physical and spiritual clothing and immerse, naked of ego, in the living waters of the mikvah. This “return to the womb” experience reconnects us to the source of life and its rejuvenating energy. From the primordial state of nothingness is born a rectified ego and the ability to transform our raw potential into actual. In this way the mikvah allegorically mirrors G-d’s creation of the universe “something from nothing.”
When the letters of the name of G-d (aleph, hei and yud, hei,), usually translated as “I will be that I will be” are spelled out fully they equal 151, the numerical equivalent of the word mikvah. This name of G-d in its simple translation represents potential coming into its full expression or stature. The mikvah experience engenders within our very essence the ability to reveal to ourselves and the world our full potential.
The three-letter root of the word mikvah (kuf, vav, heh) means “hope.” In Hebrew, the letter mem preceding a root word indicates “place,” in this case a mikvah can be understood to be the place where hope is actualized. Our ultimate hope and salvation comes from submerging our entire beings in the life force of G-d surrounding and filling us. When we can truly feel this level of the Divine Presence in our lives, then we are full of hope and optimism. The very tangible experience of being submerged in the waters of the mikvah creates the conditions conducive to facilitate such an inner transformation. The mikvah symbolizes death giving way to life, the place where hope is aroused and strengthened, where potential is awakened and able to reach its full stature and where we can rise from level to level in an unending spiritual ascent of the soul.
Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman , a student of world-renowned Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, is the founder and director of Ohr Chadash, a Jewish outreach organization. Rabbi Trugman is the author of three books on Jewish spirituality and lives with his family in Moshav Modiin, Israel.