Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam asher
kid-shanu b‘mitzvo-tav v‘tzi-vanu al ha-tevilah.
Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, Who
has sanctified us with the mitzvot and commanded
us concerning immersion.
Ritual baths are part of the Jewish cult. Baths were already discovered during excavations in antiquity. Very old Mikwaot can be seen on Masada and in Korazin in Israel.
A partial warming of the water in a MikvehAccumulation of water
מקוה which for instance is fed by a well by scooping warm water to it is generally possible. In the course of centuries different techniques have been developed. Modern Mikwaot from the middle of the 20th century mostly offer warm water apart from hygienic standards such as tiled basins.
For the ritual purityTahor
טהור of a Jewish community a Mikveh is essential. Thus, in former times, a ritual bath was principally even more important than building a synagogue.
The Mikveh serves to achieve ritual purity by immersing in living waterWell
מַעֲיָן. Alive are groundwater, water of a well, rain water, melt water, water of a river. An immersion basin must cover at least 530 litres.
Before visiting a Mikveh scrupulous body hygiene is essential. The pure water must not be contaminated by anything foreign to the body: not by makeup, jewellery, protheses. Before, during, and after submerging three times prayers are spoken.
Everything that became impure, be it human beings, be it objects,… can become pure again only by submerging… in water.
Maimonides: Hilkhoth miqwa’oth in: Yad ha-chazaqqah
A Mikveh is mainly visited by women. As religious Jews they step into the water before the wedding, on the seventh day after menstruation, or after the birth of a child. Before the beginning of Shabbat immersing often belongs to the preparations for the weekly day of rest.
Someone converting to Jewry completes the conversion by immersing in the Mikveh.
Many men go to the Mikveh exclusively before high religious festivals; ultraorthodox ones often also before Shabbat, and some Chassidim every day.
New crockery and kitchen utensils for orthodox households and kitchens should also be immersed in the Mikveh to be pure.
The Mikveh traditionally a room for married and procreative women causes discussions nowadays. By some the commandments for women are seen as a lack of equality or an affront towards elderly women. Some young Jewish women and feminists develop very personal rituals. In recent decades the Mikveh is seen as a place of female spirituality, too.
A Mikveh is a room where everything is in constant flow.
To my lover
I weave a hymn of love and joy to you
to be one with you is all that I desire,
to be sheltered in the shadow of your hand
to know the hidden mystery of your fire.
So, God, drape me in the fragrant sheets of heaven.
Bind my clothes with cords of satin, soft as a dove.
Braid my hair as you did Eve‘s once in Eden.
And send your angels to guide me safely to my love.
Water is the source of life; everything depends on water. This is why you have to cover yourself with water if you want to make a new beginning like the world was covered with water when G’d created it.
Mendel Schtroks: Mikwe. Grundstein jüdischen Lebens, Köln 2010, S. 19