I wish I'd known about Mikveh when...

Leviticus 15:

Vs. 1-15 Zav End of illness + 7 days Unclean until eve if you touch him, bathe to be cleansed Wash clothes and body sin offering
Vs. 16-18 Semen Unclean until evening Woman who as sex with him unclean until evening Wash body
Vs. 19-24 Niddah 7 days Unclean until eve if you touch her. Man who has sex with her is unclean 7 days
Vs. 25-33 Zav'ah End of illness + 7 days Unclean until eve if you touch her, bathe to be cleansed sin offering

“Tumah is the result of our confrontation with the fact of our own mortality. It is the going down into darkness. Taharah is the result of our reaffirmation of our own immortality. It is the re-entry into light. Tumah is evil or frightening only when there is no further life. Otherwise, tumah is simply part of the human cycle. To be tameh is not wrong or bad. Often it is necessary and sometimes it is mandatory”. (Adler, Rachel 1976 “Tumah and Taharah: Ends and Beginnings”pp.63-71 in Elizabeth Koltun (ed) The Jewish Woman, New Perspectives Schocken Books, New York; p. 64)

“Twenty years later, as a feminist Reform theologian I continue to be faced with an essay I wrote, an essay that continues to be quoted, cited, and reproduced, promulgating opinions and prescribing actions that I now cannot in good conscience endorse. […]

The only rationale the sources did not offer was the rationale that motivates all sincere piety, the one held out to men: that observing the commandments would make one holier and bring one closer to God. [...]

When Jewish women who were not Orthodox appropriated my reframing of immersion in the mikveh to mark occurrences for which no ritual expression had existed, they taught me an important lesson about the possibility of salvage. They began using the mikveh to purify themselves of events that had threatened their lives or left them feeling wounded or bereft or sullied as sexual beings: ovarian tumors, hysterectomies, mastectomies, miscarriages, incest, rape. In waters whose meaning they had transformed and made their own, they blessed God for renewed life. The makers have imbued these rituals with a different understanding of what purity means”. (Adler, Rachel 1976 “Tumah and Taharah: Ends and Beginnings”)

(Adler, Rachel 1993 “In Your Blood, Live: Revisions of a Theology of Purity “ pp.38-41 in Tikkun Vol. 8, no.1; pp. 38-9)

(יב) דָּבָר בָּרוּר וְגָלוּי שֶׁהַטֻּמְאוֹת וְהַטָּהֳרוֹת גְּזֵרוֹת הַכָּתוּב הֵן. וְאֵינָן מִדְּבָרִים שֶׁדַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם מַכְרָעָתוֹ. וַהֲרֵי הֵן מִכְּלַל הַחֻקִּים. וְכֵן הַטְּבִילָה מִן הַטֻּמְאוֹת מִכְּלַל הַחֻקִּים הוּא שֶׁאֵין הַטֻּמְאָה טִיט אוֹ צוֹאָה שֶׁתַּעֲבֹר בְּמַיִם אֶלָּא גְּזֵרַת הַכָּתוּב הִיא וְהַדָּבָר תָּלוּי בְּכַוָּנַת הַלֵּב. וּלְפִיכָךְ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים טָבַל וְלֹא הֻחְזַק כְּאִלּוּ לֹא טָבַל. וְאַף עַל פִּי כֵן רֶמֶז יֵשׁ בַּדָּבָר כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַמְכַוֵּן לִבּוֹ לְטַהֵר כֵּיוָן שֶׁטָּבַל טָהוֹר וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נִתְחַדֵּשׁ בְּגוּפוֹ דָּבָר כָּךְ הַמְכַוֵּן לִבּוֹ לְטַהֵר נַפְשׁוֹ מִטֻּמְאוֹת הַנְּפָשׁוֹת שֶׁהֵן מַחְשְׁבוֹת הָאָוֶן וְדֵעוֹת הָרָעוֹת. כֵּיוָן שֶׁהִסְכִּים בְּלִבּוֹ לִפְרשׁ מֵאוֹתָן הָעֵצוֹת וְהֵבִיא נַפְשׁוֹ בְּמֵי הַדַּעַת טָהוֹר. הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (יחזקאל לו כה) "וְזָרַקְתִּי עֲלֵיכֶם מַיִם טְהוֹרִים וּטְהַרְתֶּם מִכּל טֻמְאוֹתֵיכֶם וּמִכָּל גִּלּוּלֵיכֶם אֲטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם". הַשֵּׁם בְּרַחֲמָיו הָרַבִּים מִכָּל חֵטְא עָוֹן וְאַשְׁמָה יְטַהֲרֵנוּ אָמֵן:

(12) It is obviously clear that the laws concerning defilements and purities are biblical decrees, and not things which the human mind can determine; they are classified as divine statutes. So too, immersion as a means of ridding oneself from defilement is included among the divine statutes. Defilement is not mud or filth to be removed with water, but is a matter of biblical decree; it depends on the heart's intent. Accordingly, the sages have declared: If a man immersed himself, but without a definite purpose in view, it is as though he had not immersed himself at all. Nevertheless, there is some ethical allusion to this: just as one who sets his mind on becoming clean becomes clean as soon as he has immersed himself, even though nothing new is produced in his physical being, so one who sets his mind on purifying himself from all the spiritual defilements, namely wrongful thoughts and evil traits, becomes clean as soon as he made up his mind to abstain from those notions, and brought his soul into the waters of reason. Indeed, Scripture declares: "I will pour clean water over you, and you shall be clean; from all your impurities and idolatries I will cleanse you" (Ezekiel 36:25).

Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center Ritual Creation Worksheet

Name of Ceremony:

Orienting Questions

Who would participate? Where could this ritual happen? Who is ‘in the room’?

If this is a handwashing ritual, is the participant washing their own hands, or will the volunteer help them? Consider spelling out ‘who does what’ for all of the readings and actions below.

Example of Instruction…

For the Volunteer: Fill the handwashing cup with water.

Guest: Prepare your hands as you would for immersing in the mikveh; remove rings, bracelets and nail polish and wash hands with soap and water. Remove lipstick.

Begin Here with a Kavanah (intention) and Words of Introduction: Set the tone for what is about to happen. Consider adding a text, from a poem you love, or words you come up with. You can also borrow language from immersion ceremonies.

1st Action: This could be the first immersion or first handwashing.

Possible reading after first action:

2nd Action:

Possible reading after first action:

3rd Action:

Possible reading after first action:

Closing kavanah (intention) at the end of the ritual: Focus on adding words that add a sense of completion to the experience.

Here are some prompts if you feel stuck…

Think about a three-fold perspective – past, present, future

Or, try filling in these sentences:

· I hope… I feel… I wish you… My blessing for you…