It is G-d, not the water that purifies – Rachel Kochva
These words were delivered at the consecration of the refurbished mikveh in Migdal Oz on 4.4.17, with gratitude to all those who helped and worked tirelessly to improve the mikveh experience for the women of the kibbutz.
“ R. Akiva says: Fortunate are you O Israel! Before whom do you purify yourselves? [And] who purifies you? Your Father in Heaven! As it is said: ”I will sprinkle upon you pure water and you shall become purified” (Ezekiel 36:25), and it is further said: “The hope [[מקוה of Israel is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:13), just as a mikvah purifies the defiled so too, does the Holy One Blessed is He, purify Israel.” (Yoma 8:9)
Immersing in the mikveh is a special and often complex and changing experience.
The immersion of a bride before her wedding is different than that of a woman married for many years. Immersing on a weekday is different than immersing on Shabbat or a holiday. And immersing after a miscarriage is different than immersing after a birth. Sometime the immersion is easy, pleasant and sometimes it is difficult, sad or without meaning.
Immersion is the end of a long waiting period, of preparation, of details. It is the end of a period of cleansing of your body and soul, the removal of barriers, and of reflection and observation: of myself, of my relationship with my spouse and on the relationship between myself and G-d.
Immersion is also the beginning of a process. A process that brings us closer once again, the meeting of two bodies and of body and spirit. Of exaltation and purity and even holiness.
Immersing in the mikveh has a special power. It turns the impure into pure and the forbidden into permitted. We are so used to the permitted become forbidden and how different is this experience of immersing in water as forbidden and emerging as permitted.
- Akiva showed us that it isn’t the water itself that that purifies us but rather it is G-d who does. We purify before Him and He Himself purifies us. It is as if G-d himself is the mikveh and man immerses himself (herself) in Him without anything standing between G-d/the water and man. The immersion can be a meeting place with G-d, sometimes as a prayer and sometimes in joy and gratitude.
Going to the mikveh is done with the understanding that this is a complex and often not pleasant or easy mitzvah, and once we understand that, we must try to make immersion easier on ourselves and try and make it a more pleasant experience.
I would like to end with two invitations,
The first is to invite women who are no longer obligated to immerse to come back to the mikveh and immerse out of choice, in a pleasant and new place. It will be an uplifting and different experience.
The second is to our spouses. Immersion night is a chance to listen to your wife, what her experience is like in the mikveh, what makes it difficult, what makes it pleasant, what does she think about or pray for as she immerses, how would she like to see her immersion, in short- it is a night to listen and be there for her.
May we all be fortunate to be purified and sanctified and to renew and strengthen our connection to G-d.