10 May 2010
Purify me with... mikva water?
My friend, Rick Lobs, uploaded this blog on his page:
And I loved it, so thought I would appropriate it. (In DC I learned that language. Before that it was "I would steal it.")
Jerusalem's mikva'ot, Jewish ritual baths, will soon see the installation of a novel program that will allow the recycling of used mikveh water, which will ultimately save the city hundreds of thousands of shekels every year.
Where else but Jerusalem is it possible to become ritually pure while supporting water recycling at the same time? If a pilot project to recycle gray water used in mikva'ot (ritual baths) succeeds, holy-minded Jerusalemites will soon be able to simultaneously dunk, conserve on natural resources and save money, across the city.
Traditional Jewish communal life revolves around the mikveh, a deep ritual bath fed at least partly by naturally flowing water, utilized at various times by adult community members. Jews establishing a new community are required by Jewish law to build a mikveh even before a synagogue, and Jewish archaeological sites worldwide are often identified as such by the presence of mikva'ot.
The mikveh is not used for purposes of hygiene, but rather to remove tumah, a state of ritual impurity acquired through the expulsion of certain bodily fluids, contact with the dead or other, more esoteric ways. In practice, this applies chiefly to married women, who are required to immerse themselves in a mikveh monthly to remove the tumah associated with their menstrual period, and additionally before weddings and after childbirth. Men also immerse themselves in the mikveh before marriage, before Yom Kippur in many communities, and in certain stricter, or more purity-minded Orthodox sects, before every Shabbat or even every day. Immersion in a mikveh also serves as the culmination of the process of conversion to Judaism. Recent years have even seen some Jewish feminist thinkers embrace the mikveh as a unique symbol of Jewish womanhood, leading non-Orthodox Jewish women to immerse in the mikveh as an expression of identity and spirituality.