There’s the true story about a Jewish man in the former Soviet Union who completed the arduous task of building a secret Mikvah in the basement of a residence building where he lived. Many years later after he and his family had immigrated to Israel he was asked why he had undertaken all the expense and political danger to build this “illegal” Mikvah. The man simply explained, “Without it, I could not live as a Jew”.
Why is it that the use of the Mikvah is one of the most neglected observances, and even - G-d forgive us - a joke in some circles? Times are a-changing and more and more Jewish men are discovering the spiritual cleansing and purification of the Mikvah in a spa-like environment that is private and clean as well as being darn right luxurious. If there is a joke, it's because many Jewish men still do not know this.
In any new Jewish Community before about 200 years ago, one would think the first thing to be built would be a Synagogue. This is not true, as a Minyon could be conducted in various places before the building of the Shul. The fact is the first community structure built was always the community Mikvah. Over 1,800 years ago on Masada one can find that two Mikvot were built, one was most probably built for men and one for women. Fighting for their very lives, they knew they could not exist as Jews without them.
This brings to light another reason immersions for men in the Mikvah are increasing, it seems to help connect them with being Jewish and our Jewish past. Connections in life are vital. For example, what would be the joy of going to an amusement park by yourself? The joys in life are shared experiences, or connections. I have been told by numerous men that immersing in a Mikvah connects them with thousands of years of Jews, Jewish law and tradition. It is our inheritance, if you will, and that is our shared joy.
Finally, the Mikvah helps men with a change of status, rebirth and self-renewal. This is the reason many Jewish men immerse before Kol Nidre on Yom Kipper. The water is not washing away any filth (a very thorough showering is mandatory before immersion). Rather the Mikvah is changing the individual’s spiritual status from that of “Tomeh” (unclean) to that of “Tahor” (clean) in preparation for the holiest day for Jews.
It’s nice to see more liberally observant Jewish men finding that the Mikvah is not just another of those mysterious off-limits lady thing. Perhaps we are realizing that our Russian brother in the story referenced above espoused a wisdom we are now realizing.
What makes a Mikvah a Mikvah? That is a detailed discussion for another article. However in general, one will notice a 2-3 inch diameter hole just below the water line in the chest high pool. Just opposite this is a covered “Bor” or pit that collects natural rain water from the top of the Mikvah. This natural rain water is mixed with the chlorinated tap water in a prescribed amount to make the Mikvah Kosher.
Men in the Mikvah is open to all Jewish men and takes place at the Charlotte Goldberg Community Mikvah (on the grounds of Park Synagogue Main – 3300 Mayfield Rd) on Sunday September 23 and Monday September 24 by appointment. The objective of Men in the Mikvah is to help prepare Jewish Men for Yom Kippur as a sign of purity, repentance and renewal. It is sponsored by Park Synagogue Men’s Club. For any Jewish men never having had an immersion in a Mikvah, it promises to be a rewarding experience. Please call 216-371-2244 ext 135 for an appointment and further details.
By: Clifford Wolf, Co-Chair of The Charlotte Goldberg Community Mikvah, Cleveland Hts., Ohio
To download an article about the Cleveland mikvah, which may help give your club ideas about incorporating such a program for your club, click here.