Monday, May 26, 2008

The Waters of the Mikveh

The Gemara teaches that the equivalent of the sacrifices today is prayer and study of the laws of korabanos, and Rav Shlomo Friedman zt”l explains that this concept also applies to the mikveh. One who immerses with pure intentions can also become truly purified even in this day and age. The Arizal taught that this purity is essential for attaining holiness, and if we long to feel the added sanctity of Shabbos, the Zohar Hakadosh tells us to immerse. As the Chayei Adam writes, going to the mikveh will allow us to experience the neshamah yeseirah, the “extra” soul of Shabbos, which is manifest in an outpouring of love and fear of Hashem.

For a person who sincerely wants to grow and come closer to Hashem, the mikveh is clearly crucial. The Tikunei Zohar explains one reason why its waters have the power to return a person to his source and feel renewed. When a vessel needs to be remade, we return it to the smelting fire in which it was forged. Just like a fetus submerged in the waters of the womb, immersion in the mikveh is the return to the primordial state that precedes new life. We repent before immersing, and emerge purified from the sins of our old selves.

Rav Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld zt”l would spend a long time in the mikveh every day, and since he was one of the great sages of his generation, people noticed his extended visits. They paid careful attention to his practices and discovered that the Rav actually immersed 310 times, every day. Since Rav Sonnenfeld was known to be extremely careful to make full use of his time, it was clear that not a single immersion was superfluous. One member of the community asked what his meditations involved during those many descents below the water’s surface.

Rav Sonnenfeld explained, “I think about the greatness of the mikveh, that it has the power to transform a goy into a Jew. Surely it can take a Jew like me and make me into a true Jew!”


A Talmid said...

I was just thinking about posting the story of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonenfeld zy'a on my site this morning, though I didn't know he immersed 310 times. I will link to your post.

Micha Golshevsky said...

Wow, everything is b'hashgacha!
Ya'sher koach for the link.