Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Purifying Waters

Immersion in the Mikveh Shavuos night is perhaps the highest tevilah of the entire year. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, zt"l, writes that through this immersion one accesses the 50th gate of purity. Rav Nosson of Breslov, zt"l, explains that attaining the 50th gate of purity enables one to yearn for Hashem from any spiritual level, even the most distant.
When the Sha’arei Deah, zt”l, was passing through Frankfurt, he naturally met with the famous Rav Shimshon Rapael Hirsch, zt”l. During his visit, Rav Hirsch asked him a deep question which he recorded for posterity.
“When exactly does the mikveh confer taharah? Is it from when the one immersing is in the water, or when he leaves the water?”
When discussing this question, Rav Marzbach, zt”l, Rav of Darmstadt, recounted, “This surprised me very much. Anyone acquainted with Rav Hirsch’s approach towards Torah study knows that theoretical halachic investigations such as when tevilah actually takes effect were not his way. He immediately had a hunch that the purpose of Rav Hirsch’s inquiry was not to find out the answer for the sake of theory alone, but as part of his research for his monumental work on the meaning behind the mitzvos.”
Sure enough, after some checking, Rav Marzbach found that at the time that Rav Hirsch asked the question, he was working on the meaning behind the purifying powers of the mikveh for his epic Horev. The Rav explained, “What Rav Hirsch wrote includes two ways to understand this phenomenon. We can understand that entering the mikveh represents removing oneself from all ties to impurity. The person enters the world of renewal and removes the impurity by rejoining his source. He is submerged in water that was not drawn by man and is thus reborn.
“There is another way to understand this, however. It is possible to say that his leaving the state of self-nullification experienced in the water to a new life is what purifies. The Rav concluded, “It is more than likely that Rav Hirsch’s language includes both of these considerations, because either can be true. This was his way in his writings. To work out the halachah and explain the significance of the subject in accordance with what man’s understanding can grasp.”

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