Published February-14-08
Ask Rabbi Dan
by Rabbi Dan S. Wiko PhD
  Issue: 9.02
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Dear Rabbi Dan,

I have always been confused as to the religious use of the Mikvah. I was once told that it is to cleanse the woman after she experiences her monthly period, and also just before she is to be married. But then I discovered that orthodox men also use the Mikvah for cleansing. Could you please explain the exact significance of the practice of the Mikvah?

The Mikveh serves, primarily, as a vessel for spiritual cleansing. By immersing oneself, all the impurities brought on by living in the material world are removed and the person becomes spiritually pure. In the case of women after their menstrual cycle, the Mikveh serves as the re-freshening well of purity that allows her to engage in sexual activity with her husband. Furthermore, the separation and abstinence from sexual relations during the cycle makes each post-cycle a "new" experience for the couple; a renewed dedication of their bond of love.

Men, too, go into the mikveh for spiritual purification. This is, usually, done just prior to the onset of Shabbat and serves to separate the daily mundane and materialistic from the sacredness of Shabbat. Some men take a dip as soon as they arrive at shul on Shabbat morning in order to feel closer to the spirit of Shabbat or Yom Tov.

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