A mikveh (pronounced MICK-vuh, also spelled mikvah), is a Jewish ritual bath.
Almost every Jewish community has at least one mikveh (you can search here for a traditional mikveh, or here for a non-Orthodox mikveh directory). In larger Jewish communities you might have a choice among mikva’ot (plural for mikveh).
Why Immerse in the Mikveh?
Jewish law requires that one immerse in a mikveh as part of the process of conversion to Judaism. It also requires women to immerse before getting married and when observing the laws of niddah (menstrual purity). There are also various other reasons — both traditional and modern — that women, as well as men and Jews who are non-binary, visit the mikveh.
Beyond the halakhically (Jewish law) mandated mikveh uses (for conversion and for women getting married and observing niddah), the powerful symbolism of the mikveh waters has inspired various mikveh practices. For example, many Hasidic men immerse themselves in the mikveh every day. Others immerse every Friday before Shabbat. In some Jewish communities, it is also customary to immerse before Yom Kippur, and for grooms to immerse before their weddings.
In recent years, some progressive Jews have also begun to use mikveh to mark various milestones, such as a graduation, a bar or bat mitzvah or an important birthday, and to signify a new start after pain or loss. For example, immersion can mark the completion of a year of bereavement, or recovery from divorce, rape, abuse, or life-threatening illness. Often new prayers are composed to accompany these new rituals.
Finally, another kind of mikveh in use today is the kelim mikveh — a mikveh for immersing dishes, in order to make them kosher. Typically much smaller than a mikveh designed for human use, this kind of mikveh is often located in the same building as the main mikveh.
Taharat Mishphachah is a custom in which very Orthodox families will practice “family purity” during menstruation. Typically the husband and wife will separate from each other for a period time until the wife has had enough “clean” days since the appears of blood.
We continue our discussion of mitzvot with a further explanation of the mikvah from our Best of the Web.
Best of the Web: Mikvah from Jew in the City & My Jewish Learning
Handout: Conversion Blessings