The following was written by a
Bais Rivkah High School Student
Many years ago, a young,
married woman moved from Israel, with her husband and small children, to a distant
country. This young woman had a strong
emunah peshuta and hashkafa, but as was common in those
days, she did not have the benefit of a true Jewish education. She kept Torah
and mitzvos, as she had learned in
her home, with a deep and abiding love of Hashem and a sincere desire to do
what is right.
Taharas Hamishpacha was
very important to her and one of the first things she did upon her arrival, in
this strange new country, was to locate the nearest mikvah.
The night of her
immersion arrived and she carefully made her way to the mikvah premises. She
entered, and was completely overwhelmed to see a large, open room filled with
bathtubs, bearing a strangely, festive atmosphere. Each tub had a woman in it,
carefully scrubbing away. No dressing rooms, no private baths, no curtains!
Just open areas shared by everyone!
Never having seen such a
thing before, she swallowed her astonishment, and discomfort, and followed the
attendant to the one remaining empty tub. A small stool with a towel and soap
was set next to the tub.
Completely ill at ease,
but anxious to use the mikvah, she gingerly removed her clothing and climbed
into the tub where she proceeded to carefully wash, as she had been taught, in
preparation for her mikvah immersion.
When her preparations
were completed, she stepped out of the tub, wrapped herself in the large towel
and asked some of the other ladies which way to the mikvah?
The other ladies looked
at one another in astonishment. Mikvah? None of us use the actual mikvah! We
carefully bathe and we go home! they said slowly, as if there was something
wrong with her. You better speak to the matron, they advised.
So, in her towel, she
sought the matron and asked to be taken to the mikvah so she could immerse.
Are you certain that is
what you wish to do? the matron asked. None of the other ladies use the
mikvah! The water is quite dirty and has not been changed in a very long time.
Why dont you just go home, now that you are nice and clean?
While this young woman
may not have been the most learned, there was one thing she knew, mikvah was
mikvah! A bath was not a mikvah and immerse in the mikvah she must!
Please take me to the
mikvah, she insisted.
The matron heard the
determination in her voice and led the way to the mikvah. One by one, the entire
troupe of women followed, curious to see what would happen. The matron led the
way down a dark hallway to an even darker room. Opening the light revealed a
sad looking room with mildew growing on the walls. There, in the middle of the
room, was the mikvah. The water was dirty and murky, and an offensive odor wafted
in the air.
Certain that one sight
of that mikvah would be enough to deter even the bravest soul, the matron
turned to leave. The women collectively gasped as this simple, yet devout woman
handed her towel to another and began to make her way into the foul smelling
She asked the matron to
please answer Amein to her bracha and then she immersed her perfectly clean,
sweet smelling body, into the yellow green water. Once, twice and yet again, as
she had been taught. As her mother, her grandmother and generations of women
before her had done.
She rose from the water
like a queen, making a Kiddush Hashem as she performed this beautiful mitzvah
under far from beautiful circumstances. Each of those ladies were witness to
the fact, learning that a bath is not enough, only the mikvah can complete the
mitzvah the proper, kosher way.
Our family has always
felt that the pureness of her intentions blessed her, adding a Chassidic branch
to her family tree. I am proud to be the descendant of this brave and honorable
woman who practiced Taharas Hamishpacha with such tremendous mesiras nefesh!