Mikvah A Fresh Start

Mikvah A Fresh Start

The Hebrew word for Ritual Bath is mikvah, the root of which is the word kaveh, meaning hope.

Hope always implies change.  It is for a change in the status quo that a person “hopes”.  In particular, hope is sensed strongest when a person finds himself in a desperate situation; when he has hit “rock-bottom”.  At that lowest point in which there is no other choice, a person yearns for the opportunity to start over.  This is what the mikvah is all about.

The idea of the mikvah is to step into and be encompassed by a “world of water” which is most comparable to the world of water each of us resided in before we were born – the womb.  In the womb, a fetus is essentially a part of its mother, not yet an “other” entity.  Thus, in the world of water that is the womb, the fetus is included within, and as an aspect of, its mother.  In this sense, the fetus’ Essential Identity is as part of its mother, rather than as something Other than its mother.[1]

The more a person sees himself as “other” than the greater context of which he is a part, the more he disconnects himself from his “higher” self and manifests his ego.  For example, imagine there was a completed jigsaw puzzle on the table in front of you.  Now, imagine one of the pieces of that puzzle stood up and said, “I’ve had it with being part of this jigsaw puzzle!  I wanna do my own thing.  I’m outta here!”.  At that moment, this puzzle piece is manifesting his ego.  He is viewing himself as something “other” than the puzzle.  But the truth is that by identifying himself as something other than the puzzle he loses the “higher” more all-inclusive identity of the entire puzzle of which he is a part.  After all, what is a puzzle piece without the rest of the puzzle?  So, soon after the puzzle piece has left the puzzle, he starts to have an identity crisis, wondering who he really is and what his purpose is all about.  A few minutes later, when someone looks at him the wrong way, he starts to ponder, “Why is that guy looking at me funny?  Is there something wrong with the way I’m cut?” – he gets self-conscious and develops self-esteem issues because, when you remove yourself from your essential bigger picture in order to capture the fraudulent fleeting illusory notion of independence and otherness, the result is the replacement of your “higher” intrinsic worth with your “lower” exterior quasi-identity.

Similarly, when a human being, whose essence is to be an indispensible aspect of the Infinite, psychologically removes himself from that bigger picture in favor of the fraudulent fleeting illusory notion that he is independent and “other” than God, the result is the replacement of his Essential Identity with his ego.  And once he identifies with his ego, he becomes arrogant and that makes way for the possibility of insecurity since he has denied the reality of his “higher” intrinsic worth.

NULLIFICATION

The mikvah is the remedy for this “downward” spiral, which we all take part in at one level or another.  As mentioned, the mikvah experience is a recreation of the womb experience.  That is, just as the Essential Identity of the fetus is in its inclusion within, and as an aspect of, the mother, so too, the mikvah experience is that the one’s Essential Identity is in his inclusion within, and as an aspect of, the Mother, i.e. God.

This conscious alignment of one’s identity with one’s Essential Identity is the extension of one’s identity beyond the tangible side of himself.  This is similar to the manner in which the puzzle piece would identify himself as an aspect of the puzzle rather than something “other” than the puzzle, in order to extend his identity beyond the more tangible fragmented piece-side of himself to be incorporated into the less tangible but more holistic puzzle-side of himself.

In Kabbalah, this inclusion and incorporation of one’s “lower” self into one’s “higher” self by way of rising above the inkling to focus and identify as something independent and Other than God is refered to in Kabbalah as Nullification.

By Nullification, we do not mean that the person is making himself into nothing.  Rather, that he is so much more than merely a thing.  Just as the fetus’ sense of otherness is “nullified” as it experiences itself as so much more than its self – as a part of its mother, so too, immersion in a mikvah is the nullification of one’s sense of otherness as one experiences himself as so much more than himself – as a part of his Mother.

That is, a person normally walks around with a sense of self that ends where his body ends, thereby defining himself in accordance with his “Body Identity”.  The mikvah experience gets to a grander sense of self that expands beyond the limits of the body to incorporate and include oneself as an aspect of the Infinite, thereby defining oneself in accordance with his “Soul Identity”.  Thus, the mikvah experience is the nullification of one’s sense of Otherness (Body Identity) to one’s Essential Identity (Soul Identity).[2]

It comes out that by making oneself “small”, one becomes big, whereas, by making oneself “big”, one becomes small.  When the puzzle piece makes itself “big” – i.e.  independent from the puzzle, it becomes small – i.e. disconnected from the bigger picture.  And, when the puzzle piece makes itself small – i.e. seeing itself as an aspect of the puzzle, it becomes big – i.e. part of the bigger picture.  Thus, the egotistical arrogance of Otherness leads to the smallness of insecurity, whereas, the Godly humility of nullification leads to the grandness of Essential Identity.

To put it simply:

Otherness leads to arrogance leads to insecurity

nullification leads to humility leads to Essential Identity

THE MATHEMATICS OF NULLIFICATION

In addition, the size requirements of the mikvah are an outgrowth of the aforementioned Nullification principle that lies at the core of the mikvah experience.  In order to demonstrate this, we must first become acquainted with a foundational principle in kashrut (the Jewish dietary laws).  According to Jewish law, there are certain instances in which non-kosher food that has inadvertently become mixed into kosher food 60 times its volume, in a manner in which the non-kosher is indiscernible from the kosher, can be considered as having been subsumed by the kosher food.  In such cases, the independent “other” identity of the non-kosher food as non-kosher is nullified as it takes on the identity of the kosher food in which it became immersed and encompassed by.

In a similar manner, each of us, as well as all of the physical world, are made up of the four elements – fire, water, wind, and earth.  And each of these elements upon which our physical existence is built is also made up of those four elements.  That is, our physicality is made up of four elements which each include those four elements.  Thus, our physicality is made up of 4 x 4 elements – 16 elements.

Interestingly, according to Jewish law, the mikvah must be made up of 960 lug (a Talmudic liquid measurement) of water.[3] It comes out that there is 60 lug corresponding to every part of one’s 16-elemental core physicality by which that physicality, and the sense of “otherness” that comes with it, is counteracted and nullified!  Thus, the mikvah is all about inclusion into one’s “higher” self (Essential Identity) by which one’s “lower” self (Otherness) is nullified because the truth of one’s identity is that one is too “large” to be included in what each of us normally refers to when we say “I”.

REBIRTH

This Nullification principle is the “hope” of the mikvah.  It is opportunity for change and the opportunity to start over because it is, in a sense, a rebirth.  Immersion in the mikvah is a mini-return to one’s life before life in his physical body.  Thus, on another level, the mikvah experience is the incorporation and inclusion of one’s soul into its Soul Root.

As discussed in the section on Bedtime Shema & Marital Intimacy, similar to the manner in which a branch has its source in its root, the soul has its source in its Soul Root.  That is, the human soul is rooted “above” and it is only the “lowest” aspects of his soul that are affiliated with the body.  Thus, just as immersion in a mikvah recreates the womb experience, in which the all-inclusive “higher” perspective is that the fetus experience itself as a part of its mother, rather than as its own entity and “other” than the mother; and just as the all-inclusive “higher” perspective is that a human being experience himself as included within, and as an aspect of, God, rather than as his own entity and “other” than God; so too, the soul of the individual that immerses in a mikvah experiences itself incorporated into, and included within, its Soul Root, rather than as its own entity and “other” than its Soul Root.

It is from this spiritual state offered by the mikvah experience, and the headspace that comes with it, that one is moved to make changes to give up one’s previous way of being that did not include one’s inherent association with God and return to their true soul-selves by returning to God and manifesting one’s true identity as a soul.[4]

Thus, upon coming out of the mikvah, a person has, in a sense, a new identity.  And, it seems that this is why immersion in a mikvah is part of the process of conversion to Judaism, which is essentially a change in one’s core identity – going from being a human soul to being a Jewish soul.

“WATERS OF KNOWLEDGE”

Going further, as mentioned in the section on Bedtime Shema & Marital Intimacy, water is the staple of raw material (i.e. that which has no direction of its own, but facilitates, brings out, and actualizes the direction of another).  Thus, when one nullifies one’s lower constricted self in the “world of water”, he assumes the identity and, by extension, the properties of water.  That is, when immersed in a mikvah one embodies the “raw material” by which the shining forth of his higher expansive self is facilitated, brought out, and actualized.

In this manner, the waters of the mikvah are referred to in Kabbalah as the Waters of Knowledge.  As discussed in the section on Breaking Bread, “knowledge” in the Jewish sense always refers to an intimate relationship and coming together of two things into one.  Thus, the waters of the mikvah are referred to as the Waters of Knowledge since immersion in the mikvah brings the union of one’s “lower” Actual Self (the practical being brought out) with one’s “higher” Potential Self (the theoretical hidden within), one’s soul with one’s Soul Root, and one’s identity with God’s “identity”.


The content of this page is produced by mikvah.org and is copyrighted by the author, publisher or mikvah.org. You may distribute it provided you comply with our copyright policy.