TechniquesIt is both impractical and unhygienic to build a mikvah with a
solitary bor (reservoir) of kosher rainwater. One would have to wait
until it rained forty se'ah (a volume of measure) in order to
refill the mikvah to change the waters. This is especially difficult in
places where there is no rain in the winter.
The most practical solution is to build a mikvah with two (or more)
boros. One bor becomes the bor hatvilah (immersion
pool), while the other contains natural rainwater. This technique enables us to
clean the mikvah water without having to wait for rainfall.
There are three ways to build the bor that holds the natural
rainwater: Hashoko, Zriah and Bor al gabai bor.
HashokoHashoko means to "kiss", i.e., contact and touch. Two boros
are built side by side. One is filled with rainwater valid for immersion. The
other is filled with tap water initially not valid for immersion. Only when the
ordinary water comes in contact with the rainwater does it become valid. The
bor filled with ordinary water is thereby rendered kosher for ritual
(a) If there is a hole between the boros and
the waters contact each other, or
(b) The waters meet at the top, over the
rim of the boros then both boros are kosher.
The hole must
be higher than the forty se'ah of rainwater in the bor
hashoko. In the bor hatvilah, it must be below the water level.
As the water level must be approximately 120-125 cm. (47-49 inches) above the
ground, the hole must be lower than 120 cm.
The hole where the waters meet
must be as wide as a shfoferes hanod - two average fingers that fit
inside and turn easily.
How can one determine whether a mikvah uses
the hashoko method? If upon investigation it is found that no city
water flows into the rainwater bor - it is identified as a bor hashoko.When changing the water, one empties the bor hatvilah and the
bor hashoko remains full of valid waters. Then the bor
hatvilah is filled with fresh water, and when the waters meet at the hole
connecting the boros, the added tap waters attain the qualification of
the bor hashoko.Sometimes a stopper is inserted into the hole
before emptying the mikvah, so that as much original rainwater as
possible is retained. However, this stringency can later cause complications.
If one forgets to unplug the stopper after refilling the bor hatvilah,
then any immersions in this mikvah are invalid, because the ordinary
water never touched the rainwater and therefore did not achieve its validity.
Hence, some opinions prefer not to use a stopper at all, even though this means
losing some of the original rainwater.
There are varying opinions among
Halachic authorities as to whether the hole must stay open once the
hashoko has been made. Some are of the opinion that the hole should be
closed for, during immersion, some water is pushed through the contact hole back
into the bor hashoko and becomes zoychalin, flowing (even from
one bor to another) thus rendering the mikvah unfit.
Chabad custom follows the ruling of Rabbeinu Yeruchim, that the hole
must be open at the time of immersion for the water to retain the qualification
of the rainwater bor. However, during immersion, even a small hole
suffices (kol shehu). Shfoferes hanod is only needed for the
initial contact.If a stopper is used, one must be careful not to use
materials that can be mekabel tumah (li. "accepts ritual impurity")
Anew wooden stopper is the best choice. It is preferable not to use a rubber or
plastic stopper. A metal stopper should definitely not be used.
The following are some disadvantages of the hashoko method:This
technique is not foolproof. It is possible that whoever fills the bor
hatvilah will not use enough water to reach the hole connecting the two
boros.Additionally, in a place where a stopper is used before
emptying the bor hatvilah, the attendant can forget to remove the
stopper after refilling the mikvah.In either instance, since the
ordinary tap water in the bor hatvilah did not contact the validating
hashoko waters, the waters in the bor hatvilah remain invalid
for immersing. This causes serious Halachic problems when people have
immersed in such a mikvah. A competent Rabbi should immediately be
contacted. Another disadvantage is that the water in the bor
hashoko often sits undisturbed for long periods of time and becomes
stagnant. The structure of the bor zriah solves these problems.
Translation of zriah is "sowed", like grain, "sown" into the
ground. Forty se'ah of rainwater is gathered in a bor, to which
tap water is added.The tap water intermingles with the rainwater as one body
of water, and attains the qualification of the original rainwater.The water
then overflows through an outlet (hole) into the mikvah stopping at the
Hence, the tap waters are "sown", making them valid for
immersion - equal to rainwater.The advantage of the zriah method
is that the ordinary tap water becomes kosher immediately as it enters the
bor and makes contact with the rainwater. Unlike the hashoko
method, the zriah technique does not have to wait for a minimum level
and for the waters to meet in order to be considered a united body of water, nor
is there a stopper. Once the bor zriah is filled with rainwater the
mikvah is valid and almost foolproof. The Rabbi supervising the
mikvah has no reason to worry whether the mikvah waters are
connected to the bor or if the attendant remembered to remove the
stopper. Another advantage: The water in the bor zriah changes
often and remains fresh. A typical mikvah using the zriah
method has two adjoining boros with a hole connecting them at the top.
The hole must be higher than the forty se'ah of rainwater in the
bor zriah. In the bor hatvilah, it has to be higher than the
water level (approx. 140 cm. (56 inches) from the floor). The waters do not
mingle during immersion.
1. Begin by filling the bor zriah
with a minimum of forty se'ah of rainwater.
2. Add tap water into
the rainwater bor, preferably in a way that the waters enter at a level
lower than the connecting hole (the hamshocho process is nonetheless
above water level).
3. When the water level is high enough, the water will
pour through the hole into the bor hatvilah.
4. The waters in the
bor hatvilah are valid when the bor contains at least forty
se'ah and the water level is high enough for immersing.
one determine whether a mikvah uses the zriah method? If upon
investigation it is found that the city water flows into the rainwater
bor and then into the bor hatvilah - it is identified as a
bor zriah.Though more reliable than the hashoko method,
the bor zriah is still prone to problems. It is common practice to
drain the mikvah by using an electric pump that does not completely
drain all the water. Occasionally, when the pump is turned off, some water may
return into the mikvah from the pump, sheuvim (lit. "drawn
waters", waters that are invalid for a mikvah via containment in a
Additionally, the mikvah maintenance attendant may sometimes choose
to remove the remaining traces of water with a sponge or bucket. Water from the
sponge or mop will drip back into the mikvah, sheuvim, as a
matter of course.
Then also, the mikvah may be washed with water from a bucket
(sheuvim) and some water may be left in the mikvah. In these
cases, the remaining water is considered sheuvim - with qualified
kosher waters from the bor zriah, the three initial luggin (a
liquid measure used in the times of the Mishna) of remaining water -
whether from the pump, mop or pail - preceded the "valid" water and invalidates
Bor Al Gabai Bor
As explained in previous sections, a mikvah usually contains two
boros - one filled with rainwater, the other with tap water. Generally,
there are two ways the boros can be constructed:
1) Two boros are constructed side by side with a common wall. On
the common wall a hole is placed higher than the height of forty
se'ah. One bor is filled with forty se'ah of
rainwater. The other bor is filled with tap water until the waters make
contact and intermingle with each other, rendering the water in the bor
hatvilah kosher for immersing.
2) a mikvah be built bor al
gabai bor, literally, "one bor on top of another bor".
This mikvah is constructed in the following manner:
a) A single
deep bor is built during construction.
b) A divider of cement is
built, forming an upper bor and a lower bor. The walls below
the divider can project into the bor to support the divider, or a
keyway can be formed in the wall and the divider cast into it. The divider
serves as a floor for the upper bor and a ceiling for the lower
c) The upper bor becomes the bor hatvilah.
Steps are built for the user to descent and immerse.
d) The lower
bor contains [two times] forty se'ah.
e) An opening is left
in the divider large enough for a person to pass through; then it is closed with
a cover panel. There are two holes, each measuring a square tefach
The holes unite both bodies of water; tap water
in the upper bor unites with the lower rainwater, giving the ordinary
water the needed validation for immersion.
Why two holes? Some suggest that
there be a second hole in case one of them becomes blocked. This can occur when
the person immersing places a foot in the hole, preventing the waters from
remaining united. Building a second hole guarantees constant contact between
the boros. The holes are therefore built apart from each other, to
ensure that the feet of the person immersing cannot block both holes
simultaneously.There are no holes or drains in the lower bor where
the rainwater is deposited.How can one determine whether a mikvah
uses the bor al gabai bor method? If upon investigation it is found
that there are two holes in the floor of the mikvah, leading to the
bottom bor, it is identified as having been built bor al gabai
bor.This mikvah is constructed preferably with the tap water
flowing directly above one of the holes. When filling the mikvah,
rainwater pours into the lower bor until it is full. Ordinary water is
then added through the hamshocho (a procedure where waters run across
an area of soft ground or cement) method into the upper bor hatvilah
directly above either hole, as in the zriah method.The procedure is
different if the tap water does not flow directly over the holes. First, fill
the lower bor with rainwater until it overflows and covers the floor of
the upper bor. Then, add ordinary water into the upper bor.
Since the rainwater preceded the tap water, this is also a form of
zriah. Now the mikvah is valid and ready to be used. When
the waters of the upper bor become dirty one need only to pump out the
upper bor and refill it.
The advantages of this unique method are
Unlike the side bor hashoko technique, there is no need to
wait for the waters in both boros to come into contact with each other
nor is there any need for a stopper. Once the lower bor is filled with
rainwater the mikvah will be valid and foolproof. The Rabbi
supervising the mikvah is secure in the knowledge that the mikvah
is valid without worrying whether the waters met at the hole or whether the
attendant may have forgotten to remove the stopper.
Similar to the zriah
method, where tap water flows directly into the rainwater and is considered
"sowed into the ground", this is also considered zriah in its best
One additional, but very significant advantage is the fact
that the upper section is a continuation of the rainwater bor. The
square tefach hole(s) dismiss, Halachically, the presence of
the divider. Therefore, when one is immersing in such a mikvah, they
are in actuality, immersing in the rainwater bor itself.
if one has a mikvah constructed with the method of bor al
gabai bor, there is no need for additional side hashoko
or zriah boros.