Immersion to prepare the Heart and Mind for Prayer.
A. It is written, "No one
may enter the courtyard of the Holy
Temple even in a state of purity until he immerses himself"
"He arises early and immerses himself." "five immersions does
the High Priest on Yom Kippur;" and, with one exception "Immersion without an
appropriate intention is invalid." Thus we find that beyond purity, immersion serves
also to initiate holy thoughts. Since 'the prayers were instituted to take the place of
the service in the Holy Temple,' therefore, there is merit to immerse oneself before
prayer. (Yomah 3:3, Tamid 1:2, Chagigah 2:6). Archeological digs have unearthed dozens of
Mikvahs near each of the entrance gates of the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim. Some of
them large enough to hold a few hundred people at one time. B.
The Verse: "And you will be holy" (Vayikra 20:7) is translated by Targum
Yonatan: "Sanctify your body in order for Me to accept your prayers willingly."
How is it possible to sancitfy both body and soul? "Purity leads to sancity"
(Sotah 9:15). C. "For Prayers are more
willingly accepted with immersion. (Rif, Brachot 13b). D.
"Do not pray without purity, for your prayer will not be listened to," (Orchos
Chaim, by the Rosh; Wednesday). E. Another
connection between immersion and prayer: It is written, "You turn man to breathless -
'Tashev Enosh Ad Daka' - and you say, repent, children of Adam!" (Psalms 90:3).
Deprived of oxygen while immersing and thus endangered, one's thoughts are focused
"To stand alone with G-d" and to pray from the depths of the heart. Therefore,
there is a greater advantage and probability that 'G-d will accept our prayers willingly,'
after immersion. Since the span of life of our frame of mind is very short, and any
distraction may transport our thoughts to diffrent worlds, therefore, like in the Holy
Temple, whre Mikvehs were situated near the enterences, one of the advantages of Men's
Mikvah being build adjacent to the synagogue, is that it enables the worshiper to emerge
spiritually pure in body and soul, with an exalted frame of mind engulfed in sancity,
directly, without any hindering distractions, into the sanctuary for his prayers. For many
other reasons, a men;s Mikveh sould prefeably be a seperate entity with a close
relationship to the synagogue (I.R.).
2. 'Ezra instructed immersion
even for Torah study.' Since according to the Torah, a Ba'al Keri (one who has experienced
a seminal emission) is only forbidden to eat Trumah and holy offerings before innersion'
(Bahha Kama 82a) The probable reason that the edict started in Ezra's generation is
because they became lax in certain matters. 'Subsequent courts ruled that a Ba'al Keri
should not pray until he purifies himself,' (Rambam, Hilchot T'filah, Ch 4).'Many earlier
codifiers held that the immersion intituted by Ezra was abolished only for Torah study,
but that prayer is nonetheless forbidden without immersion.
|Even Rambam, who rules at the end of Hilchot Kri'at
Shma the Ezra's immerson was completly abolished,nonetheless declaired that he personally
never missed Ezra's immersion, (Rif, Berachot 13b) - as is true of many other Torah
3. The purity of cantors
(Questons and Answers from Heaven, ch 5)
'I asked, Is the law as the Talmud Yerushalmi delcares, (Yomah 8:1) - that
Ezra's institution of immersion was not universally accepted, and therefore it was
abolished. Or is immersion actually necessary for prayer?' And the response was 'it is
written, "And you will worship G-d", which refers to prayer, (Babba Kama 9b). Is
it possible for one who is ritually impure to offer a sacrifice? Ritual impurity brought
on by accident does not compare to intentional impurity, and impurity that arises from
one's own body. Ezra's edict came about through Divine insparation. In fact, that is the
reason for the lengthy exile. If the prayer of Israel was as it should be, it would have
been accepted a long time ago. They then responded, We heard from behind the Heavenly Veil
that although it is difficult to purify all of Israel together, but if atleast the Cantors
will be purified in every location, that will hasten the redemption. For it is written,
'In each location ... purifyed offering.' 'in each location ... I will come to you and
bless you,' (Exodus 20:21, Malachi 1:11). Therefore, in communities where it is a custom
to immerse, the Cantor and those called to the Torah are required to immerse prior to
4. Immersion in order to
suppliment the sancity of the Shabbat, on Friday, from the fifth Solar hour.
5. Immersion on the Shabbat
and Holy Days in order to add sancity onto the inherent holiness of the Shabbat and Holy
6. Immersion on the eve of the
three pilgrimage holidays 'Everyone is obliged to purify himself on the three Pilgrimage
Holidays of Passover, Shavout and Sukkot.'
7. Repentance requires
immersion. Therefore it is a custom to immerse at the very least on the Eve of Rosh
Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Some say that since our sages reccommend that 'one is to repent the day
before his death,' and since no one knows the day of his death, therefore, one should
immerse every day as an act of Tshuvah - repentance.
8. A groom's immersion on the
day of his wedding.
9. The immersion of the
father, the Sandak and the Mohel before the performance of the circumcision.
10. A scribe's immersion in
preparation for the writing of a Torah scroll, T'filin and Mezuzot.
11. Others immerse,
additionally, before the performance of any Mitzvah associated with a physical act, like
Shofar blowing, reciting the Megillah, lighting Chanukkah candles and before the ritual
slaughtering, etc. (Mordechai)