By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon
This week we are learning The Laws of Mikvaos — purification through immersion in a mikvah. The general lesson to be learned from the laws of Mikva, is the power of complete immersion, as the Rambam himself writes in the final Halacha of this section:
“Although it is a Scriptural decree, there is an allusion involved: One who focuses his heart on purifying himself becomes purified once he immerses, even though there was no change in his body. Similarly, one who focuses his heart on purifying himself from the impurities of the soul, which are evil thoughts and bad character traits, becomes purified when he resolves within his heart to distance himself from such counsel and immerse his soul in the waters of pure knowledge.”
The Rebbe, on a few occasions, spoke about the details of the laws of Mikvaos and the practical application in Avodas Hashem from these laws. The following are a few examples:
1. Leave Out Nothing, Not Even Hair…
The Rambam writes (1:2-7) that if one immersed himself entirely with the exception of the tip of his little finger, he is still ritually impure…If the person has hair, all of his hair must be immersed.
The Rebbe (Shabbos Mikeitz 5745) observes: The hair of a person is very trivial and can be easily removed. Yet, while it is attached to the person, it becomes so integral that if a piece of hair remains outside the water of the Mikvah, the entire person remains impure.
From this halacha, says the Rebbe, we see that when it comes to the will of Hashem, there is no difference between a (seemingly) big or small Mitzvah, they all warrant our fullest attention and celebration. While to a person, there is a big difference whether he gives — or receives — a thousand dollars or a few cents, to Hashem both are a fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Tzedaka and should be seen as such.
2. Between a Man Made Mikvah and A Natural Spring
The Rambam (9:8) describes the difference if one immerses in a natural spring (Ma’ayan) or a man-made pool of water: “What are the differences between the laws of a natural spring and a mikvah? A mikvah does not purify unless it contains 40 se’ah of water, while even the smallest amount of water from a natural spring purifies.
Another difference: The water of a mikvah purifies only if they are collected in a reservoir. Any water flowing out from it does not purify. The water of a natural spring, by contrast, purifies also when flowing.
From here we see that if water remains connected to its source (as is the case with the natural spring), it can purify anything without any limitation. The Rebbe (Sukkos 5748, Vayigash 5749) learns a tremendous lesson in Hiskashrus from this halacha: There are many times that a Chassid can feel overwhelmed when thinking about his responsibility to purify and elevate his surroundings. He may question his natural abilities, the tools at his disposal, or what will the reaction of his local community be, etc.
The Rambam addresses all these fears by giving the simple solution: Connect directly with the “ma’ayan” — the Rebbe at the source and then there are no questions or limitations on the purification. Everything will be purified to the highest level and with the greatest success.
3. The Human’s Part in the Divine Purification
The Rambam writes (4:2): “Our Sages said: the mikvah (lit. “gathering of water”) should not be entirely made up of drawn water like a cistern, nor need it come entirely from the hand of heaven. Instead, if it came into being partially through human effort, it is acceptable.”
The Rebbe (Shabbos Bereishis 5747) explains that while it is always more spiritually elevated when things come from above, Hashem desires “human effort”, that we should have a part in the realization of the purpose of creation. We should never underestimate the value of our work in this world.
The Greatest Mikvah of All
During the time of galus, we struggle to completely immerse ourselves in the “waters of pure knowledge” of the Torah. We have many internal and external distractions that prevent us from having the complete and proper focus. The complete immersion in the “water of pure knowledge” will take place in the times of Moshiach. As the Rambam himself finishes off the entire Mishna Torah (Hilchos Melachim 12:5): “The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem. Therefore, the Jews will be great sages and know the hidden matters, grasping the knowledge of their Creator according to the full extent of human potential, as it stated: ‘The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed.”’