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September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mikvah’

Dutch Community Rediscovers Forgotten Mikvahs

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) — A Dutch Jewish organization rediscovered two ancient ritual baths that had been forgotten after the Holocaust.

In reporting about the find Friday, the Crescas Jewish education institute wrote on its website that large parts of the 19th-century ritual baths, or mikvahs, were unearthed last week at a Jewish community building in the northern city of Groningen.

“The mikvahs are an exciting find,” Crescas wrote. “They are remarkably well-preserved. The marble of one of the baths was partially damaged during renovations.”

The mikvahs, which are seven-feet deep, have seven marble stairs, according to Crescas.

The Jewish community of Groningen, which was nearly wiped out during the Holocaust, sold the building in 1952 to the municipality, which renovated the building and rededicated it as a seat of the Jewish community in 1981. The mikvahs were covered up and exposed only recently, after members of the local Jewish community chanced upon blueprints of the building, the RTV Noord television station reported.

“The find is so important because Jewish life stopped here in 1943: the Jews were gone. A few buildings that were essential to the Jewish community remained: the synagogue, the old people’s home, the Jewish school, but the mikvah, which is also essential, was gone. No one knew where it was,” Marcel Wichgers, director of Groningen’s Folkingestraat Synagogue Association, or SFS, told RTV.

SFS was unaware until recently that the two mikvahs lay under the floor of a room it used for storage, Crescas wrote.

The Reformatorisch Dagblad daily described the find as one of the most important archeological discoveries made in Groningen in recent years. The structure is now opened to spectators twice a week, on Wednesdays and Sundays.

In 1930, the Jewish population in Groningen was 2,408, according to the Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum. In 1951, there were 225 Jews, and currently only a few dozen Jews live in the northern city.

Israeli Chief Rabbinate Issues Restrictions on Mikvah Attendants

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate issued restrictions on the extent to which mikvah attendants may question and interact with women visiting the ritual baths.

According to a letter sent Monday from the Chief Rabbinate to Itim, an organization that helps Israelis navigate the rabbinate’s bureaucracy, mikvah attendants may not question women visiting the baths, nor may they require women to undergo specific rituals before immersing.

Women increasingly have filed complaints about such practices at public mikvahs.

“The attendant is meant to help the immersing women fulfill the commandment of immersion according to Jewish law, and the attendant must be available for that purpose, and to offer her assistance,” the letter read. “In addition, the attendant is not permitted to coerce customs, investigations or checks on the women against their will.”

Separate letters from Israeli Chief Rabbis Yitzchak Yosef and David Lau, and from Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan, endorsed the new restrictions.

Yesh Atid lawmakerAliza Lavie proposed a bill earlier this month to restrict the authority of mikvah attendants. But the letter, which responded to a query sent in August by Itim, may make the measure irrelevant.

The letter said that instructions on proper immersion according to Jewish law would be posted at every mikvah “in order to improve service for the immersing women.”

Tzippori

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Midrash Berashis Rabbah says that on the day that Rabi Akiva gave up his soul al Kiddush Hashem, Reb Yehudah HaNasi was born. A seven-generation descendent of Hillel HaZaken, Rebbe was the son of Rabban Shimon ben Gamlial, and of the royal line of Dovid HaMelech. Known as Rebbe and Rabbeinu Hakadosh, he was a key leader of the Jewish community of Judea, during the occupation by the Roman Empire, toward the end of the 2nd century CE. He was the greatest of the fifth generation of Tanaim. Rebbi was a talmid of the five main students of Rabi Akiva. He is best known as the compiler of the Mishnah. Reb Yehudah haNasi passed away on 15 Kislev 3950 (190 CE).

The Gemara in Kesubos (104a) relates that before he died he lifted his ten fingers towards the heavens and declared he had not even enjoyed even a little finger of this world. (This was so even though he was very wealthy and greatly revered in Rome and had a close friendship with “Antoninus”, possibly the Emperor Antoninus Pius who is still famed for his philosophic work ”Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”.)

Sefer Chassidim records that after he passed away, Rabbeinu HaKadosh used to visit his home every Friday evening at dusk wearing Shabbos clothes. He would recite Kiddush, and his family would thereby discharge their obligation to hear it. One Friday night there was a knock at the door. The maid asked the visitor to come back because Rabbeinu HaKadosh was in the middle of Kiddush. From then on he stopped coming, since he did not want his visits to become public knowledge.

The root of Rebbe’s soul was that of Yaakov Avinu. It is said that Yaakov Avinu never died and we see from the above story that Rabbeinu HaKadosh also did not die. Both Yaakov Avinu and Rebbe had the same task. Rebbe had said that the seventeen years he spent in Tzippori were equal to the seventeen years Yaakov spent in Egypt. Yaakov taught Torah during those those years, preparing the nation for its first galus. Rebbe spent the last seventeen years of his life compiling the Mishnah, preparing Am Yisrael for the long and bitter galus Edom.

tzion claimed to be Rebbi’s is found in Tzippori, which is in the rolling hills of the Galilee. (According to Talmud Yerushalmi [Kila’im 9:4], Rebbi was buried in Bet She’arim.)  In very ancient times the city was called Sepphoris. It was fortified by the Assyrians, and then used by the Babylonians and then the Persians as an administrative center. It was the Chashmonaim who gave the city the name Tzippori when they settled there. Rabi Yochanan indentified Rekes as Tzippori; it is so called as it sits high on a hill like a bird. The air there is very clear and fresh.

Herod the Great took over the city and brought in Roman influences. After Herod’s death the Jews of Tzippori rebelled against Roman rule causing Varus, the Roman governor to destroy the city and sell many of its Jews into slavery. In 1 CE, when Herod Antipas became governor, he rebuilt the city and renamed it Autocratis. It was such beautiful city that it was described it as “the ornament of all Galilee.” The Jews of the city chose not to rebel during the first Jewish Revolt in 66 CE; they opened their gates to the Roman army and signed a pact with them.

During the 2nd century the city was renamed Diocaesarea. After the Bar Kochba revolt many Jews moved to the city. Reb Yehudah Hanasi moved the Sanhedrin from Bet She’arim to Tzippori, where he compiled the Mishnah. He summoned all the Sages in the land, including the great scholars that had come up from Bavel to come and help him.

In the year 351 CE, Gallus Caesar quelled a Jewish rebellion in the city.

In 363 CE an earthquake destroyed the city of Diocaesarea.

During the Byzantine period Jews, Romans and Christians lived peacefully in the city.

From 634 CE the Arabs, under the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, conquered and ruled the city, then known as Saffuriya.

Gush Katif Refugees to Netanyahu: At Least Don’t Destroy the Migron Synagogue

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

A committee of expelled Gush Katif residents approached Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday requesting that he prevent the destruction of the synagogue and mikvah of the Migron settlement, which was evacuated, Kipa reprted.

Eliezer Aurbach, chairmen of the Gush Katif residents’ committee, wrote to Netanyahu in the name of the expelled former residents of Gush Katif, saying, “We who have personally experienced the government’s decision to uproot our lives and our communities from Gush Katif seven years ago, are standing stunned and in pain today, seeing how the government is repeating the mistake and the terrible injustice by destroying a community and tearing up the homes in Migron.”

Auerbach, who served as the head of the Religious Council of Gush Katif before the evacuation, wrote that “in Gush Katif, after many deliberations, it was decided not to destroy the religious structures. After the Migron families have been evacuated, we are turning to you with an appeal not to destroy the synagogue and mikvah structures in the Migron settlement.”

“After the acquisition of most of the houses in Migron from their Palestinian owners, logic and public justice should obligate the state’s attorney to approach the Supreme Court with a request to nullify the ruling,” he added.

“We call upon you today to instigate a process that will strengthen the settlement in Israel, and especially in Judea and Samaria as part of a Zionist statement that reflects our rights to this land,” the committee signed the letter.

My Machberes

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Mikveh Magic

In contrast to the reported 1,500 mikvehs in Israel, the United States has approximately 300. Interestingly, a good number of mikvehs in America date back more than one hundred years.

The first mikveh built in what is today the continental United States was that of Congregation Shearith Israel in approximately 1655 in lower Manhattan (then New Amsterdam). Rabbi David and Tamar De Sola Pool, in their An Old Faith in the New World (Portrait of Shearith Israel 1654-1954), write that “In the early days, it was the synagogue alone which had the ritual bath to which the Jewish woman could go.” The authors note the kehilla in 1791 was making use of five buildings, one of which was the ritual bath.

Presently in Israel, the Vaad Hamikvaos, literally the “Committee on Mikvehs,” oversees the design, construction, and maintenance of mikvehs. The Vaad, under the direction and scrutiny of universally acknowledged Torah giants in Israel, is staffed by eighteen kollel members who devote themselves exclusively to the study and implementation of hilchos mikvaos.

The disparity between the number of mikvehs in Israel and the United States is discomforting. Traveling long distances to use a mikveh, though accepted in America as a fact of life for those who live outside major Jewish population centers, is just not tolerated in Israel. Every community in Israel with observant Jews – even communities populated by “traditional” Jews – strives for and demands to have a kosher mikveh within reasonable walking distance.

The kashrus of older mikvehs, such as those found outside the Jewish population centers in the U.S., are assumed kosher in accordance with poskim such as the Rosh and the Rema, who maintain that mikvehs are built only by those who have expertise.

However, the Satmar Rav, zt”l, in his Divrei Yoel, suggested that principle is not applicable in the U.S. since individuals not proficient in the relevant laws could easily have played significant roles in the building of mikvehs here. And with the passing of time (sometimes a century or more), the maintenance and repair of mikvehs may well have become the province of local handymen unfamiliar with hilchos mikvaos.

Mikveh Discussions, 1920

As an interesting footnote to this discussion, I searched through my library and found a rare copy of a Yiddish pamphlet titled Mikveh Yisrael, published in about 1920 (available on hebrewbooks.org), authored by Rabbi Dovid Miller, zt”l (1869-1939), then residing in Oakland, California. Ordained by leading European rabbis, including Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spector, zt”l (1817-1896), chief rabbi of Kovno and author of Be’er Yitzchok, Rabbi Miller came to this country in around 1890 and served as rav at congregations in New York City and Providence, Rhode Island, and later resided in California.

The learned and innovative author recommends, and provides detailed plans on, building home mikvehs with what might well be called Yankee ingenuity. In a space slightly larger than two feet wide, four feet long and four feet high, a mikveh, according to the author, can easily and discreetly be built in a bathroom or closet, in a basement or on a high-rise floor. All necessary supplies are listed and specific instructions on how to fill the mikveh are furnished, as well as instructions on how to release the water from the homemade mikveh.

Home mikveh blueprint

The author felt that with the immediate availability of home mikvah use, Jewish marital laws would be more widely and more carefully observed. Modesty would be maintained by keeping mikveh use private. The cost of building such a mikveh would be inexpensive, giving every family the opportunity to have its own in-home mikveh.

The concept received written approbations from Rabbi Sholom Elchanan Yaffe, zt”l (1858-1923), rav of Beis Medrash Hagadol of New York and a leading scholar; Rabbi Gavriel Zev (Wolf) Margolis, zt”l (1848-1935), chief rabbi of Boston and later a rav in New York City; and Rabbi Zvi Shimon Elbaum, zt”l, a rav in Chicago.

In addition, the author describes a meeting at the Chicago home of Rabbi Elbaum at the time he received the written approbation. On that occasion, he writes, he also obtained the consent of Rabbi Sholom Mordechai Silver, zt”l (d. 1925) of Minneapolis, Rabbi Horowitz of St. Paul, Rabbi Deidtzik of Des Moines, Iowa, and Rabbi Kordon of Chicago.

The idea was great. There was, however, a “catch” – namely, the question of using tap water. The author maintained that city tap water comes from reservoirs fed by rivers and/or springs and is therefore acceptable for use in a mikveh. Despite the approbations he received from the aforementioned great scholars, the author’s proposal was not accepted by the overwhelming majority of poskim of the time, nor by those of subsequent generations.

It Beats Writing Trashy Movies in Hollywood: Part 3

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Before setting off to the Holy Land, I decided to visit my parents for a week, since who knew how long I was going to be in Israel? The first morning at home, my Dad called from work, saying that he bumped into an old friend of mine who wanted to see me. So I drove over to the bookstore where the guy worked. As I am talking to him about my upcoming trip to Israel, a very attractive woman enters the store and starts browsing up and down the aisles. “That’s a coincidence,” he says. “She’s an Israeli.”

After a few minutes, she came to the cash register, holding a book on Kabbalah. When my friend introduced us, her face lit up, ecstatic to meet the writer of the popular novel that everyone in my hometown was talking about. Nationwide, sales had been disappointing, but in my hometown everyone had read it, certain that the novel’s characters and scandalous intrigues were based on an all-star cast of community locals. When my friend told her that I was on my way to Israel, she invited me to her apartment, saying she would give me the names and phone numbers of a lot of influential friends. Her divorced husband, she said, was a TV celebrity who knew everyone in Israel. When we arrived at her pad, she excused herself, saying she wanted to change into something more comfortable.

“Uh oh,” I thought.

At that time, I hadn’t yet reached the story about Yosef and Potifar’s wife, so I had to resist her charms on my own. It was another miracle.

Oh come off it. Don’t be such a party pooper,” she said when I explained that I was becoming religious. “You’re too good looking to be a rabbi.”

At least God was pleased that I passed the test. I was rewarded with a long list of names of people in Israel, one being an old lady in Jerusalem, an incredibly holy tzaddekis, like a prophetess out of the past, who let me stay at her home, as if I were part of the family. Every morning, she would wake me at five and push me out the door, tefillin in hand, to pray at the Kotel.

Once again, to make a long story short, on that first visit, before I became involved with Volunteers for Israel, like I described in my first two blogs for The Jewish Press, I traveled all over the country looking for God. I prayed at the gravesites of all of the tzaddikim and holy rabbis of the past, dunked myself in the Arizal’s chilly mountain-spring mikvah again and again, and hung out for hours at the Kotel whenever I was in Jerusalem. A lot of times, the famous Rabbi Schuster would approach me and ask if I wanted to learn in yeshiva, but I always said no, I was looking for God. See what a knucklehead I was! From my studies about yoga, I still thought that God was to be found on some high mountaintop, not in room filled with books.

One thing was certain. I knew I had to make Israel my home. Everything here was Jewish. The language, the street signs, the food, the bus drivers, the soldiers, the cities, the deserts and Biblical landscapes of old. Even though God was everywhere, back in those days I hadn’t learned how to see Him, so not knowing how to begin a new life in Israel, I went back to America, returned to New York, and started learning Hebrew at the Jewish Agency Building in Manhattan. That’s when I met Meir Indor and Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, like I wrote, gave up my writing career, and spent the next two years helping them recruit volunteers to Israel.

So when I finally made aliyah, I knew lots of people, and was already half “Israeli”. I lived in Jerusalem with the saintly old lady I had met on my first visit, and spent my days running around with Rabbi Hazani, designing street posters and helping him with the campaign to free the Jewish Underground until he dragged me to the Machon Meir Yeshiva, sat me down with the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Dov Begun, and told him to make sure I learned Hebrew and Torah for at least one full year before letting me out of the building.

Holy Mission Carried Out in Hermon Closed Military Zone

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Seven men – including 4 rabbis – happened upon by an Israeli paratrooper in a closed military zone on the Hermon mountains on Monday, were on a mission of their own – to safeguard the sanctity of the Jews of the city of Metulla.

The Jewish Press’s Yishai Fleisher was on patrol during reserve duty with his paratrooper battalion on the snow-topped Hermon mountains when he happened upon an unexpected group of men. “As I was patrolling, I saw a group of people who were clearly Hareidi Jews using pitchforks on the snow, and approached them to ask what they were doing.”

As it turns out, the men – all of whom had military clearance to be in the area – were representatives of Israel’s National Center for Family Purity, and had made the trek to the Hermon to gather snow for a mikvah (ritual bath).

“The men informed me that they had clearance to be in the closed military zone for the purpose of collecting the snow for the people of Metulla,” Fleisher said.

Scraping the snow

It all began when the water of the mikvah of Metulla became dirty and had to be emptied.  The local religious authorities hoped that the water would be refilled by a late spring rain, but that rain never came.  Not knowing how to solve the problem, and wanting to provide the 1,500 residents of Metulla the ability to sanctify themselves in the ritual waters, as laid out in Jewish law and practice, the Rabbi of Metulla called Rabbi Shaya Pfoyfer of the Family Purity Center.

With a team of 3 additional rabbis and 3 workers, Rabbi Pfoyfer made arrangements to come to the Hermon, to collect snow for the mikvah.  Jewish law requires that mikvah water be “living” – rain or snow.  However, the means by which this water can be collected are laden with legal requirements and technicalities, necessitating supervision by religious authorities.

Rabbis collecting snow for the Metulla mikvah

Because the snow cannot be carried in vats or other closed containers, which would render it “non-living”, or drawn, huge construction materials sacks were marred by a series of rips in the bottom, to allow the snow to be collected in an incomplete vessel, and retain its “living” status.  The snow was not shoveled into the bags – which would have yet again compromised its “living” nature, but rather knocked off of snow drifts into the bags with pitchforks.

After 2 hours, 1500 liters of snow were collected in about 15 huge, ripped sacks, which rested on wooden palates.  The palates were forklifted onto a waiting refrigerated truck and transported to Metulla for the mikvah.

A sack of snow collected for the Metullah mikvah

 

“I took a few pictures of them, and I asked if I could join in and help fill a few bags, so that I could take part in this beautiful mitzvah,” Fleisher said.  “The Hermon is a beautiful place, but taking part in this mitzvah made it all the more meaningful.  Thank God for this year’s snowfall, which continues to be important for Israel and the Jewish people.”

Yishai Fleisher

The Hermon mountains are mentioned a few places in the Tanach, but the first mention is in Devarim (Deuteronomy), Chapter 3, Verse 8-9: “At that time we took the land from the hand of the two kings of the Amorite that were on the other side of the Jordan, from Arnon Brook to Mount Hermon – Sidonians would refer to Hermon as Sirion, and the Amorites would call it Senir”. Rashi, the great Torah commentator, notes in these passages that the names given to the Hermon by other nations were relevant because four nations contended for control of the Hermon, each giving the peaks a different name.  The Torah notes this, according to Rashi, to show how desired the Land was.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/holy-mission-carried-out-in-hermon-closed-military-zone/2012/04/25/

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