web analytics
September 4, 2015 / 20 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘mikvah’

Modified Conversion Bill Goes To Cabinet Instead and Approved

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

After much political backroom dealing, a highly controversial conversion bill was enacted by a Cabinet decision, instead of becoming law through Knesset vote.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah) had proposed a bill to the Knesset that would completely change how conversions were processed in Israel. Among the changes were the kind of religious court that could approve of conversions and the religious denominations of the conversion rabbis.

Haredi parties, and a large faction of Habayit Hayehudi strongly opposed the bill.

Both Chief Rabbis had already instructed the Prime Minister’s office that they would not recognize converts under the bill as Jewish. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau had also warned that foreign religious courts may no longer recognize Israeli conversions, if the bill was passed.

In what is seen as a political move, Prime Minister Netanyahu had a revised bill brought for a Cabinet approval, avoiding a vote in the Knesset on the full extended bill. Should the Knesset bill have passed, it would have threatened the current governing coalition – coalition members Hatnuah and Yesh Atid backed the bill, while Netanyahu’s Likud party, and coalition member Habayit Hayehudi, vehemently opposed it.

The revised proposal is seen as a compromise, and will leave the coalition intact.

While a Cabinet decision allows the reform to go into effect immediately, it would also be easier to cancel in the future should a need arise.

The revisions include a requirement for the Chief Rabbi’s approval for a municipal rabbi’s conversion (missing in Stern’s bill), and no recognition for Reform and Conservative conversions (which were possible in Stern’s bill).

The basic platform of the bill, allowing municipal rabbis to convene conversion courts, remains in the Cabinet proposal.

Following the cabinet vote, in which only Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) voted against the measure, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he wouldn’t accept the decision.

Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett said the compromise bill was balanced and in accordance with Jewish law.

The proposal seeks to make conversion an easier process – until now, all conversions had to be brought to the central Rabbanut conversion court. There have been complaints about the process, while others have raised questions about the potential validity of conversions performed by rabbis separately. The issue is a hot button topic in Israeli politics, as there are currently an estimated 330,000 Israelis who are not considered Jewish according to religious law.

Another Synagogue, Mikvah Destruction Ahead in Judea-Samaria

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Settlers in Judea, Samaria and the Binyamin region are getting ready for government forces intent on more demolitions. This time a synagogue and mikvah are among the targets.

Leaders of the Residents’ Council of Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council) have been negotiating for six months with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and other officials over the looming destruction. The problem stems from a High Court of Justice order forcing the state to demolish 28 buildings said not to be constructed according to code or built “on private Palestinian land.”

Similar orders are rarely issued, let alone carried out against the thousands of illegally-constructed Bedouin and Arab structures dotting the Israeli landscape within the 1949 Armstice lines (known as the “pre-1967 lines,) let alone the hundreds of thousands carpeting the hillsides in those in the disputed territory of Area C.

All but three of the targeted Jewish structures have since been rebuilt to meet the demands of the state.

But authorities have been ordered to demolish those last three that have yet to meet the regulations. They include a synagogue and a mikvah and are to be destroyed by May 18, this Friday, Ynet reported Wednesday. Since the IDF allegedly does not carry out expulsions on Shabbat, it is expected the evictions will begin on Thursday.

It is expected that orders declaring the surrounding area a “closed military zone” will be issued within the next 24-48 hours in order to prevent interference from protesters.

Hundreds of IDF soldiers, Border Guard personnel and police officers are preparing for the operation along with the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT). Generally roadblocks leading into the affected areas are placed to prevent others from coming to the aid of those being evicted.

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/community/my-machberes/my-machberes-16/2012/05/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: