Two complimentary reasons emerge when contemplating the various times we are instructed to go to the mikvah, the Jewish ritual bath. The Torah prescribes going to the mikvah in order to become ritually pure after a temporary state of ritual impurity, or when a person or object changes status, such as when a non-Jew converts or when a vessel changes ownership from a non-Jew to a Jew. Though not a decree from the Torah, many men go to a mikvah at the end of the six days of the week in preparation to enter Shabbat or before a holiday. A bride immerses before her wedding day as do many grooms. All the above reasons have in common their being times of transition, from one spiritual state to another.
Impurity in the Torah centers on coming in contact in some manner with death. To become pure one immerses totally in the “living waters” of the mikvah, where life “swallows up death,” and thus the transition to a state of purity is completed. In order to fully enact the above mentioned transitions in status one must also immerse in the living waters of the mikvah, whose experience raises one to new levels of consciousness.
When the letters of the word mikvah (mem, kuf, vav, heh) are rearranged they spell komah, meaning “standing” or “full stature.” Paradoxically, to attain our full spiritual stature and return to our true essential selves, we must strip ourselves of all extraneous physical and spiritual clothing and immerse, naked of ego in the living waters of the mikvah. This “return to the womb” experience reconnects us to the source of life and its rejuvenating energy. From the primordial state of nothingness is born a rectified ego and the ability to transform our raw potential into actual. In this way the mikvah allegorically mirrors God’s creation of the universe “something from nothing.” When the letters of the name of God (aleph, heh and yod, heh,), usually translated as “I will be that I will be” are spelled out fully they equal 151, the numerical equivalent of the word mikvah. This name of God in its simple translation represents potential coming into its full expression or stature. The mikvah experience engenders within our very essence the ability to reveal to ourselves and the world our full potential.
The three letter root of the word mikvah (kuf, vav, heh) means “hope.” In Hebrew, the letter mem preceding a root word indicates “place,” in this case a mikvah can understood to be the place where hope is actualized. Our ultimate hope and salvation comes from submerging our entire beings in the life force of God surrounding and filling us. When we can truly feel this level of the Divine Presence in our lives, then we are full of hope and optimism. The very tangible experience of being submerged in the waters of the mikvah creates the conducive conditions to facilitate such an inner transformation. The mikvah symbolizes death giving way to life, the place where hope is aroused and strengthened, potential is awakened and reaches its full stature and where we can rise from level to level in an unending spiritual ascent of the soul.