Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology

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Rivkah Slonim, Liz Rosenberg
J. Aronson, 1996 - Religion - 258 pages
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Within many Jewish homes, the mikvah is a fact of life closely associated with human sexuality. But because of the modesty inherent in a religious lifestyle, mikvah is rarely, if ever, the theme of public discourses or the subject of editorials. Indeed, the topic of mikvah is rarely discussed among friends or between mothers and daughters before marriage has taken place; and so it is that one of the most central and profound rites in Judaism has been lost to many. The laws of niddah (the menstruant woman) serve to elevate sexual relations from an act of self-gratification to the mitzvah of serving God. By observing the laws of niddah and mikvah, both husband and wife acknowledge that their union, month after month, is not sinful in any way, but is a sacred and joyous act symbolic of their devotion to God. For centuries, Jews have recognized the importance of the laws of purity to a marriage and have found that, in the words of the Talmud, adherence to this law will allow the wife to be "as beloved as she was at the time she entered the bridal canopy". In this collection of almost fifty pieces on mikvah, both women and men contribute their thoughts and feelings on this ancient and modern Jewish tradition. Part 1, In Theory and Practice, contains various essays that discuss mikvah and the consequences of its use from theological, philosophical, mystical, practical, and historical perspectives. Part II, Voices, offers a collection of writings that capture the attitudes and responses of women (and some men) to this rite. It presents some of the earliest prayers, speeches, and writings on the subject as well as an eclectic gathering of testimonials by contemporary women. Part III, Memoriesand Tales, offers an extensive collection of mikvah stories from the Warsaw Ghetto to Aruba, from Communist Russia to Alaska. What emerges is a beauty and depth found only in the complexity of multiplicity. Total Immersion will at once educate those who are unfamiliar with the mikvah ritual, inspire those who have, thus far, been hesitant to make this rite their own, and will reveal the blessing it bestows upon those who immerse themselves in its waters.

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