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Celebrating A New Mikvah

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Mikvah Blog
Written by Jamie Pilarczyk   
Thursday, 08 January 2009 13:15

COURIER CITY/OSCAWANA - Tucked in the back of Bais Temple David is a new addition meant to bring its Orthodox Jewish women's community into closer communion with God.

"It is a mitzvah, a commandment from God in the Torah, to keep people alive, well and holy," said Devorah Rivkin, co-director of Chabad Lubavitch of Central Florida and the local group, Young Israel of Tampa. "You feel connected to God. The reason it's used is for family purity, in order to bring holiness and spirituality into our life."

The addition - a mikvah - is a pool of water where members immerse themselves and pray. Symbolic of baptism, it is a special time for people to gain a deeper connection with God. In the Jewish faith there are mikvahs for both men and women, housed in separate facilities. The one in South Tampa is exclusively for women.

Originally established in 1978 in North Tampa, the Mikvah Israel of Tampa Bay closed for three years before opening again in the Bais Temple David, 2001 W. Swann Ave., with a mid-November ribbon cutting.

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Many of its more than 100 members contributed to the $250,000 addition, which includes a shower, vanity and has a spa-like feel. Resembling a deep, whirlpool tub, it is filled with a mixture of rain- and tap water.

Rivkin said women use the mikvah seven clean days after their period. They refrain from having relations with their husbands until after the mikvah, during which they pray for a healthy marriage, family and spiritual life.

"It's a very special feeling of spirituality and holiness," said Rivkin, making clear the point is not for cleanliness. Participants must be showered and clean before entering the mikvah. Typically done alone, the exception might be for mothers who accompany their daughters the first time they use a mikvah, which is usually the night before her wedding.

The mikvah is used by appointment and not restricted to monthly usage. Like men, women can use the mikvah on holidays, the Sabbath or even before praying.

"It creates a special feeling of spirituality and removes the physical barriers of connection with God," said Rabbi Lazer Rivkin, the regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Central Florida. He explained the word Mikvah comes from the Hebrew word for hope.

"It is a hope that we can connect to God."

Reprinted from the South Tampa News and Tribune