Is there a problem with a Jew immersing him/herself in a mikvah or river area (such as the area in the Jordan River) that was previously used for avodah zarah, e.g. for baptizing? I am talking about using the specific area of the river / lake, etc. where baptisms regularly occur. May one use that area during the time that a Baptism is not occurring, but may occur, later? For that matter, can s/he use it while the baptism occurs, and if so, how far away does s/he need to be?

If a mikvah is invalidated - is that permanently, or can its use be restored by changing the water or doing something else?

  • 5
    Can idolators claim something like a natural river?
    – ezra
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 18:14
  • 2
    The ocean has been used for Avoda Zara. Certainly some Christian was baptized in the ocean at some point a long time ago. But it's assumed to be a valid Mikvah in the Talmud.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 18:22
  • @DoubleAA I'm well aware of that. My question is regarding the exact location where the baptism occurred, or regularly occurs, such as the location at the Jordan River which is used as a regular Baptism site. Can one do it there while a Baptism is not currently occurring? Let me know if that aspect is unclear in my question.
    – DanF
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 18:25
  • 3
    The sun was worshipped as a god too, so I try to avoid doing anything outdoors. I have a similar outlook with how the Romans and the Greeks viewed sports and physical activity. :P Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 19:02
  • 1
    Are you suggesting one Mikvah could have kosher and non kosher parts to it? Which part would be invalidated? The water molecules which touch the idol worshipper? The water molecules over the dirt which was under the idol worshipper?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


A private mikvah used for baptism would be prohibited. As per BT Avodah Zarah p.58B and 59A, though, a body of water in the public domain cannot become prohibited, see discussion below:

ר"ל איקלע לבצרה חזא ישראל דקאכלי פירי דלא מעשרי ואסר להו חזא מיא דסגדי להו עובדי כוכבים ושתו ישראל ואסר להו

§ Reish Lakish happened to come to Bozrah, a town east of the Jordan. He saw Jews who were eating untithed produce and he deemed the produce prohibited to them. He also saw water to which gentiles bowed down and yet Jews drank the water, and he deemed the water prohibited to them.

אתא לקמיה דרבי יוחנן א"ל אדמקטורך עלך זיל הדר בצר לאו היינו בצרה ומים של רבים אין נאסרין

Reish Lakish came before Rabbi Yoḥanan and told him about the incident. Rabbi Yoḥanan said to Reish Lakish: While your coat [addemiktorakh] is still on you, go and retract your rulings. This is because the town of Bezer which is mentioned among the cities of refuge (Deuteronomy 4:43) is not the same as Bozrah. Bozrah is not part of Eretz Yisrael, and one is not obligated to separate tithes from its produce. The water is also permitted as it is water that belongs to the public, and water that belongs to the public is not rendered prohibited.

רבי יוחנן לטעמיה

The Gemara notes that Rabbi Yoḥanan conforms to his standard line of reasoning,

59a דא"ר יוחנן משום ר"ש בן יהוצדק מים של רבים אין נאסרין הא דיחיד נאסרין

as Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak: Water that belongs to the public is not rendered prohibited. The Gemara infers that since water that belongs to the public is permitted, therefore, in a case where gentiles bow to water that is owned by an individual it is rendered prohibited.

ותיפוק ליה דהא מחוברין נינהו לא צריכא דתלשינהו גלא

The Gemara challenges: But Rabbi Yoḥanan could derive that even water owned by an individual is permitted, as the water is connected to the ground, and worshipping an object that is connected to the ground does not render it prohibited. The Gemara explains: No, it is necessary to derive this halakha from the fact that the water belongs to the public in a case where a wave raised the water and detached it from the ground. In this case worshipping water owned by an individual would render it prohibited.

סוף סוף אבני הר שנדלדלו נינהו תסתיים דר' יוחנן דאמר אסורות

The Gemara challenges: Nevertheless, the water ultimately falls into the category of objects that were detached without human involvement, such as boulders of a mountain that dislodged on their own. The Gemara (46a) cites a dispute between Rabbi Yoḥanan and the sons of Rabbi Ḥiyya with regard to boulders that dislodged without human involvement and were then worshipped, and does not conclude who deems the boulders permitted and who deems them prohibited. May it be concluded from Rabbi Yoḥanan’s statement that it is Rabbi Yoḥanan who says that the boulders are prohibited?

Text and translation Sefaria


To add to @Josh K’s excellent answer, the Shulchan Aruch paskens like that Gemara (YD 145:1):

כָּל שֶׁאֵין בּוֹ תְּפִיסַת יַד אָדָם וְלֹא עֲשָׂהוּ אָדָם, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּעֱבַד, הֲרֵי זֶה מֻתָּר בַּהֲנָאָה. לְפִיכָךְ הַמִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לָהָר, לֹא נֶאֱסַר. וַאֲפִלּוּ אַבְנֵי הַר שֶׁנִּדַּלְדְּלוּ, וַעֲדַיִן הֵם בִּמְקוֹמָם וַעֲבָדָם שָׁם, אֵינָן נֶאֱסָרִין. וְכֵן הַנְּהָרוֹת וְהַמַּעְיָנוֹת שֶׁל רַבִּים וְאִילָנוֹת שֶׁלֹּא נְטָעָן לְשֵׁם עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים, אֵינָם נֶאֱסָרִים. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא נֶאֱסַר גּוּף הָאִילָן כְּשֶׁמִּשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לוֹ, כָּל הַשָּׂרִיגִים וְהֶעָלִים וְהַפֵּרוֹת שֶׁיּוֹצִיא כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהוּא נֶעֱבָד, אֲסוּרִים בַּהֲנָאָה.

Anything which no individual has rights to [loose translation] and which no person created, even if it was served, it is still permissible to benefit from it. Therefore, one who bows to a mountain, it is not forbidden; even the rocks of the mountain that were chiseled, and they are still in their place and served there, are not forbidden. Similarly, rivers and springs that belong to the public, and trees which were not planted for idolatry, are not forbidden. Nevertheless, even though the tree itself isn’t forbidden when someone bows to it, all the twigs and leaves and fruit which come from it the entire time it’s worshipped are forbidden from benefit.

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