Many Jewish Laws today require Mikvah, such as Shabbat, YomKippur, Nidah, Conversion etc.

  1. Is Mikvah a rabbinical law or Torah law? From the Torah, we don't see the above law, however, today, it is said, we can sell Torah scrolls, synagogue etc., but we must build up a Mikvah in a Jewish community.

  2. Why?

  3. If Mikvah is not stated in Torah, is Mikvah mandatory?


2 Answers 2


Let me try to unpack this a bit. Aaron's excellent answer addresses the mechanics of what is a mikvah; I'll walk through when one needs to use one.

There are plenty of times the Torah talks explicitly about a requirement for someone to immerse in water; have a look at Lev. Chapter 15 for example. Our tradition has it that this means a mikvah. In fact the term mikvah is spelled out explicitly as such in Lev. 11:36.

So a Mikvah for Niddah is a Torah law. That's why a Jewish community needs a Mikvah immediately -- without one, married couples can't be together. This is the #1 reason for a mikvah. (In the 1940s there was a Senator Taft from Ohio who received a document from a Jewish community listing many reasons why a mikvah is so important; he looked it over and immediately realized -- correctly -- that the paramount one is so there can be family life.)

Mikvah for conversion is also a Torah law. (This one is derived from the Sinai experience, effectively a mass conversion, where it says they had to wash themselves.) But unlike Niddah, there's not the same burning need for every community to be able to do conversions any day of the year.

Beyond that -- in Temple times, people had to be ritually pure if they wanted to enter the Temple or eat a sacrifice in Jerusalem, so if you wanted to do that (and you needed to for Passover), you'd have to find a mikvah.

Today, many men have the very nice practice of dipping in a mikvah on a daily, weekly, or pre-holiday basis; this is certainly not of Biblical force and is ... well a custom with some rabbinic-law underpinnings, let's put it that way. (To oversimplify: At one point there was a rabbinic policy that the same way men had to immerse in a mikvah to eat sacrifices, they should immerse to study Torah every day.)

It is really, really important not to confuse the vital needs of the mikvah with the nice-to-haves. Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch and Moshe Feinstein both wrote that if men using the mikvah causes it to be less clean, which results in one married woman not using it -- or even makes it difficult for the women -- then get your priorities straight -- throw the men out of there! It would then be meritorious -- but not obligatory -- for the community to build a separate men's mikvah.

  • 1
    Note that the Torah does not directly state that a niddah needs to immerse.
    – Alex
    Jun 15, 2018 at 0:58
  • @Alex already discussed judaism.stackexchange.com/a/29623/21 judaism.stackexchange.com/a/38578/21 . Good points, but at the level of this question -- the Torah clearly talks about mikvah in some cases, and the typical Nida immersion is of biblical force.
    – Shalom
    Jun 15, 2018 at 1:24
  • But in your answer you jump from the Torah discussing mikvah in general to the Torah requiring it for niddah, and you don't explain how you made that jump. Considering that it is not explicit in the Torah, and the questioner actually wrote "From the Torah, we don't see the above law", perhaps you should clarify in the post how you know that mikvah is biblically necessary for a niddah, or at least link to the other posts.
    – Alex
    Jun 15, 2018 at 1:42
  • @Shalom, thank you for your unpack explanation. I think that's the right Talmudic discussion. However, I do have a question, in Tanach, Ruth, one of famous converts, didn't go through Mikvah. How do you think about this?
    – Questions
    Jun 15, 2018 at 2:29
  • 2
    @Questions How do you know she didn't?
    – Double AA
    Jun 15, 2018 at 4:17

According to the Rambam, it's a Torah law to immerse in water. One only needs enough water to submerge their whole body, and the water can be collected from any source.

Mishneh Torah Laws of Mikwa'ot Chapter 3

  1. According to Scriptural Law, it is permissible to immerse in any collected body of water, as implied by Leviticus 11:36: "a gathering of water," i.e., any gathering, provided it contains enough water for the entire body of a human being to immerse in it at one time. Our Sages measured this figure as a cubit by a cubit by a height of three cubits. This measure contains 40 se'ah of water. According to Scriptural Law, the water is acceptable whether drawn or not.

א דין תורה שכל מים מכונסין טובלין בהן שנאמר מקוה מים מ"מ והוא שיהיה בהן כדי להעלות בהן כדי טבילה לכל גוף האדם בבת אחת שיערו חכמים אמה על אמה ברום שלש אמות ושיעור זה הוא מחזיק מ' סאה מים בין שאובין בין שאינן שאובין:

However an actual "mikweh" with it's requirements on the type of water used and the amount of water is Rabbinic in origin.

  1. According to Rabbinic Law, water that is drawn is invalid for immersion. Moreover, if there was a body of water that was not drawn and three lugim of drawn water fell into it, the entire body of water is invalidated.

ב מד"ס שהמים השאובין פסולין לטבילה ולא עוד אלא מקוה מים שאינן שאובין שנפל לתוכן שלשה לוגין מים שאובין פסלו הכל

  • 2
    Notably many other Rishonim thought the rule about drawn water is actually Biblical in origin. Rambam might actually agree! You're translation of מד"ס as 'rabbinic law' is not at all obvious.
    – Double AA
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:21
  • 2
    Right, Rambam's Midivrei sofrim means something Chazal learned out, but of Biblical force.
    – Shalom
    Jun 14, 2018 at 11:54
  • relevant
    – msh210
    Jun 15, 2018 at 2:22

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