The Rebbe who Risked his Life for Mikveh

The Rebbe who Risked his Life for Mikveh

It’s mikvah night. You park your car, plop down your money, do your preparations, dunk, and go…

It’s so easy to forget about the spiritual power of this crucial mitzvah…

So I was struck by this Mishpacha account about the Nadvorna Rebbe zt”l, who was famous for his stunning self-sacrifice for the mitzvah of mikvah.

The Rebbe became bar mitzvah in 1943 in the Dzurin labor camp. In the months leading up to his bar mitzvah, even though the Rebbe, like his fellow inmates, were gaunt from malnutrition and weak from disease, “he was drawn to purity—of body and soul—and would tovel every day in the river throughout his twelfth year; during the frozen winter months, that meant chopping away the layers of ice and enduring the freezing waters…”

I know you’ve heard this before, JewishMOM. The “cut a hole in the ice, and tovel” tsaddikim stories. But now, really imagine it. Imagine it’s mikvah night, and the mikvah lady tells you that the heating system has seriously malfunctioned, and she hands you a saw to cut through a thick layer of ice on the mikvah’s surface before you dunk. I, for one, would flee…Mikvah’s important, but not THAT important. But it is…it IS that important. Just think of this 12-year-old boy, weak and starving to death, who risked his life to dunk in the icy waters in the middle of a brutal Ukrainian winter.

The article continues: “This preparation [for the bar mitzvah] was just a foreshadowing of things to come. In 1946, on a Maapilim ship to Eretz Yisrael, he made sure to immerse every day by tying himself to a rope and climbing down the side of the ship into the raging sea—and it was this heightened sense of holiness that served the Rebbe throughout his life. His personal purification rituals elevated him to the level where he immediately picked up on the real spiritual state of everyone he met… ”

Descending over the side of a ship to dunk? Unbelievable. And his followers credit the Rebbe’s ruach hakodesh to his commitment to daily toveling…

“Purification became the Rebbe’s trademark, and the avodah of ritual immersion remained a fixture in his life until the end. Even as he was battling end-stage cancer, he would drag himself to the Mikveh with his last reserves of strength.”

Again, phenomenal, unbelievable…WOW.

When we JewishMOMs go to the Mikveh, almost certainly there’s no need to cut a hole in the ice or shimmy down the side of a ship into a raging sea or overcome the crippling pain of end-stage cancer.

But even though we just plop down our money and dunk and go, the spiritual power of this mitzvah is the same as when the Nadvorner Rebbe endured such tremendous hardship to perform it.

The only challenge WE face, in most cases, is to truly open our eyes to the earth-shaking power of this mitzvah, like the Rebbe did.

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One comment

  1. If you want to speak to Mothers, there are in fact many inspirational stories about women who did just that. Please see the book “the secret of Jewish femininity” by Tehilla Abramov and other sources for tales of women who had to make very great efforts to get to a mikve, whether by train journeys that took 2 days in each way, or indeed in freezing cold weather in Russia or even siberia, as well as what I have heard of the Lubavitach shlicha in alaska who has to take a plane journey every month

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