Literally, a “collection,” a “collected mass,” especially of water (Genesis 1:10; Exodus 7:19; Leviticus 11:36; comp. Isaiah 22:11). Because of the use made of this word in connection with ritual purification (Leviticus 11:36), it has become the term commonly used to designate the ritual bath. In all cases of ritual impurity it was necessary for the person or object to be immersed in a bath built in accordance with the rules laid down by the Rabbis (see Ablution; Baths; Purity). Since the Dispersion the custom of observing the laws of purity has on the whole fallen into desuetude, except in the case of the impure woman (see Niddah). With regard to her the laws are still observed in most Orthodox communities, and therefore the ritual miḳweh is still a necessary institution there. Some observant Jews, especially among the Ḥasidim, immerse themselves in the miḳweh in cases also of impurity other than niddah.

In order to be ritually fit for use, the miḳweh must contain sufficient water to cover entirely the body of a man of average size. The Rabbis estimated that the miḳweh should be 3 cubits long, 1 cubit wide, and 1 cubit deep (= 44,118.375 widths of the thumb; Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 201, 1), containing 40 se'ahs of water (‘Er. 4b; Yoma 31a; et al.; comp. Pes. R. 82b). The se'ah is described as a measure holding 144 eggs (Num. R. 18:17), i.e., 24 logs (= 24 pints = 3 gallons approximately; see Weights and Measures), so that the miḳweh must contain at least 120 gallons of water.

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Author: Jewish Encyclopedia

Keywords: Mikweh, ritual bath, purity, bath, bathing, purification, ritual purification, water purification, immersion, immerse, baptism, baptise, baptize, baptized, baptised, ablution

Bible reference(s): Exodus 7:19, Leviticus 11:36, Isaiah 22:11

Source: Isidore Singer (editor), The Jewish Encyclopedia (12 Volumes), (1906).

Page indexed by: inWORD Bible Software.