By Rabbi Yehuda Leib Altein for Anash.org
Men’s mikvaos in numerous communities are closing their doors to suppress the spread of COVID-19. This leads many to wonder: Is there anything that can be done in place of immersing in a mikvah?
The answer, in fact, is yes; there are alternatives mentioned by Poskim and in the Rebbe’s letters for situations when one cannot immerse in a mikvah.
The type of replacement depends on the reason for immersing. Sometimes a person immerses for tevilas Ezra, to leave a state of tumah. (Although tevilas Ezra is not halachically required, immersing for this purpose elevates a person’s tefillah and enhances its acceptance on High.) At other times, a person is already in a state of purity, and he immerses for tosefes taharah, to reach a higher level of purity.
In a case where you cannot immerse for tevilas Ezra, Poskim say you may replace it with pouring nine kabin(12.44 liters) of water over your head and body. This can be accomplished by taking a quick shower. Stand directly beneath the flow with your hands at your side, and allow the water to pour over your head and body for three minutes. There is no need for the water to reach your entire body, as long as the water falls on you in this manner without interruption for this length of time. (As a practical tip, set a timer so you know when three minutes have passed.) This only helps for tevilas Ezra, but not for tosefes taharah.
What alternatives are there for tosefes taharah? The Rebbe writes learning a few mishnayosfrom Seder Taharos, especially from MasechesMikvaos, can take the place of mikvah. The Rebbe emphasizes that this can only serve as an alternative for immersing for tosefes taharah, and not for tevilas Ezra.
Some sefarimmention washing one’s hands forty times (corresponding to the forty se’ahof a mikvah) as an alternative to a tevilah for tosefes taharah.
Being unable to immerse in a mikvahgives us the opportunity to focus on the mikvah’s spiritual significance. The Frierdiker Rebbe explains that integral to a mikvah are its four walls,which limit and define the mikvah’sdimensions. Similarly, a person must know when it is appropriate to express himself and when not, and whom he should allow to join him in his “space” and whom not.
The Frierdiker Rebbe continues that even if a person is unable to immerse in a mikvah due to health reasons, he could and should implement the spiritual significance of the mikvah, its “four walls.”
May all of KlalYsroelremain healthy and protected, and may we merit to see the purification of Klal Yisroel with the coming of Moshiach, teikefu’miyadmamosh!
Sources: Igros Kodesh, vol. 18, p. 153. Ibid., vol. 20, p. 93. PiskeiTeshuvos, siman 88, and sources cited there. Mateh Ephraim 606:10 and ElefLamatehthere. Igros Kodesh, vol. 9, p. 253. Sefer Hasichos5704, pp. 95–96.