Symbolism behind Tevilah
What physical act could a person perform in order to symbolize a radical change of heart, a total commitment? Is there a sign so dramatic, dynamic, and all encompassing that it could represent the radical change undergone by the convert to Judaism? This was an integral part of his teshuvah (repetance) process, of his attempt at return to his original perfection. In keeping with this theme, immersion in the mikvah is described not only in terms of purification, revitalization, and rejuvenation but also– and perhaps primarily– as rebirth. The mikvah was not a work of man, it was not invented by man. God is the designer and originator of this baptism (by baptism we mean immersion). Why mikvah? In observance of mikvah we are fulfilling God’s will to sanctify our most intimate and secrete relationship it is a commandment giving by God. The single greatest gift granted by God to humankind is teshuvah– the possibility of return- to start anew and wash away the past. Teshuvah allows man to rise above the limitations imposed by the time and makes it possible to affect our life retroactively. They were all for a good conscience before God. Maimonides (and ancient rabbinical teacher) finds a symbolical significance in tevilah “The person who directs his heart to purify his soul from spiritual impurities, such as iniquitous thoughts and evil notions, becomes clean as soon as he determines in his heart to keep apart from these courses, and bathes his soul in the water of pure knowledge” This is all a part of being born again. Changing our sinful ways and turning or returning to a righteous deeds. First we must acknowledge our sins and second repent and turn from our evil ways and deeds. After that, going trough mikvah or water separates us from our past. Only then is new birth or rebirth evident by our deeds and actions. A single immersion in the mikvah late in life may appear insignificant to some, a quick and puny act. Yet coupled with dedication and awe, it is a monumental feat; it brings purity and its regenerative power not only to the present and future but even to one’s past.
The baptismal water (mikvah) in rabbinic literature was referred to as the womb of the world, and as a convert came out of the water it was considered a new birth separating him from his pagan world. As the convert came out of these waters his status was changed and he was referred to as “a little child just born” or “a child of one day” We see the New Testament using similar Jewish terms as “born anew,” “new creation” and “born from above.” Water symbolizes birth as a Jew. Baby is immersed in water in his/her mother’s womb, which connects to life, through mikvah God wants to be connected with us. The mikvah personifies both the womb and the grave; the portals to life and afterlife. The immersing Jew signals a desire to achieve oneness with the source of all life, to return to a primeval unity with God. Immersion indicates the abandonment of one form of existence to embrace one infinitely higher.
Submerging in a pool of water for the purpose not of using the water’s physical cleansing properties but expressly to symbolize a change of soul is a statement at once deeply spiritual and immensely compelling. No other symbolic act can so totally embrace a person as being submerged in water, which must touch and cover every lesion, every strand of hair, every birthmark. No other religious act is so freighted with meaning as this one which touches every aspect of life and proclaims a regards to purification, restoration, and qualification for full religious participation in the life of the community, ensuring that the cleansed person will not impose uncleanness on property or its owners. To the ancient Jew, the mikvah was a process of spiritual purification and cleansing, especially in relation to the various types of Turmah or ritual defilement when the Temple was in use. Holiness is first the product of the mikvah before it is the product of daily living and a part of a person’s character. Although the mikvah was more spiritual than physical, often the bath had two sets of steps, one entering the pool and another leaving the pool so as not to defile what had been purified. Impurity is a spiritual state of being, the absence of purity, much as darkness is the absence of light. This change of status by the mikvah could be obtained repeatedly, while water baptism, like circumcision, is in the general view of Christians, unique and not repeatable, We as human always fail and Holy Spirit Baptism is available to us and it can be repeatable if we are truly repent. The symbolism behind mikvah should not just be a metaphor for us Christians it should be a reality of our baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Something has to really happen to a person to see what God is doing. It takes something on the inside to change a person’s life, to want to live a life that’s holy and pure and righteous and reject the world.
Actually going to water (tevilah) does not give you birth. But what happens, is something takes place and an acknowledgment that you need God and are a sinner must realized. We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.
We are unclean and we can’t clean ourselves
Job 9:30; Ezekiel 16:4; Jeremiah 2:22
Only God can clean us because he is the fountain of living water
Psalm 36:9; Psalm 114:8; Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13; Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 16:9; Ezekiel 37:23
God wants our hearts
Psalms 24:4; Jeremiah 4:14
God promises abundance of Living Water
Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 41:18; Ezekiel 36:25; Joel 2:28-30; Zechariah 13:1
The one that have been washed
Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27