Jachter's Halacha Files
(and other Halachic compositions)
A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Toldot 4 Kislev 5763 November 9, 2002 Vol.12 No.5
The Building and Maintenance of Mikvaot
- Part Five
Five Approaches to Creating a Mikva
by Rabbi Howard Jachter
We have outlined, in the previous two issues, the procedure for creating Mikvaot. People immerse in a pool of tap water that is fundamentally unsuitable for immersion. We render the tap water suitable for immersion through the process of either Hashaka or Zeria. Hashaka involves touching the tap water in the immersion pool to the rainwater in an adjacent pool (Bor Hashaka) and Zeria involves running tap water through a pool containing rainwater, which subsequently enters the immersion pool. This week we will outline five approaches to creating a Kosher Mikva.
and Rav Moshe Feinstein Approach- Hashaka and Zeria
Last week we discussed that the traditional practice in Jerusalem and the approach advocated by Rav Moshe Feinstein is to employ both the process of Hashaka and Zeria. We employ Zeria in addition to Hashaka as a back up in case of failure in the execution of the Hashaka process. Zeria alone does not suffice because it appears to fail to satisfy the opinion of the Raavad that more than twenty Saah (five hundred liters) of the original rainwater must remain in the pool to be suitable to Kasher Mayim Sheuvim ("drawn water" that is unacceptable for immersion, such as water from the tap). We refer this issue as the opinion of the Raavad concerning Natan Saah Venatal Saah. The Jerusalem tradition and Rav Moshe believe that the use of a Bor Hashaka satisfies this opinion of the Raavad, because the water in the Bor Hashaka is more stable than that of the Bor Zeria.
and Bnai Brak Approach - Zeria Alone
Last week we also discussed that the approach in prewar Hungary (following the Chatam Sofer) and Bnai Brak (following the Chazon Ish) is to use the Zeria approach and not the Hashaka approach in creating Mikvaot. The advocates of this approach believe that Hashaka is unnecessary, as it cannot accomplish more than Zeria. They believe that the process of Hashaka does not satisfy the opinion of the Raavad concerning Natan Saah Venatal Saah any more than the process of Zeria. They believe that the original rainwater in the Bor Hashaka will soon be removed in the exchange of water that occurs between the immersion pool and the Bor Hashaka. They are not concerned that their approach does not satisfy the opinion of the Raavad as most Rishonim reject this opinion and the Shulchan Aruch and most of its commentaries rule against the Raavad. Even Rav Mose Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Yoreh Deah 1:111) notes that the Raavad's view constitutes a Daat Yachid (a singular opinion) that we strive to satisfy, but it is not critical to the Kashrut of a Mikva.
Chaim Approach - Zeria and Momentary Hashaka
Some Mikvaot employ an approach that is based on a responsum of Rav Chaim of Sanz (Teshuvot Divrei Chaim Choshen Mishpat 37). This approaches seeks to satisfy all opinions by employing both Zeria and a momentary Hashaka. A momentary Hashaka involves the opening between the Bor Hashaka and immersion pool being closed, save for a brief moment when it is opened to allow the waters to touch. In this manner, the original rainwater in the Bor Hashaka is preserved. It is primarily, as noted by the Chazon Ish, during the time when people immerse that water is exchanged between the two pools as immersions cause the water to rise. Thus, there is hardly any opportunity for the original rainwater in the Bor Hashakh to be lost if the opening is closed during immersion.
A problem with this approach is that the Shach rules (as we discussed in a previous issue) that it is best that the opening between the pools be open during the time of immersion in order to satisfy the opinion cited by Rabbeinu Yerucham that a momentary Hashaka is inadequate. A response to this argument is that the Shulchan Aruch and most of its commentaries rule in accordance with the opinion of the Rosh that even a momentary Hashaka suffices. Moreover, we satisfy the opinion cited by the Rabbeinu Yerucham by using the Zeria process. Zeria is performed to satisfy those who believe that momentary Hashaka is inadequate.
Most Mikvaot do not employ the Divrei Chaim approach because they believe that the opinion of the Raavad is the conceptual equivalent of that of Rabbeinu Yerucham. Rabeinu Yerucham (as explained by many Acharonim, including Rav Chaim Soloveitchik) believes that the tap water remains fundamentally inadequate for immersion unless it is actively connected with a Kosher rainwater pool. Those who disagree believe that the tap water is fundamentally transformed from disqualified water to Kosher water at the moment of contact with the Kosher rainwater pool. Thus, it need not maintain its connection to the Kosher rainwater pool. Similarly, those who reject the Raavad believe that a majority of the original rainwater need not be present in the Bor Zeria since the tap water that enters the Bor Hashaka is transformed into Kosher water. The Raavad is strict because he believes that the disqualified water fundamentally remains not Kosher, and is Kashered only because of its contact with the original rainwater. Thus, the Divrei Chaim method might not satisfy the Raavad because the Raavad seems to agree with Rabbeinu Yerucham that a momentary Hashaka is inadequate. The issue of whether the Raavad's view is conceptually identical with the Rabbeinu Yerucham is vigorously debated among the Acharonim. Teshuvot Tzemach Tzedek Y.D. 171, Teshuvot Amek Sheeilah Y.D. 48, and Gidulei Taharah (responsum number 10) argue that the two opinions are identical and Teshuvot Beit Shlomo (2:Y.D. 68), Teshuvot Maharshag (1:65), Teshuvot Divrei Yoel (Y.D. 71), and Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 3:63) argue that the two opinions are not identical. For a summary of this debate see Rav Yirmiyah Katz' Mikva Mayim 1:47-52).
Mikva - "Bor Al Gabei Bor" Style of Hashaka
Rav Shalom Baer Schneersohn, who served as the Lubavitcher Rebbe from 1866-1920 (known to Chassidim as "The Rebbe Rashab") innovated a new style of creating Mikvaot. This has become the standard manner of creating Mikvaot for Lubavitch Chassidim and is commonly referred to as the "Lubavitcher Mikva". This innovation generated an incredibly vigorous debate that is summarized by Rav Katz in his Mikva Mayim (1:53-88). Rav Shalom Ber's instructions for creating a Mikva were recorded by his student Rav Yaakov Landa (who served for many years as the Rav of Bnai Brak) and appear in Rav Nissin Telushkin's Taharat Mayim.
Traditionally the hole that connects the immersion pool with the Bor Hashaka is on the sidewall of the Mikva. Rav Shalom Ber introduced the concept of placing the Bor Hashaka on the bottom of the immersion pool and the hole between the Mikvaot on the bottom of the immersion pool. Rav Shalom Ber also added that two holes should be made at the bottom of the Mikva, to insure constant contact between the two pools in case someone steps on one of the holes. He also added that the holes should be the size of a Tefach (handbreadth, four inches) by a Tefach instead of a Shfoferet Hanod (the opening of a container, one and a half inches to three inches) as in taught in the Mishna. The reason for this requirement remains a mystery although many have attempted to offer explanations (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 5:23, Teshuvot Shevet Halevi 2:104, and Mikva Mayim 1:65-66).
These innovations attain at least three very significant achievements. First, it eliminates the concern that the caretaker of the Mikva would forget to open the hole between the immersion pool and the water storage pool, because the hole is always open. Second, it eliminates concern that the water in the immersion pool should be filled to the height of the hole in the sidewall of the Mikva. Third, it seems to satisfy the Raavad's requirement that the original rainwater remain in the Bor Hashaka. This is because the water in the immersion pool is heated and the water in the Bor Hashaka is not heated (because no one immerses there). Hot water rises, cold water falls, and thus there is little concern that the rainwater in the Bor Hashaka will be lost. Moreover, the expense for creating a Mikva is greatly reduced as there is no need for more than two pools of water and there is less need for land as the Bor Hashaka is built on the bottom of the immersion pool. This makes this type of Mikva ideal for Lubavitchers who engage in outreach in remote corners of the globe and need an easier way to build and manage a Mikva.
Although this approach appears to be ideal, it has met considerable opposition. The Teshuvot Divrei Chaim (2:88), in a celebrated responsum, criticizes this approach. He cites the Mishna (Taharot 8:9) that states "Katafres Eino Chibbur," water that is flowing along a slope into a Mikva is not considered to be attached to the Mikva. The Divrei Chaim argues that this rule teaches that waters are considered to be Halachically combined only if they lay side-by-side but not one above the other.
Many Poskim defended the Mikva of Rav Shalom Ber from the criticism of the Divrei Chaim. The Gulot Aliyot (a major work on the Halachot of Mikva), section four, argues that the rule of Katafress Bino Chibbur applies only when the water is flowing on a slope and not when the two pools are stationary. Rav Shlomo Ganzfried (the author of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch who wrote an authoritative work on Hilchot Mikvaot entitled Lechem Vesimlah) argues (Simlah 98) that Katafress Eino Chibbur does not apply when the two pools that are located one above the other are connected deliberately. The Pnai Yehoshua (in his commentary to Gittin 16a) argues that Katafress Eino Chibbur does not apply when the water that connects the two Mikvaot are from the Mikvaot themselves (as opposed to an external source). Teshuvot Chatam Sofer (Y.D.96) argues that this rule does not apply if there is abundant water that connects the two Mikvaot.
Moreover, it seems that even the Divrei Chaim would accept the Lubavitch Mikva as they are commonly constructed. First, the Divrei Chaim writes (in his introduction to Hilchot Mikvaot number five) that we do not say Katafress Eino Chibbur when the water has had its status as Mayim Sheuvim mitigated to a Rabbinic level disqualification by the process of Hamshacha (a process that we described at length in an earlier issue). In fact, the Rash in his commentary to the Mishna (Mikvaot 6:8) states that we do not say Katafress Eino Chibbur if the water is disqualified only on a Rabbinic level. Recall that the Hamshacha process is a standard feature of most Mikvaot today.
Furthermore, when the two Mikvaot lie directly upon each other with only the separation of a floor, even the Divrei Chaim seems to agree that the Mikva is Kosher. This is because in this situation we do not have two Mikvaot that need to be connected. Rather, we regard the two pools conceptually as one large pool. Indeed, four major authorities on Hilchot Mikvaot accept this type of Mikva without qualification - Rav Meir Arik (Teshuvot Imrei Yosher 2:73), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 3:65) the Satmar Rav (Teshuvot Divrei Yoel Y.D. 80), and Dayan Weisz (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 2:92). In practice, Lubavitch Mikvaot are created in this manner. In fact, in many communities the Mikva built for Tevilat Keilim is built on this principle even if the regular Mikva in that community is not. A motivation for this is usually economic, as there is not as great a need to be as strict regarding a Mikva for Tevilat Keilim as for a regular Mikva.
Breisch - The Split Level Bor Hashaka
Rav Yaakov Breisch (when he built a Mikva in Zurich in 1959) introduced a manner of creating a Mikva that attempts to satisfy the Raavad's requirement that more than twenty Saah of the original rainwater be preserved in the Mikva. His Mikva (as he describes in his Teshuvot Chelkat Yaakov 3:53) contains both a Bor Zeria and a Bor Hashaka. However, he had a very large Bor Hashaka (that contains more than twice the required amount of rainwater) filled with rainwater. He subsequently placed a fiberglass sheet with a tiny hole in the middle of the Bor Hashaka to create two Mikvaot. The upper Bor Hashaka is connected to the immersion pool while the bottom Mikva of the Bor Hashaka is not. Thus, even if one accepts the Chazon Ish's contention that the Bor Hashaka loses its original rainwater, the bottom Mikva in the Bor Hashaka should retain the original rainwater.
In effect, Rav Breisch improves upon the Lubavitch Mikva, in that his Mikva also has a Hashaka from side to side and since no one enters the top Mikva in the Bor Hashaka chances are even greater that the rainwater in the bottom Mikva will be preserved. Moreover, the two Mikvaot in the Bor Hashaka are connected by only a tiny opening, which even further reduces the opportunity for the original rainwater to be lost. The reason why a tiny hole is sufficient is that the hole is not making disqualified water Kosher, rather it is maintaining a connection between two bodies of waters that were once connected and started as Kosher. The Rosh (commentary to Mikvaot 6:8) states that the need for a hole the size of a Shfoferet Hanod applies only when the Kosher water in one Mikva is needed to Kasher disqualified water in a second Mikva.
Rav Breisch's innovation has been generally well received. Many Mikvaot throughout the world are built on this system (with some minor variations in some places). Dayan Weisz (Rav Breisch's "Mechutan") accepted this approach and implemented it in the Mikva he built in Manchester in 1957 (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 2:23). Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 3:65), though, argued that although this Mikva is Kosher, it does not satisfy the opinion of the Raavad any more so than a traditional Bor Hashaka. Rav Moshe argues that the Gemara's principle of Yeish Bilah (Zevachim 80), that waters that touch are considered to mix completely, runs counter to Rav Breisch's assertion that the water in the bottom Mikva does not mix with the top Mikva. Rav Moshe even believes that the principle of Yeish Bilah overrides empirical evidence (from a test conducted with dye) that water from the bottom Mikva does not mix with the top Mikva. Rav Nissin Telushkin (Taharat Mayim p.270) and Rav Yirmiyah Katz (Mikva Mayim 67-70 and 99-106), on the other hand, criticize Rav Moshe's application of this principle to Rav Breisch's Mikva. For further discussion of this Mikva also see Rav Moshe Shternbuch's Moadim Uuzmanim (4:310) and Mikva Mayim (1:107-124).
It is important to note that each of the five styles of Mikvaot that we have described are Kosher beyond a doubt. Indeed, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 1:111 and 3:65) states that all five variations of creating a Mikva are undoubtedly Kosher. The only question is whether certain stringencies are satisfied in a more effective manner in one style or another. We hope that this five part series on Mikvaot has been enlightening for our readers. We hope that it has opened our readers' eyes to the profoundly rich literature pertaining to the Halachot of Mikvaot. Indeed, the great Halachic authorities of all generations have expended great energy discussing and probing the Halachot of Mikvaot to insure that our Mikvaot be created and maintained at the highest possible Halachic standards.
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