| Second Thoughts |

A Mikveh in the Bathtub

The latest — if not the silliest — effort of extreme leftist Jews to bowdlerize traditional Jewish norms


To paraphrase an old epigram: If you need a hint of how deep eternity is, consider the depths of ultra-liberal Jewish absurdity. This comes to mind when I read that a leftist Jewish group has now adopted the mikveh as their own (Times of Israel, 1/17/22). However, it is not actually a mikveh per se; any amount of ordinary water poured over the body will do. Thus, “kohenes —priestess” of this group pours a cup of tap-water over you and declares you purified.

The group explains that they have “expanded” the concept of mikveh and made it more “inclusive.” No longer is mikveh reserved for special times of the month or for serious conversions. Now it can be used for celebrations like Bar and Bas-Mitzvahs, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations.

Unlike the traditional ones, these inclusive mikvaot do not require natural rainwater or special construction. Even your home bathtub will do. And as the ultimate in inclusivity, you don’t even have to be Jewish. In the words of their founders, the Project is “a grassroots initiative seeking to transform the traditional mikveh practice into a communal experience.”

This is but the latest — if not the silliest — effort of extreme leftist Jews to bowdlerize traditional Jewish norms. Which prompts this little note to them:

To The Leadership of the Mikveh Project: If you want to start a new religion, go right ahead, but please keep your hands off mine, and don’t call your religion Judaism. My religion goes back to Abraham and Moses and Sinai. Yours goes back to the latest fashionable argot of the liberal press and the “woke” left.

Incidentally, American blacks and Indians are resentful when white people use rituals and ceremonies that are borrowed from indigenous sources. They call this cultural appropriation, and you would be the first to support them. But is not this what you are doing? You are appropriating rituals whose only criterion is that they appeal to you. The latest victim is your voodoo water rite that can be performed with ordinary tap water. You have the right to utilize water in any way you like, but please do not call this parody a mikveh.

You want to have a day of rest each week? Fine. But your Friday night bonfires and guitars and holding hands and swaying and humming might be soothing, but please do not call this gimmickry “oneg Shabbat.”

You require a leader to guide you? This is your right, but please do not call him or her “rabbi.” That honorific has a venerable history, involving genuine piety, serious learning, familiarity with Mishnah and Talmud and halachah. But you place a pretty little knitted yarmulke on someone’s head, and because that someone knows a bit of Hebrew, they are called “rabbi.” Find yourself a leader, but create a new title for him/her. Please keep your hands off my sacred nomenclature.

You want your leader to wear a prayer-shawl? Please do not call it a tallis. In an authentic tallis it is not the wool fabric that is crucial; what matters are the tzitzis fringes on its four corners, which are to be made, tied, and affixed in a certain halachic way. But you take any colorful shawl, attach strings and tassels at the edges, and call it a “tallis” for your “rabbis.”

You read from a sefer Torah in your prayer meetings, evidently because you consider it holy. But this is deceptive, because you pick and choose from it. That which appeals to you, you accept (with your own improvements) and that which does not conform to your tastes and you find “exclusionary,” you ignore or discard. Why make a mockery of the holy Torah, when for you it is merely a meaningless, cut-and-paste totem? There is no cultural misappropriation more egregious than this.

If you choose to celebrate same-gender marriages, no one can stop you — even though this Torah that you venerate calls it “to’eivah — abomination”( Vayikra 18:22). But if you persist with such dubious liaisons, please do not use the traditional chuppah or blessings. Concoct your own symbols; hands off the authentic ones. Remember Yeshayahu’s lament about “trampling on My sacred precincts” (1:12).

I note that your pronouncements are replete with “woke” terminology such as interconnectedness, safe spaces, inclusive, oppressed, healing, and exclusionary. Curiously, certain other terms never appear: “Thou shalt” is one; “Thou shalt not” is another. Also, “G-d” is missing.

Finally, Abe Lincoln was once asked: If we call a horse’s tail a “leg,” how many legs would a horse have? “Four,” he replied, “because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it so.”

Calling your silly religion Judaism doesn’t make it so. Please find another designation; this one is already taken.

Better still, why not try immersing into authentic Judaism? Come on in: Our bona fide mikveh water’s fine. —


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 900)

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