intended to increase the knowledge, interest, and anticipation of the reader, thereby hastening the realization of our hopes and prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash.
Mikva'ot - Ritual Baths (III)
The Radak (R. David Kimhi, 1160–1235CE), basing himself on a passage from the Yerushalmi (Yoma 3:5), postulates that the legs of the oxen were hollow and that the aqueduct water circulated through them coursing into the "molten sea" and draining out through the hollow legs of other oxen, thus insuring a constant fresh supply. This constant water circulation turned King Solomon's "molten sea" into a Halachic Ma'ayan. The Yerushalmi quoted by Radak is the same source which Rashba, noted above, based his hypothesis).
The intent of the construction workers in building a valid Mikva is crucial. The Mikva must be built with the intention that it is to be used as a Mikva – for ritual purification only - and not merely for hygienic purposes. Many Mikva'ot are constructed without drainage, and this lack of drainpipes is considered a major Halachic difference between a Mikva and an ordinary bathtub by some authorities. These authorities postulate that the lack of a drainpipe signifies that the Otzar HaMayim Mikva reservoir and the Mikva immersion pool are truly Mechubar Lekarka – "attached to the ground"; a factor of vital importance to the Halachic validity of a Mikva.
Nevertheless, there are Mikva'ot built with a drainpipe in the Mikva immersion pool. For thee Halachic validity of these Mikva'ot, it is essential for the workmen, while positioning the drain pipes, to have the intention of connecting them to the ground so that it is impossible to dismantle them. Also it must be impossible to remove the unplugged bung completely; the plug is an integral part of the plumbing system. The authorities that countenance building Mikva'ot in this manner posit that these "mental precautions" are sufficient to insure that these Mikva'ot are considered Michubar Lekarka and thereby fulfill the Halachic requirements. The Otzar HaMayim and the Mikva immersion pool have to be cleaned periodically. Where there are no drains, the water is siphoned out or removed with buckets. The water must be totally removed and the interior of both structures thoroughly cleaned and dried. Then the Otzar HaMayim is refilled with at least 40 Se'ah of "natural water" and "ordinary" water added as needed.
The Mikva'ot above Sha'ar HaMayim (Water Gate) and the Beit HaParva, the Azara chamber where the hides of the sacrificial animals were salted, were for the use of the Kohein Gadol on Yom Kippur. Aside from Yom Kippur, we do not know how these two Mikva'ot were utilized the rest of the year. While the number of Kohanim who served in the Mikdash on any given day might not have reached “the 700 ministering priests” referred to in the Letter of Aristeas (95); the number serving unquestionably did reached into the hundreds. Before their daily Avoda, all these ministering Kohanim had to immerse in the underground "immersion chamber" accessible by tunnel from the Beit HaMokeid (the Mikdash hostel for Kohanim). A Kohein "would go out and go along the passage that led below the Bira (the Bayit?), where lamps were burning here and there, until he reached the immersion chamber" (Tamid 1:1). To service the large number of immersing Kohanim, the "immersion chamber"had to contain numbers of smaller "immersion pools" or possibly one very large one. These spring- fed "immersion pools" received a steady flow of fresh water from the aqueducts, and since they had drains, there was a constant movement of fresh water entering and "old" water draining out. And, as a matter of fact, halachically,these "purity pools" in the immersion chamber weren't Mikva'ot at all. These "purity pools" were considered Ma'ayanot, fountains of "living water" which are even more efficacious for purification than Mikva'ot! (Note Mikva'ot 1:1,7,8. E.g. a Zav, a man suffering from gonorrhea, must "immerse his garments and his flesh in Mayim Chayim" i.e., fresh Ma'ayan running water for his final purification (Vayikra 15:13). In the Zav's case, an ordinary Mikva is simply not efficacious.) "If the Kohein Gadol was old or weak, they prepared for him hot water which they poured into the cold water to lessen the cold… (Yoma 3:5). And on Yom Kippur, "lumps of wrought iron were heated up on the Eve of Yom Kippur and thrown into the water to warm it up…" (Yoma 34b end). Our sources do not note if the subterranean purity pools, utilized by the other Kohanim, were heated in any way.
Picture the Kohanim in Beit HaMokeid rising well before dawn and slipping on robes. White linen Bigdei Kehuna (priestly garments) in hand, they slowly descend a winding stairway that leads into a chilly torch-lit tunnel extending to a vaulted, spacious hall containing bathroom facilities and the priestly "purity pool".Standing next to the pool, the Kohanim remove their robes, perhaps handing them to Levite attendants, walk down the right side of the stairs, and immerse in the freezing water. As they emerge purified, they shiver as they climb up the left side of the stairs. They are careful not to touch the other Kohanim descending on the other side (note Shekalim 8:2). After they warm themselves near a waiting fire, they don their Bigdei Kehuna, proceed to Beit HaMokeid and await the arrival of the Memuneh, the kohen-superintendent. The day's Avoda will soon begin.
Catriel is in the process of writing a book: The Temple of Jerusalem, A Pilgrims Prospective; A Guided Tour through the Temple and the Divine Service