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What is Tevila?

Mikvah is a gathering of water.  A natural mikvah can be an ocean, a river, a lake, or any body of living, flowing water.  Also, because of temperature and modesty issues, we build indoor mikvahs, which can be heated and slightly chlorinated.  Indoor mikvahs must contain a minimum of 750 liters of water collected from rainfall or other sources of flowing water.

Tevila is the Hebrew word for “immersion.”  When a person immerses in a mikvah, (or “toivels” their dishes to make them kosher), the blessing that is said for that action is “Baruch Ata….Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu al ha-Tevila.”  In modern Hebrew, tevila also means a dip in the ocean, and the same verb is used for dipping pita in humous.

In traditional Judaism, mikvahs are used by married Jewish women to mark an end of physical separation and to enter a time of togetherness with their husbands.  An orthodox woman will immerse at the end of her menstrual cycle and will resume relations with her husband, until the onset of her next period, when they again separate.  Orthodox men may immerse before Shabbat or holidays to mark a transition into holy time.  Brides and grooms will also immerse before their wedding. The final step in the conversion process, whether for a woman or a man, is immersion in a mikvah.

In liberal Judaism, the ritual of tevila is performed for both traditional reasons and also to mark transitions between one state of being and another.  Lifecycle events, including bar and bat mitzvahs, milestone birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated with an immersion, as is recovery from miscarriage, illness, abuse or trauma.  Many people create their own ceremonies to mark personal moments of transition.

What do all of these mikvah uses have in common?
Immersing in water in a ritualized way enacts a symbolic transition from one state to another.

How does Tevila baTeva build on Jewish traditions?
Adolescence is filled with transitions.  Every year manifests physical, emotional and spiritual changes.  Beginning with bar and bat mitzvah, there are many “firsts” to celebrate.  First steps toward independence, toward loving relationships outside of the immediate family, and toward a self-propelled life journey.  Tevila baTeva supports teens in these steps and connects them to the Source of Life along their path.