December 21: Charted waters

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Charted waters
Uriel Heilman’s article (“More men joining wives in monthly mikve dunks,” December 16) depicts the custom of a husband immersing in the mikve on the same night as the wife immerses following menstruation, as a newfound custom. Additionally, he portrays it as being prevalent among people who identify themselves as belonging to the Conservative Movement.
However, it is of significance to state that this custom is not a contemporary invention. It is rooted in traditional Jewish sources. It is first alluded to in Sefer Gematriyot attributed to Rabbi Judah the Pious (d. 1217), leader of the Hassidei Ashkenaz.
It is later referred to in Seder HaYom, by Safed kabbalist Rabbi Moses ibn Makhir (latter half of the 16th century to beginning of the17th century). The reasoning offered is that by both the husband and wife immersing, the couple will awaken the unison in the supernal world.
The custom under discussion is further elaborated upon in the classical work Shnei Luhot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565?- 1630). The author portrays this custom as one practiced by a select few. Rabbi Horowitz offers two rationales for this practice: The first, repentance for improper sexual thoughts during the time the wife was impure, and the second, drawing holiness from the heavens prior to marital relations.
The custom of a man immersing on the day of the wife’s ritual immersion appears in variation in later sources, and owing to the major impact of Shnei Luhot HaBrit, became more widespread.
It then was also brought down in halachic works as well.
It is safe to say this custom has been in practice in recent generations among a certain percentage of traditionally Orthodox Jews. There is evidence that nowadays it has been likewise adopted by a certain element of Modern Orthodox Jews.
An article, “Ritu’al Makbil – Tevillat HaBa’al BeMo’ed Tevillat HaIsha” (“A Concurrent Ritual - The Husband’s Immersion at the Time of the Wife’s Immersion”) that I authored, and published in 2011, relates to the practical aspects of reclaiming this custom in our time. Alongside a discussion of some of the traditional sources, it advances various benefits that accrue from this practice in our contemporary Jewish society.
Jerusalem The writer holds a Ph.D. from the Talmud Department of Bar- Ilan University.
Uplifting holiday
My spirit was uplifted after reading that the bastion of spirituality, the UN, has approved Yom Kippur as being a holy and important day (“UN recognizes Yom Kippur as official holiday,” December 18).
Maybe somebody should inform them that one of the main components of that holy day was the ceremonies and rituals that the high priest performed.
This of course took place in the Temple, and more specifically, a significant portion of the rituals took place in the Holy of Holies, in Jerusalem.
Therefore, the next logical step would be to recognize Jerusalem as the Jewish state’s capital.
I won’t be holding my breath.
Defining terms II
I wish to express my thanks and support to readers Ester and Hanoch Zeitlin, (Letters, December 18) for saying something that I have been repeating for years: “Why do Arabs live in villages, while Israelis reside in ‘settlements’?” In fact, a number of years ago The Jerusalem Post printed my letter making exactly the same point, despite which the Post has continued to use these two differentiating terms.
If this newspaper continues to use erroneous terminology, what hope is there of changing the fallacious world view of our situation?
Don’t overshadow
The death of Lord Greville Janner, reported on The Jerusalem Post’s front page on December 20, (“Lord Greville Janner, Jewish leader and British peer, dies at 87”) is doubly sad, not only because his latter years were dogged by ill health but also because of the child sex abuse allegations, which hung over him in that same time period.
As a result, the tremendous work that he did for both British Jewry and world Jewry in the 1970s and 1980s in his role as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews is in danger of being overshadowed. As the public relations officer for the board during much of his presidency, I was witness to his amazing and tireless energy, both physical and mental, that he devoted to the task. He traversed the country tirelessly to further the Jewish cause, and was a powerful spokesman for the Jewish community in his role as a member of parliament.
Hopefully, history will remember him more for those roles than for his more recent problems, from which he suffered in his later years.
A sold Birthright
I don’t know why Taglit-Birthright has taken the approach that its groups should not be going to the Western Wall on Shabbat at this time (“Fearing terrorism, Birthright drops Shabbat visits to Kotel,” December 18). The whole purpose of operation Birthright is to get young Jewish people to experience Israel and to experience their identity. What is the most identifiable symbol for Jews anywhere and everywhere? It is the Kotel, which is a remnant of the outer wall that encompassed the Temple area. The Temple area remains the symbol of Jewish identity and God’s covenant in a tangible form. Every day brings another terrorist attack, and even those that have been in or near Jerusalem’s Old City, most have not been anywhere near the area of the Kotel or the Jewish Quarter. Indeed, the most recent attack was in Ra’anana (“Three wounded in Ra’anana stabbing attack,” December 20). These attacks are random, and unfortunately, take place all over Israel.
These terrorists symbolize the will to destroy every part of Israel. When we read that Birthright does not want to permit its participants to go to the Western Wall, we immediately think of how we are dividing the Jewish people. Every country where Jewish people reside is subject to terrorism. We cannot avoid this terrorism, which has been foisted on us by those who want to destroy the world as it exists. We all must pray that Israel will be able soon to do away with most of this terrorism.
However we must also know that we stand united as a people. Birthright has made a great mistake and should reverse its decision immediately.
School of thought
In response to Rick Arons’s concern about the fear for young American Jews on college campuses today with all the virulent anti-Israel (read as anti-Semitic) activities on many US university campuses (“Gloom and doom for the Jewish American college experience,” December 17), I think I might have a proposal to recommend. Send your university-age children to an Israeli university that will not only ensure a top-notch education, but might even lessen the strain on your pocketbook.
One of the aliya benefits for young immigrants is a free university education. But an even greater bonus, is the blessing of Israeli citizenship and an almost certain Jewish future for him or her and another almost certain further guarantee of Jewish grandchildren. I know of what I speak, as one of my own children did this and is now a very happily married Israeli. A great education and a Jewish future, what a terrific combination.
Ma’aleh Adumim