The mikvah in Israel and around the world is a private affair, usually maintained in an inconspicuous building.
Women immerse themselves without clothing, with only a female attendant present to witness her full immersion. Sometimes the facility provides cosmetics, creams and lotions for the woman to beautify herself before returning home to resume relations with her husband.
The mikvah, however, is not only for Family Purity. It is used for the conversion of Gentiles to Judaism. As well, some pious Jews immerse before Shabbat and some special Holy Days.
The mikvah is seen to symbolize spiritual rebirth and the Christian ceremony of baptism has its roots in this Jewish rite. Indeed, the “baptism” by John of Yeshua was actually a mikvah.
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Metzora: Outcasts and Heroes
“The Lord had made the host of the Arameans to hear a noise of chariots and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host.” (2 Kings 7:6)
While metzorot were marginalized figures cut off from the camp, in Haftarah Metzora (prophetic portion), they are the heroes of the story.
The Haftarah reading describes how four lepers took a great risk and ended up with an even greater reward.
At this time, the Syrians had placed a terrible siege against Samaria (Northern Kingdom of Israel), resulting in a catastrophic famine.
The food stores had been consumed, and all the inhabitants of the city faced certain death. So desperate was the situation that some of the Israelites planned extraordinary means to satisfy their hunger.
Some women were planning to use the flesh of their own children for food!
The lepers conferred among themselves and decided that, since they were going to die anyway, they might as well do something crazy—go out to the enemy camp and beg for food. They might be killed, but then again, they just might save their lives. They reasoned:
“Why sit we here until we die?… Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Arameans; if they save us alive, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.” (2 Kings 7:3–4)
King Jehoram of Israel blamed Elisha the prophet for the calamity and vowed to put him to death.
But Elisha made a shocking prophecy: by the end of the very next day, God would send relief and the famine would be ended.
When the lepers arrived at the camp of the Arameans, they found no one there. Why? They had heard noise and thought a great army was approaching, so they fled for their lives, leaving much behind, including the food.
God already prepared the way. When he saw those lepers stepping out with hope toward a better future, He met them with His supernatural power.
All the lepers had to do was go in and take it.
They went from one tent to another, feasting and drinking and carrying off silver and gold and other wonderful things.
Then the lepers began to experience pangs of conscience. They realized that they could not keep all the sustenance and treasure to themselves when their own people were dying of starvation.
So they told the King, who at first assumed it was a trick. He sent messengers to discover the truth. Once the messengers returned with a good report, the people went out and spoiled the camp of the Arameans, thereby fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy.