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The Somewhat Litvshe Yid

Sunday, November 20, 2005

It's not safe to go back in the water

Ok…hopefully I’m back with some serious posting. I will be the first to admit that I enjoy a good lomdishe shiur and that few things give me as much pleasure as chapping a good svara, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m personally not very good at it. I can generally come up with some good questions but I’m not so good at working out good answers. Halacha on the other hand, I can deal with. Give me a topic and I’m pretty good at working from point A to point B and putting together the chain of psak from the gemara to the achronim, and it happens to be I enjoy it very much. So I’m going to try a few halachic postings this week.
Last week Jameel sent around a psak from the site Kashrut.org, run by the Abadi family, formerly of Lakewood, NJ. If I understand correctly, and someone please show me if I’m mistaken, R’ Yitzchak Abadi was a well known posek/dayan in the Lakewood community. In any event one of his sons made some mention about eating in non-Kosher restaurants, what’s allowed and such. It sounded very maikil and some of the folks in the email circuit thought it somewhat ridiculous. Though I wouldn’t follow it myself, the majority of kulas therein seemed pretty sound to me, though I don’t know the state of lard use in baking these days.
Anyway, I went looking through the Kashrut.org archives and came across a couple p’sakim that I just couldn’t let pass, since, well…as far as I can see they pretty much go against the halacha. The first one is the whether or not a swimming pool can be used as a mikveh.


Kevod horav shlite,

I'ven seen a lot of statements here that seemed reasonable to me, concerning both haloche and "hashkofe". Then I encountered allusions to jacuzzi/swimming pools being kosher as a mikve under certain circumstances. Would you explain these circumstance, please? I'm asking leshem limmud, not in order to fabricate a blank hetter.

Thanking you in advance,

Lipman


Reply: The basic idea is that piping does not render a Mikveh not Kosher these days, since our piping is attached to the house and/or ground.
There are however issues that need to be addressed. The water must have come from a river, a resevoir, an ocean, a lake, or anything other than "drawn water." If the first few hundred gallons come from a hose that comes from your home piping, that comes from the local water supply, then the pool is fine. The problem will be if it is initially filled by a tank truck, which in the present days it is a common practice in order to fill it with pre-cleaned water and allow you to use the pool immediately, that would be a problem.

The fact that we do not use a regular swimming pool as a Kosher Mikveh for women is an added "Chumra." (an extra restriction).
It is not based in Jewish Law. The Ra"sh is very clear about it being Kosher (Hilchot Mikvaot #12). The Shulchan Aruch and the RAM"A are clear that it is fine (Yo"D 201:48). Even the Nodeh Beyehuda who is the strictest in this issue would agree that the pool is good in our scenario where the piping is attached to the house &/or the ground, since it is made to be attached that way.

The process that makes water not Kosher for a Mikveh is if the first waters contain water drawn by a "Keli." This would include a pail or a cup or a tank. It would not include piping that is attached to the ground.

But there are some other issues.

A Mikveh must have the ability for a person to go completely under water at one time. The ideal is to have the water level at a height of one foot above the person's navel. This could be 48" to 56" or so. However, if the pool is wide enough, it can be fine at a lower height. In any case this is not enough of an issue to make it not Kosher. If the water is high or wide enough to fit into it and be able to be completely submerged without even any hair sticking out of the water and without needing to bend into abnormal acrobatic positions, then it is OK. The fact that a person will have such a pool available to them but will wait a day or so in order to go to a so-called "more Kosher" Mikveh, that in itself is against the law. Most people outside Brooklyn do not live close enough to a Mikveh to be able to go on a Shabbat or Holiday, so they push it off till afterwards. If they can go to a pool that is Kosher, then they are required to go. One of our biggest Mitzvot (Commandments) is the requirement to reproduce. This is our contribution to the continuity of the planet, and thus the continuity of God's master plan. Playing with our ability to observe this Mitzvah is a dangerous game. Adding any extra restrictions to people will have a direct negative result toward this master plan.
…some hashkofic points not relevant to the discussion…

In light of all this, I think it is essential for us to know how and when a pool is a Kosher Mikveh. Here are the basics.

You need to know how it was initially filled with water after the last time it was emptied. If it was by hose and attached piping, it is OK.

Then it must be large enough to fit into completely.

A woman can go into a Mikveh with her bathing suit. Any clothing can be worn into a Mikveh, as long as the water still reaches the body. (Shulchan Aruch YO"D 198:46)

…some other tangential points…

It's relatively easy. Allow us to help you.
AA


It all seems pretty straightforward and well sourced. Except one item is missing, which we’ll get to.
Just a bit of background information for those unfamiliar with the laws of mikveh:
1. From the Torah (D’oraisa) standpoint, any standing body of water is a kosher mikveh, it doesn’t matter if it drawn water or not. As long as it is enough to get your whole body in, then it’s good.
2. Chazal set the size of a mikveh at 40 se’ah, based on the fact that a general person is 1 amah x 1 amah x 3 amos, or 3 cubic amos, each being 13 1/3 se’ah.
3. Chazal also set that drawn water (מים שאובים) is posul for immersion.
The question then is, what is considered drawn water. The basic answer is any water that is brought in a vessel (כלי). And that is where we hit the sticky wicket.
R’ Abadi correctly brings down the halochos of pipes and other things that are connected to the ground that they are not considered vessels for the determination of whether or not the water is considered drawn or not. What he doesn’t take into consideration is how water is filtered and that halocho is brought down in maseches Mikvos, perek 4 Mishna 3.

החוטט בצינור לקבל צרורות--בשל עץ, כל שהוא; ובשל חרס, רביעית. רבי יוסי אומר, אף בשל חרס, כל שהוא: לא אמרו רביעית, אלא בשברי כלי חרס.

If one where to dig out a hole in a pipe to gather stones, if it’s made from wood, even the slightest receptacle, if from clay, enough to hold a revi’is. R’ Yossi said even clay the slightest amount and where it said a revi’is is talking about clay shards.

The Ra”Sh (ad. Loc.) explains that since pipes are note made to hold water, like a vessel, since they are open on both ends, therefore they are not intrinsically vessels and don’t disqualify the water, but if some sort of receptacle would be carved into the pipe before it was attached to the system then it would render the water unfit.
According to the Rambam (Hilchos Mikvos, 6:6) says a similar thing in a more direct way.

החוטט בצינור מקום לקבל בו הצרורות המתגלגלין במים, כדי שלא יירדו עם המים--אם היה הצינור של עץ וחפר בו כל שהוא, פוסל את המקוה: שהרי כל המים שיורדין באין מתוך כלי שנעשה לקבלה--ואפילו קבעו אחר שחקק בו, הואיל והיה עליו תורת כלי כשהיה תלוש. אבל אם קבעו בקרקע, ואחר כך חקק בו בית קיבול--אינו פוסל. ואם היה צינור של חרס, אינו פוסל עד שיהיה בחקק כדי לקבל רביעית.

That is to say, if you attach a vessel to the system of pipes, in such a way that water flowing through the pipes goes through the vessel, then the water is no longer fit to immerse in. This is brought down in the Shulchan Aruch 201:36.

Due to the modular way we do plumbing in the modern day and age, anything that could be considered a vessel at any point in the water system would render the water unfit for use as a mikveh. I’m not sure how things are done in Chu”l, but here in Israel pretty much every house is fitted with an external water filter even before it gets to one’s water meter (or sometimes directly after the meter). This is, according to anyone with a bit of intelligence, a vessel, that the water goes through specifically לקבל בו הצרורות. That is even if one posits there is no other water purification system between the main water source and the final destination. One could also, without stretching, conclude that the very existence of a tap at the end of the pipe, renders the pipe itself into a vessel, since the hetter of the the Ra”Sh is only based on the fact that the pipe is open on both ends.

Next time, belly button rings!

Update by request:
A woman can go into a Mikveh with her bathing suit. Any clothing can be worn into a Mikveh, as long as the water still reaches the body. (Shulchan Aruch YO"D 198:46)


Sort of. My only issue with this is that it only works with loose clothing (רפוי), and as far as I recall, bathing suits aren't too loose. One could say, that since baithing suits are water permiable then that counts as loose since water gets to the skin. I wouldn't personally rely on that. The commentators specifically mention the issue of loose clothing, (Sha"Ch 46, Be'er Heitiv 44, Pischei Tshuva 4) and specifically say not tight clothing. I'm not sure if they were wearing latex body suits back in the Ra'avan's time, but I'm assuming he's talking about wool/cotton/linen clothing which will get the skin wet, yet still no good. So, bathing suits are out according to the poskim and you could probably include most undergarments as well, except boxers which should be ok.

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