Immersed in Thought
A few years ago when I was studying in yeshiva, I adopted the minhag of going to the mikveh (spiritually purifying bath) every erev Shabbat (Friday afternoon). This I have kept up all these years. A while ago I heard it mentioned that there are actually certain kavanot (holy thoughts) that a person should have each time he immerses himself, seven in total. Is this true? If so, what are they? And if it is true, how is a person allowed to have a religious kavana (thought) in the mikveh?
Many people immerse in a mikveh Friday afternoon to honor the Shabbat. There are many different customs regarding the number of dips and regarding the kavanot which one should keep in mind. Here are seven of the main customs:
- Two dips: The first to remove the spiritual "clothing" of the weekday and the second to "wear" the spiritual clothing of Shabbat. If he is physically impure, he needs one more dip before these two. (Arizal in Pri Etz Chaim, Sha'ar Hakavanot)
- Three dips: The first for nefesh the second for ruach and the third for neshama (nefesh, ruach and neshama relate to different levels of the soul. (Ben Ish Chai 2nd year, Lech Lecha note 16)
- Four dips, parallel to the four-letter name of G-d, one dip for each letter. (Yesod Veshoresh Ha'avodah).
- Five dips corresponding the five levels of the
soul: Nefesh, ruach and neshama, as mentioned above,
plus the two higher levels of soul called chayah and yechidah.
There are five different kavanot to have in mind when performing each of these dips: At the first dip, purity from keri (physical impurity), at the 2nd, spiritual cleansing from anger, 3rd to remove spiritual "clothing" of the weekdays, 4th to remove "ruach" of weekdays, 5th to receive tosefet kedusha of Shabbat (additional sanctity of Shabbat). (Ben Ish Chai 2nd year, Lech Lecha note 16)
- Seven dips: Regarding the intricate kavanot, see source. (Kaf HaChaim 260:4-6)
- Ten dips: This was the custom of the Chatam Sofer. Regarding the intricate kavanot, see source. (Tomer Devorah ch. 4, Kaf HaChaim 260:4-6)
- Thirteen dips: Thirteen is the gematria (numerical value) of the word "echad" which means "one" (as in "G-d is One.") Regarding the intricate kavanot, see source. (Kaf HaChaim 260:4-6)
If the surroundings are clean, a person is permitted to have in mind the kavanot, even though he is in the mikveh.