Spiritual cleansing practice takes root in Jewish tradition
The religious significance of water spans all faiths, especially for a nomadic culture that wandered an ancient desert for 40 years.
The followers of Moses searched the arid terrain off the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for a new land that would quench thirst for spiritual sustenance.
They found it in Canaan, now called Israel. And in the holy city of Zefat, near the Sea of Galilee, they found the answers to age old questions of the human soul, its purpose, and its creator.
"The Jewish people are still here, trying to be connected in a deeper way, and not trying to be taken away too much by the modern day discoveries," explained Yonah Akiva, a life-long student of Judaism.
Zefat is a pivotal center for the study of Kabbalah, a mystical sect of Judaism that focuses on the connection between the mortal and the finite universe.
Through the centuries, kings and common folk traveled over the cobblestones of Zefat on the way to temple.
Today, the dozens of synagogues house countless rare religious texts and provide a gender neutral site for the study of theology.
But to truly prepare oneself for the journey towards ascension, a trip to the mikvah is necessary. As in many of the world's ancient religions, the first step to God requires a ritual cleansing of the body and the soul.
Mikvah in Hebrew means collection, referring to the collection of water, but also holds significance with the collecting of ones mental state.
"The mikvah is a body of water where a person immerses themselves and starts to meditate and have certain thoughts and ideas. And he uses these ideas, while he's submerging himself in the water, to realize his potential for actualization," continued Akiva.
Purified, blessed rain water is the conduit to rebirth in the mikvah, which can be a daily ritual for Jewish men but is normally reserved for women, who tend to visit after a menstrual cycle or before a special event such as a marriage.
"Water being one of the four major elements in the physical world, to allow things to grow and sprout and live up to its potential," Akiva described the cool waters of the mikvah. "Its also works spiritually, that allows a person's soul to grow to fruition for him to get the most out of life."
Wanderers of the desert still question the meaning of life, and just as their ancestors did centuries ago, some find their way to the sacred waters of Zefat.
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