By Michael Duke
On Sept. 3, contractors poured the concrete for the new women’s mikvah (ritual bath) at the Chabad Lubavitch Center-Texas Regional Headquarters in Southwest Houston.
With tzitzit (fringes) dangling from their tool belts, father and son, Rabbi Gershon Grossbaum and Rabbi Mendel Grossbaum, along with Houston Rabbi Mendy Traxler, oversaw the complicated concrete-pouring process.
The Grossbaums, with expertise in Halakha (Jewish law) and construction, travel the world building mikvaot. The father-son team was in Houston last year building the first dishes-specific mikvah in Texas, which also is housed at the Chabad Center. The dishes-specific mikvah was opened for use earlier this summer.
The additions of two new mikvaot are part of the Chabad Center’s current expansion and renovation project, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2008. The center’s old mikvah will be renovated and designated as the men’s mikvah.
Mikvah is a ritual bath that must include “natural” or “flowing” water. Immersion in a mikvah – a spiritual, rather than hygienic, ritual – is a mitzvah. Biblical regulations specify that immersion is required to regain ritual purity after ritually impure incidents have occurred. Today, mikvah is most commonly used by women after menstruation and childbirth; by men before holidays and Shabbat; for new cooking and food utensils; and for conversions to Judaism.
“For many of us, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” reflected Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff, the Chabad Center’s development director, on the morning of the concrete pour. “The mikvah is usually the first thing that is built upon the creation of a new Jewish community, so the later generations usually don’t get to see this process.
“With three mikvaot, we hope that more and more community members fulfill the important mitzvah of mikvah,” he said.