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MIKVA'OT (Heb. מִקְוָאוֹת; "Ritual Baths"), the sixth tractate in the order of Tohorot in the Mishnah and the Tosefta. The tractate consists of ten chapters and deals wholly with the details of the *mikveh. Chapter 1 classifies mikva'ot according to the grade of their purity and purifying effect, from ponds or ditches containing less than 40 se'ah (c. 750 liters; see *Weights and Measures) and therefore invalid, to those of the highest grade, consisting of mayim ḥayyim ("pure spring water"). Chapter 2 discusses cases of "doubtful impurity" (e.g., if a person is not sure whether he has immersed properly or whether the mikveh was ritually fit), and then deals with the problem of mayim she'uvim ("drawn water"). Chapters 3 and 4 continue with various aspects of mayim she'uvim, e.g., how a mikveh invalidated by mayim she'uvim can be made rituallyfit, or how to direct rainwater from a roof into a mikveh without letting the water pass through a "vessel" in order to prevent the water's becoming mayim she'uvim. Chapter 5 deals mainly with the fitness of springs, rivers, and seas as mikva'ot. Chapter 6 is concerned with the question of a body of water linked with a mikveh, or two mikva'ot connected so that the water of the one "touches" the water of the other (hashakah), which is of great significance in the construction of the modern mikveh. Chapter 7 discusses the minimal requirement of 40 se'ah, especially whether snow, ice, etc. may complete that measure. Chapter 8 first deals with the halakhic difference between mikva'ot of the Holy Land and those of other countries; it then discusses problems touching on seminal issue and menstruation. Chapter 9 discusses the problem of haẓiẓah ("interposition"). Chapter 10 deals with vessels or any other artifact requiring purification in a mikveh.

The Vienna manuscript of Tosefta Mikva'ot contains seven chapters (and is missing one page, containing the end of the third chapter through the beginning of the sixth chapter), while the printed edition contains eight chapters. The Tosefta quotes traditions about queries raised by the inhabitants of "Assia" with the scholars of Jabneh during the three pilgrim festivals (4:6); about R. Gamaliel and Onkelos the Proselyte bathing in the sea at Ashkelon (6:3); and about discussions which took place among 32 scholars in Lydda (7 (8):11). Although there is no Babylonian or Jerusalem Talmud on Mikva'ot, several of its Mishnayot are explained in the Babylonian Talmud; for example, Mishnah 4:1 is explained in Shabbat 16b, Mishnah 7:2 in Yevamot 82b and Zevaḥim 22a, Mishnah 7:4 in Shabbat 144b, Mishnah 8:4 in Ḥullin 24b, Mishnah 9:1 in Shabbat 57a, and Mishnah 9:5 and 6 in Shabbat 114a. The Mishnah of this tractate was translated into English by H. Danby (1933) and the Soncino Press (1948), while J. Neusner has recently published a translation of both the Mishnah (1991) and the Tosefta (2002).


Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, Seder Tohorot (1959), 337–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Epstein, The Gaonic Commentary on the Order Toharot (Heb.) (1982); S. Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, vol. 4 (1939); J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Laws of Purities (1974–77), vols. 13–14; idem, From Mishnah to Scripture (1984), 73–79; idem, The Mishnah Before 70 (1987), 181–94; idem, The Philosophical Mishnah, 2 (1989), 281–93; idem, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism (1994), 145–54.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.