The Mikvéh In Putti (Uganda)

What is a Mikvèh?

A Mikvèh* is a collection or gathering of water, and fulfills an essential role in the religious life of the Jewish people.

The Background:

According to Torah law (also called the “Law of Moses”) a person can become ritually ‘impure’. This ‘impurity’ does not suggest sinfulness and is most often not perceived as negative in itself.  The most important consequence of such impurity was that being impure would (temporarily) disqualify someone from visiting the Temple in Jerusalem.  It is generally assumed that the one of the main functions of such a concept was to instill a higher level of awe and respect to the person while entering the Temple and participating in its service. 
There were several different levels of ritual impurity, depending on what had brought the impurity about, and related to these different levels, there were distinct rituals for removing the impurity.  In some cases, for minor levels, the impurity would cease automatically at the end of the day.  For others, only the washing of the person’s hands was required.  In the most severe case, after touching a corpse, a highly complicated ritual was involved that lasted a week, for the impurity to be removed.  In many cases however, the appropriate procedure was for a person to totally immerse him or herself in water.

Some Laws of Ritual Purity Perpetuated after the Destruction of the Temple:

After the destruction of the Temple, maintaining these practices had become less relevant.  Therefore, in most cases, the rabbis of the Talmud decided to temporarily abolish them, until the time when, one day in the future, the Temple would be rebuilt.  However a number of exceptions were made for cases in which the practice would continue.  The ritual washing of hands in certain occasions, such as before eating bread is such an example in which purity laws were perpetuated.  Other examples directly involve the topic of our article, the Mikvèh (which is a body of water that fulfills a number of prescribed conditions; more about that later). 
These examples are:  Firstly, the immersion of someone’s entire body at the occasion of his/her conversion to Judaism (which, as a side note, also explains the origin of Christian Baptism).  Secondly, the practice to dip newly acquired metal and glass food utensils in such a body of water.  And thirdly, the requirement for a menstruant woman to immerse herself after a period of separation from her husband, before she can resume intimate relations.  Similarly such an immersion is required at the end of a period following giving birth. 

Requirements for a Mikvèh:

Water, like people and many objects can become ritually impure. Under Torah law, however, there are two distinct conditions that can make a body of water immune from becoming impure 

In other words, under two possible circumstances will water always be pure.  According to rabbinic law, exactly such water is needed if one would immerses oneself for the purpose of purification.  Only water which is inherently pure can be used for this specific ritual.
The first scenario involves rain water that has naturally gathered into a basin.  However, the flow of the water into the basin must happen without any interruption, and there is a number of rather complicating additional conditions.  One of them is that the rain water cannot flow through any metal pipes or through certain vessels.  Also, once the rain water is gathered into the basin, it has to be still, i.e. it has to stop flowing.  This limits certain bodies of water to be used as a Mikvèh.  For instance, a river that is primarily fed by rain water is unfit for ritual immersion.
The second scenario involves water that flows uninterruptedly from an active spring.  This involves a different set of prerequisites, which are generally less complicated.  Most significantly, the water can be used even if it keeps flowing from the spring well.

The Mikvèh in Putti:

It is this second type of Mikvèh that is used by the community of Putti. The water flows from thespring into the Mikvèh basin and back out again (see below).

The Mikvèh in Putti:

The Mikvèh

(Photography: Menachem Kuchar)

In the second illustration, one can see the actual water spring and the channel leading to the Putti Mikvèh.

The actual Mikvèh is made slightly removed from the spring itself, to create safer conditions for immersion as well as an environment of privacy by means of walled enclosure (as the immersion is typically performed without clothing).

The Mikvèh2

(Photography: Menachem Kuchar)

The third illustration shows Putti’s actual Mikvèh:

Making use of a spring and flowing water offered the significant advantage that it doesn’t offer a breeding ground for mosquitoes.  The alternative option for building a Mikvèh, namely with collected still-standing rain water, would instead have created a dangerous source of malaria.
In addition, in the way the Mikvèh was built in Putti, the water flowing out is now used to irrigate the crops on the land that feed the people!

The Minimal Amount of Water in a Mikvèh:

One thing we know is that there should be enough water to cover the entire body of an average person.   According to some authorities, as long as a person’s whole body can be covered with water, then the Mikvèh is sufficient for him/her.  The majority of the rabbis of the Talmud however held that the quantity of water has to be at least 40 se’ah.  The question then immediately comes up: How much is a se’ah?  Typically for most things Jewish, that is a matter of debate.  It doesn’t really help to know that a se’ah is supposed to be the same size as 144 eggs…  How big the average eggs in the time of the Talmud were, is another point of discussion.  In short, the opinions on the minimal quantity of water in a “ritual bath” differ from 293.2 liter (77.5 gallons) to a much stricter opinion that quotes a minimal amount of 572 liter (151 gallons).  Nowadays, as there is no maximum quantity of water, all Mikva’ot, (including the Putti Mikvèh), are built larger than the biggest quoted minimum, to accommodate all opinions. 
The above mentioned immersion of new cooking utensils has a smaller minimum of water, but can be done in the same Mikvèh as well.

Other Types of Mikvèh:

Many of the world’s natural bodies of water, such as seas, oceans, spring-fed lakes, and spring-fed rivers  are Mikva’ot as well, and can be used for purification purposes.  Before the construction of the Putti Mikvèh, the members of the Putti community generally utilized a nearby river, which offered several hazards, such as the presence of parasites, water snakes and other creatures that live in the rivers.

When the Mikvèh is Used:

According to Jewish practice, immersing in a Mikvèh is required on a number of occasions.

1. Most importantly, a Jewish woman is required to immerse after a number of days following her menstruation.  During this period she and her husband are not allowed to be together in an intimate way, until she immerses in the Mikvèh or, as we saw before in another valid body of water.  Initially, according to Torah law and in most cases, this period of semi-separation lasted seven days in total, starting from the unset of her monthly period.  As a result of a development that started in Talmudic times in Babylonia, the custom evolved into a counting of seven days starting from the end of the woman’s menstruation (often resulting in a total of about 12 days on average).  This approach has become the general practice of virtually all observant Jewish communities.

2. As the practice of monthly immersion is only observed in the context of marital life, an unmarried woman does not visit the Mikvèh.  Therefore, her first visit to the Mikvèh is typically on the night before her wedding.

3. The above described practice is also observed after a woman gives birth. 

4. All Jewish converts, both men and women, immerse in a Mikvèh after they have been accepted by a Jewish court (a Beth Din).  This immersion constitutes their entering into the Jewish people.

5. In all these occasions, the ritual of immersing oneself in a Mikvèh, is more than just a ritualistic or legalistic practice.  Therefore, apart from the above described cases, there are other occasions for using a Mikvèh, which are voluntary and done for purely spiritual purposes. 
As an example, some grooms visit the Mikvèh on the day before their wedding. 
In addition, many Jewish men (and some women) visit a Mikvèh on the day before Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  Others practice this custom even before other Jewish holidays, some every week before the start of Shabbat and few individuals go early every day before morning prayers. 

As was alluded to before, there is a strong spiritual component to this practice.  For one thing, a Mikvèh can be seen as representing the waters of creation, or/and a mother’s womb, while immersing and coming out of a Mikvèh symbolizes rebirth and spiritual renewal, or even resurrection.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find that a rather new application of the Mikvèh has emerged in our days, namely as a tool within certain post-trauma therapies.

Historically:

Jews have been building Mikva’ot for thousands of years.  In fact the Mikvèh is such an integral and essential part of Jewish practice that a Jewish community is required to make the building of a Mikvèh their highest priority.  A community is required to build a Mikvèh, even before investing in a synagogue!

Here are some pictures of Mikva’ot from (a) Antiquity, from (b) the Middle Ages and from (c) Modern Times.

The Final Stage:

The  building of the Mikvèh in Putti was made possible by generous contributions of donors like you and me. As a final stage we now need to plant trees around the Mikvèh, to provide shade and privacy for the people using it.  In addition the outgoing Mikvèh water can be used for fruit trees that provide nutrition and vitamins.  Efforts are made by the Putti Village Assistance Organization to raise money for this goal.

You can contribute to this lofty cause by donating $20 for a fruit tree, through the following link:  http://puttivillage.org/donate. (All donations are tax deductible)

Raising school funds for Sarah Nakirya

Help us raise money for Sarah's educationsPlease help Sarah achieve her goals in Education!

Despite a difficult childhood, Sarah now 20, excelled in her education so far. She passed High School with flying colors and has scored five aggregates (an honor degree) in History, Geography, Computer. Sarah has a passion for children’s freedoms and rights and wants to pursue a degree in Education. She had been admitted into University, but that is where the problem lies, Sarah has no more funds to continue her education and achieve her dreams with out your help.

Please Help!

The degree would take two years, each year has two semesters and each semester entails about $800. That means that, if we could raise $3,200 we would be able to provide her with tuition for her entire course. We have started a GoFundMe campaign for her but you can also donate directly to PVAO as well. Click the donate button to donate through PayPal. 

From Sarah

Hi, my name is Sarah Nakirya. I am 22 years old and one of the youths of the Abayudaya Village of Putti in Uganda. I have been Jewish since my childhood and a loyal, talented and caring person who loves making a difference into the lives of young children. I am open-minded, patient and supportive towards other people, especially towards children, and have an excellent ability to remain positive, even when things get tough. My family does not have the money to afford me to continue my studies. I am hoping that PVAO  will find the necessary funds for my education so I can pursue my dream. Can you please help me?

Let’s all rally around this wonderful young woman and help her reach her goal of $3,200 to continue on and become a teacher!

“Whoever is merciful to the poor, God will be merciful to him”
(Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 247:3)

In October, Puttis worked hard to prepare the land for harvesting.

Feeding the village

Putti Children of Putti VillageThe people of Putti decided to plant maize and soya this last October, as these contribute to a major part of the African diet. In years gone by, before Putti had land of their own, they just had to hope that somehow food would arrive, it didn’t. Meaning that every year they suffered from famine. Sometimes, so bad that adults would only have enough to enable them to eat one meal a day, on alternate days, children were restricted  to small portions of whatever was around, causing severe malnutrition.

 Now thankfully, that is something we pray will not happen again. Putti-Village-Agriculture_MaizeYes, there is still a shortage of food but with maize and soya  crops growing well,  no-one should go hungry. The crops will be harvested in February, then stored and distributed to the most needy during lean times.

The next Food Project is on it’s way, the Putti land is fertile but until money is raised to buy more seeds the harvest is relatively small. Please donate just $10 or whatever you can, which will ultimately feed a child during their most needy times.”

Thank you so much for your interest and kindness.

Ros -PVAO

Please help us by donating to this cause. Click the donate button to make a donation with paypal.


Once the Maize is Harvested

Putti-Village-Agriculture_Maize3After harvest, the maize is poured on the clean and dry court yard or compound in hot sunshine for it to dry for 3 to 4 days, depending on the good weather. If poor weather is being experienced, it may take more than 4 days for maize to dry. After drying, it is taken directly to grinding mill machine. It costs 6 cents per kilo (2.2lbs) to grind maize to make flour.

Making Posho with the Maize

Making Posho5 maga/ cups of water from any water source are measured into a saucepan, the saucepan is then put into the local stones (stove) already on fire, and the water is boiled up to 95 degrees. 1 kg of maize floor is poured into 5 cups of boiled water stir it with megling sticking,  in few seconds it will turn into porridge, eventually turning into solid form. when it turns into poshosoild, cook it with less fire for 10 minutes, eventually the food known as Posho will ready. When it is ready, put solid Posho On plate and start serving like a person would serve bread, cutting with knife or plate (it is very soft when hot), and served warm.

1kg of maize flour serves 3.

Recipe For Say

Measure any amount in the cup and fry it in the saucepan directly without any ingredients. Leave it to cool for a few minutes then put in the motor or machine mill, or pound by hand. Mix the milled powder with cold or warm water and cook for  15 to 25 minutes. Mix in some salt, then if desired, you can stir in tomatoes and onions. After 15 to 25 minutes the source is ready to eat, serve using handful spoon on plates.

Keeping Focus on God in the Synagogue

Did you ever ask yourself WHY?

In traditional orthodox Jewish synagogues men and women sit separately.  This practice allows the men and women to keep their focus on God and the prayers and not the opposite sex.  

On a more spiritual level men and women have different souls, from complementary but opposite sources.  When praying Jewish people aim for being with one’s true self, to communicate with their soul.  Men and women need space from each other to help them become intuned to their higher selves.  Sitting separately allows for this freedom. (commentary by Aron Moss;) 

Shabbat Shalom

Psalm 25:4-7

Make me know your ways, o Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth, and teach me;
for you are the God who saves me,
my hope is in you all day long.
Remember your compassion and grace, o Lord;
for these are ages old.
Don’t remember my youthful sins or transgressions;
but remember me according to your grace
for the sake of your goodness, o Lord.

Shabbat Shalom from Putti Village

Happy Hanukkah to one and all!

“We hope you had a wonderful Hanukkah this year, the Puttis certainly did”

Spread the Light!

Hanukkah, the History, the Celebration, the Lessons

During the time of the second Temple, the Holy Land was ruled by an oppressive regime.
The ruling dictators, supported by the Greek empire, suppressed the Jewish religion, persecuted the faithful, and even set up idols in the holy temple in Jerusalem…!

It was Mattityahu the Maccabee and his five sons, from the priestly tribe, who rose up and drove the dictators from the land.  Each year, the Hanukka lights remind us of the great miracle that a small band of Jews defeated a mighty army.

Another miracle that is remembered annually is the miracle of the oil.
According to legend, all the sacred oil, necessary to light the Menorah (the candelabrum) in the temple, had been made impure.  Only one jar was found which contained just enough oil for one day. The Maccabean liberators nonetheless lit the Menorah but low and behold, it lasted for eight days! Thus the eight days of Hanukkah!

Hanukkah reminds us that, even though darkness often seems to prevail in this world, and it may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is always hope and life is filled with miracles, breakthroughs that happen at all odds.  Nowadays, is not a celebration of a military victory, but a time to rejoice in the delicate little lamps and candles that shine in the darkness, sparks that we can light to chase away the darkness.   We eat and get together with friends or family, we give presents and share with others.  And that’s when we experience that happiness, joy and faith have the power to overcome negativity.

By adding an additional candle each night for eight days, as with each night our light becomes stronger, we charge ourselves, and we learn to see God’s miracles, then and now.

With best regards,

Sjimon R. den Hollander

What is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah (Chanukah) means “rededication” and is one of the most important and significant periods in the Jewish calendar. This Festival is often known as the Festival of Lights.

This year, Hanukkah started on the evening of Sunday December 6th. During this Festival, it is traditional to give gifts to one another. Putti Village Assistance Org. (PVAO) thought, what better way to start the Festival, than to give each family living in the Putti Jewish Community, a life saving mosquito net. These nets will undoubtedly help the Community to combat the unseasonable current malaria outbreak which is affecting every family in Putti. Children and the elderly in particular, are at most risk. We need to buy many more nets so we can ensure everyone is given one. No-one needs to die, nor fall seriously ill – mosquito nets will hopefully ensure that does not happen. For every $10 donated, we can buy a specially coated net for maximum protection. Our goal is to raise $750 by the end of the year.

Please help us by donating to this cause. Click the donate button to make a donation with paypal.

Happy Hanukkah to one and all!




Take a Stand Against Malaria in Putti Village.

CAN YOU HELP?

As the U. S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports a high risk of contacting malaria in Uganda, it is not surprising that Putti Village recently experienced a rampant increase of malaria cases. Accordingly, PVAO has set malaria prevention and case management as a high priority.  

The World Health Organization considers mosquito nets coated with Permethrin–one of the world’s safest insect control products–to be the gold standard for malaria control. Mosquito nets are prone to develop small holes. Untreated nets thus become useless in a few months and must be replaced. Treated nets remain effective for several years.

Accompanying pictures in this article show Putti villagers receiving their first distribution of lifesaving treated nets funded by PVAO. The need is great for additional nets to protect all families in the village. Can you help?

Please consider donating to the PVAO’s Medical Fund. Money goes to buy treated nets which prevent the spread of malaria and to buy medicines for those village members who have malaria and have received prescriptions from the local clinic.

As we light the Menorah this Chanukah holiday, let’s consider a gift to lighten the load malaria has brought to so many village families. Your gift for treated nets helps to save lives. 

Please help us by donating to this cause. Click the donate button to make a donation with paypal.




Shabbat Shalom

Zechariah 4:6

 Then he answered me, “This is the word of Adonai to Z’rubavel: ‘Not by force, and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says Adonai-Tzva’ot

Shabbat Shalom