Men immersing in a Mikveh daily prior to Davening Shacharis:
In today’s times, it is customary amongst Chassidim and men of piety to immerse daily in the mikvah prior to the daily prayer. Although this custom of being particular to immerse every single day prior to prayer, does not contain any clearly documented source, and was not practiced in the previous generations, nonetheless, it has become a cherished uncompromising part of the preparation for prayer and general purity of soul, and has its roots in both biblical and rabbinical precepts. Below we will explore the source and reasons behind this custom, its history, it’s purpose and effect, and various Halachos related to it.
A. Is there a source for this custom?
We do not find any documented source in the Poskim, or Sifrei Mussar and Kabbalah, or even Sefarim of the Chassidic masters, which explicitly directs individuals to immerse in a Mikveh every single day prior to prayer, as is the custom today by the masses of Chassidic Jewry. Furthermore, based on the writings and testimony of Chassidim in the previous generation, it is clear that this custom was not practiced by the masses, although was likely practiced by select righteous individuals. Even Chabad Chassidim in previous generations, who were particular to often immerse in a mikveh prior to prayer, were not necessarily particular to do so daily. Nonetheless, this custom of daily immersion prior to prayer is encouraged to be followed today and contains strong foundation and basis in both Scripture, Talmud, Halacha, and the writings of the Hasidic masters. Its influence first began with the teachings of Mussar and Kabbalah which explain the greatness of immersion. It then gained more popularity with the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, until eventually many Chassidim were accustomed to not pass three days without immersion. We will explore below each one of the reasons and sources that contributed to the custom today of the daily immersion prior to prayer, and explain its history, it’s purpose and effect, and various Halachos related to it.
B. Its sources and reasons in Halacha:
The scriptural basis-Immersion from impurity and for Tosefes Taharah: The concept of immersion in a Mikveh for the sake of purification is recorded explicitly in Scripture. However, in Scripture, and in biblical law, immersion is only necessary for one who is currently Halachically impure and desires to perform an act of extra sanctity, such as to enter certain areas of the Temple mount, and to eat certain sanctified foods such as Teruma, Maaser Sheiyni, and Kodshim, or for women to purify from Nidda. It, however, is not required to be done prior to prayer. Nonetheless, we do find in one area scriptural basis for immersion even not for the sake of ritual and Halachic impurity but for the sake of further purity, and that is regarding the five immersions of the high priest on Yom Kippur, which was for the sake of additional purity in the Temple. From here we can derive that there exist two purposes in the immersion in a Mikveh: 1) for the sake of purifying a person from an impurity. 2) For the sake of adding further purity to an already pure person. Now, the morning immersion prior to prayer can serve one or both purposes; to purify one from impurity [i.e. Keri, as explained next], or simply for additional purity.
Talmudic basis: The Mishneh states that the priests would need to immerse in a Mikveh each morning upon entering the Azara prior to performing temple service. Regarding the morning washing, the Poskim compare a Jew’s awakening in the morning to serve God, similar to a priest doing service in the temple, and use this comparison to explain why we are required to wash our hands daily upon awakening. Now, just as we are compared to priests who are serving God regarding the morning washing, so too, we can be compared to them regarding the daily immersion and hence from here we can find a root and source for the daily immersion prior to prayer, just as was done by the priests in the temple.
Baal Keri-The Takana in the times of Ezra: The concept of immersing in a Mikveh prior to prayer was first introduced by Ezra who stated that all men who are a Baal Keri [expelled seed] must immerse prior to prayer. In addition to the fact that Ezra’s institution was limited specifically to the Baal Keri, furthermore, this institution itself was rejected by the populace, and is not Halachically binding, even though it is encouraged to be practiced. Hence, there exists no obligation, or even source from the times of Ezra, for the daily immersion practiced today.
Teshuvah-The Tevila of a Baal Teshuvah and Ger: It is well known, that according to Halacha, a convert is Biblically required to immersing in a mikvah for the sake of completing his conversion process and becoming a Jew. Drawing from this law, the sages established that also a renegade Jew who chooses to return to his people, and repent from his state of apostasy, must immerse in a Mikveh. From here we can derive that immersing in a Mikveh contains intrinsic value in one’s process of repentance. This is further emphasized the law brought next regarding the immersion of Erev Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The ruling regarding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: It is customary to immerse in a Mikveh on Erev Rosh Hashanah and Erev Yom Kippur to purify oneself from the state of Keri, and for purposes of repentance. [From here we can derive two important points: 1) Although the institution of Ezra was nullified, nonetheless, it still holds value even though it is not obligatory. Hence, from here we can learn of the value of a Baal Keri immersing in the mikvah throughout the year. 2) The intrinsic value of repentance represented in the immersion.]
Become receptacle for Divine revelation-The directives of Kaballah and the Arizal: In the teachings of the Arizal we find several additional dates [to that of Erev Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur] in which men are encouraged to immerse in the mikvah for the sake of achieving spiritual cleanliness and becoming a receptacle for a higher level of holiness to dawn upon them. These include, Erev Shabbos and Shabbos day, Erev Yom Tov and Yom Tov day, before Kapparos, after learning Shavuos night. From here we learn the concept that immersion is necessary in order for one’s soul to be a receptacle for Godly revelation, and hence Chassidim who desire to feel God during their prayer make sure to immerse daily prior to praying.
Bathing the body prior to prayer: The Poskim rule that one should wash his face and feet every day out of respect for G-d, as the verse states “For in the image of G-d he created man”. Now, one who goes to Mikveh in the morning fulfills this mitzvah with the immersion.
C. History of the custom and its sources and reasons in the Chassidic teaching:
The directives of the Baal Shem Tov: The Baal Shem Tov stated that one is to immerse in a Mikveh as much as possible, and especially during times of need [i.e. Baal Keri; Shabbos]. The Baal Shem Tov also stated that as a result of his constant immersions he merited to reach all of his high levels and spiritual revelations. [This teaching of the Baal Shem Tov, is what can be most attributed to the evolvement of the custom to immerse daily prior to prayer. While the Baal Shem Tov did not go as far as state that one should so on a daily basis, and also made no mention that this should be done specifically prior to prayer, nonetheless, it gave the motivation for increasing the frequency of immersion to even weekdays. It is stated in the name of Rebbe Aaron of Karlin that although immersing in a mikvah is not a mitzvah, it brings a person to levels of holiness that even the greatest mitzvah cannot bring him to.]
The teachings and directives of the Alter Rebbe: The Alter Rebbe in a famous Hasidic discourse from his Sefer Likkutei Torah states that there are three things which have the power and capability of removing all [i.e. spiritual, mental, and emotional], disturbances which we commonly experience during prayer, and the first one is the immersion in the Mikveh, as a Mikveh has ability to purify. Now, although as we already stated, we rule that Tevilas Ezra for a Baal Keri is no longer a requirement even for prayer, nonetheless, the Rishonim conclude that according to all opinions the prayer is more greatly accepted above after immersion. [From here we can learn of the importance and value of the daily immersion in a mikvah prior to prayer for the sake of purifying one’s mind and elevating the quality of one’s prayer, and especially from the state of Keri.] In Beis Rebbe it states that the Alter Rebbe accustomed his Chassidim to immerse in a mikvah prior to prayer in order so the prayer be with purity. [This is seemingly the first source that we find for the widespread custom of Chassidim to immerse daily, however, from other sources to be brought to below, it is evident that the above teaching and directive of the Alter Rebbe was not understood as a requirement for a daily immersion prior to prayer and rather simply as an encouragement for occasionally immersing prior to prayer, as they were yet to be particular to do so daily. So is also evident from a letter of the Alter Rebbe in which he lists a number of actions to be done for the sake of purity and one of them is immersing in times of need for the sake of removing impurity, which refers to Tevilas Ezra. No mention is made there of a daily immersion.]
The previous Chabad custom and widespread custom in previous times: It is evident from several sources that the custom of the daily immersion prior to prayer was not widespread in previous times, including in the generations after the Baal Shem Tov. 1) In the Sefer Mishmeres Shalom [which is dedicated to analyzing and documenting the Chasidic customs from the times of the Baal Shem Tov until his time], he writes that in addition to Chassidim being very particular in Tevilas Ezra when one is in a state of Keri, the immersion in a Mikveh prior to prayer even when one is not in the state of Keri, contains great significance, and that many of the God-fearing Jews are accustomed to not have three days pass without them immersing in a Mikveh. He further writes that his father was accustomed to immerse almost daily prior to prayer. [From here it is understood that it was not yet a widespread custom even in his time, even amongst the most scrupulous Chassidim, to be particular to immerse every single day.] 2) It states in Sefer Haminhagim, based on a Sicha of the Rebbe Rayatz, that one is to immerse in a Mikveh on Yud Tes Kisleiv. From here it is understood that it was not widespread amongst Chabad Chassidim even in the times of the Rebbe Rayatz to immerse daily prior to prayer, otherwise this directive would be superfluous. 3) Indeed, Rav Shlomo Chaim Kesselman states that in the original yeshiva of Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch, the custom amongst its students, the Temimim, was to immerse on Mondays and Thursdays and Erev Shabbos, and not every day. This was the directive of the Rebbe Rashab to the Mashpi’im of the Yeshiva.
The Rebbe’s custom: The Rebbe’s personal custom after accepting the leadership, was not to immerse in a Mikveh daily prior to prayer, and he would only immerse on rare occasions throughout the year. Despite this personal custom, the Rebbe did encourage the Chassidim to immerse prior to prayer, especially if one is a Baal Keri, but even if one is not, and explained its basis in Halacha.
The start of the widespread custom of immersing daily: Based on all the testimony received, the custom today amongst Chabad Chassidim to immerse daily prior to prayer, seemingly began becoming widespread in the mid-1900s and eventually became widespread to the point that it is followed by everyone today. However, it is evident from testimony that other Chassidic groups outside of Chabad [i.e. Chassidei Poland] were accustomed even in previous generations to immerse daily in a Mikveh prior to prayer.
The widespread custom today amongst Chassidim is to be particular to immerse daily prior to prayer. This custom is based on the encouraged practice of previous generations to increase in immersions prior to prayer, and based on the intrinsic value that it contains based on both Halacha, and Kabbalah, for purification from Keri, and Tosefes Taharah and for purposes of Teshuvah, and to prepare oneself for service of G-d similar to a Kohen, and to refine one’s heart to feel G-dliness during prayer, and to bathe the body prior to prayer out of respect of G-d.
 See Mishmeres Shalom Kudinov 2:2; Emek Yehoshua; Likkutei Maharich; Divrei Torah [Mujnktach] 3:20; Arugas Habosem O.C. 19; Piskeiy Teshuvos 4:4
 See Minhagei Chasam Sofer that he immersed daily
 Mishmeres Shalom Kudinov 2:2
 See Shelah Shaar Haosiyos Os Taharah; Reishis Chochmah Shjaar Ahavah 11:22; Yesod Veshoresh Havoda 8:1; Kuntrus Havoda p. 55; Igros Kodesh 11:401; Sichas Parshas Savo 5713
 Yuma 30a; Rambam Bias Hamikdash 5:4
 See Admur Basra 4:1; Kama 4:1; Siddur Admur; M”A 4:1; Rashba 1:190
 Igros Kodesh 11:401
 See Admur 88:1; 13:19 “In today’s times that Takanas Ezra became nullified”; Michaber ibid; M”A 88:1; Ittur; Kol Bo; Shiltei Giborim; Rav Nachman Bar Yitzchak and Zeiri Brachos ibid; See Encyclopedia Talmudit Vol. 4 Erech Baal Keri p. 146
 Sefer Chassidim 73; Reishis Chochmah Ahavah 11; Likkutei Torah Parshas Savo p. 43; Hisvadyus 27:92; Igros Kodesh 9:259; 27:430; Rambam Tefila 4:6 that so is widespread custom in Shinar and Spain to not Daven until one immerses; Maggid Meisharim Parshas Behar in instruction of the Maggid to the Beis Yosef that “you should never nullify Tevials Ezra”; Sh’lah Miseches Tamid 31; Kaf Hachaim Falagi 4::1; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeira 2 in end; Shoel Umeishiv Telisa 1:123; M”B 88:4; Kaf Hachaim 76:21; 88:5; Piskeiy Teshuvos 88 footnote 7 in name of Chofetz Chaim; Shevet Halevi 5:15; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:89; Betzel Hachochma 5:23; Shevet Halevi 6:28 that today no one should be lenient in this if they live in communities with Mikvaos; Lehoros Nasan 4:31; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:89; Koveitz Teshuvos 1:39; See Divrei Yatziv 1:55 who suggests based on Rishonim that today that we have clean Mikvaos easily accessible everywhere, that it should be considered an actual obligation; Piskeiy Teshuvos 88:1; See Avnei Nezer Y.D. 264; Moadim Uzmanim 7:1117; Teshuvos Vehanhagos 4:34
 See Mishneh Halachos 3:222
 Rama 268:12; 267:8; Shach 267:15; Rabbeinu Simcha; Radbaz 3:415; See however Rashbash 68, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 269:10, that the Moranos do not need to immerse at all
 Rama 581:4
 Admur 606:11
 Admur 606:11-12; M”A 606:8; Maharil; Or Zarua 112
 See M”A 285:1 in name of Arizal; Mateh Efraim 625:14 in name of Shaar Hakavanos and Peri Eitz Chaim; Kanfei Yona 1:95; Mishnes Chassidim Yom Hashishi 7:1; Shlah p. 138a last line in name of Kanfei Yona; Kaf Hachaim 260:7; Likkutei Mahrich 2 p. 7b; Ketzos Hashulchan 73 footnote 1; Sefer Haminhagim p. 50 [English edition]; See also Likkutei Dibburim 3:568; Chayeh Adam 138:5; Kaf Hachaim 581:82; Alef Lamagen 581:121; Likkutei Mahrich 2 p. 7b in name of Siddur Rav Shabsi
 Kaf Hachaim 260:6 in name of Arizal; Ketzos Hashulchan 133 footnote 8
 Mateh Efraim 605:6
 Arizal in Shaar Hakavanos p. 89a; Peri Eitz Chaim 23:1; Shelah Meseches Shavuos; Chok Yaakov 494:1; Kaf Hachaim 494:7
 Admur Kama 4:21; M”A 4:1; Rambam Tefila 4:3; Shabbos 50b
 Mishmeres Shalom Kudinov 2:2; Ketzos Hashulchan 2 footnote 25
 Keser Shem Tov 1 Tzavah of Besht; Likkutei Yekarim 17a; Tzivas Harivash 1:17-19
 Parshas Ki Savo p. 86
 P. 32
 Shut Admur 11
 Kudinov 2:2
 This is based on the verse in Scripture which states that the Jewish people traveled for three days and did not find water, hence emphasizing the three days without the well of Miriam [i.e. Mikveh] should not be tolerated.
 Sefer Haminhagim p. 92
 Sefer Hasichos 5702 p. 19
 Hamashpia Rav Shlomo Chaim Kesselman 1:459-460; however, see there page 9 that Rav Shlomo Chaim and his friends are ready from a young age were accustomed to immerse every day even though the general custom in Lubavitch was to only immerse three times a week
 See Maaseh Melech p. 101; Regarding before the Nesius: See Yimei Melech 1:340; 2:906
 See Toras Menachem 9 p. 169; Igros Kodesh 11:401; 9:253; 15:88; 20:93; Sefer Hamamarim 1516 p. 481 “and also one must immerse prior to the prayer”
 See Hamashpia Rav Shlomo Chaim Kesselman 1:9, 458; Ketzos Hashulchan 2 footnote 25