Help Understanding an Ancient Jewish Ritual

Hello Everyone,

I was wondering if someone here knows anything about some of these terms and claims…

EWTN - Holy Rosary

A few seconds after the timestamp, Fr Mitch makes the claim - after Jesus birth Mary “would have been unclean, that is, sacred, until she had taken the Mikveh”… I dont understand how unclean is being equated with sacred… I even emailed Fr Mitch this question a few years ago, but he probably never saw it due to busy-ness… In any case, I have always thought sacred things are clean, whereas the claim is just the opposite…

The closest I have found is probably this…

My first thought, too, was “qadesh” – set apart – until she had removed the ritual impurity.



I guess the part I dont get is how cleanliness has an impact on holiness.

The old saying, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” seems to suggest that which is pure, distilled, immaculate, sterilized, clean, etc. - could then be seen as holier than something dirty…

In a Jewish sense, I know that man is unworthy to touch the Jewish letters in their writings, which is why they use a pointer to gloss the pages, instead of their finger.

We regard the Eucharist similarly, for instance, since it is supposed to be kept on a gold paten; or, if in a case where it cannot be consumed, it must be physically buried.

Either way, it seems like man’s unworthiness to directly “interface” with the divine, would at least be due to the fact that man is basically dirty, unclean and anything but set-apart in the sense of sacredness and/or holiness… if not by mud, then by sin…

But what Fr Mitch said seems somehow contrary to such a notion (which I dont claim to be right on - and am asking about)… Fr M’s saying she was unclean and therefore sacred…

Maybe there’s different categories of uncleanliness due to the reasoning? For instance, Mary didnt have leprosy - she had only given birth, which was a joyful thing. I think lepers were supposed to have been suffering leprosy due to their sins.

In any case, I’m pretty sure because Jesus went in an dealt directly with these issues, Jewish folks and Christian folks must have their differences on the matter. I really like Fr M, but I’m not sure how he was addressing “Mary at the Mikveh” when he made that statement.

It’s a liturgical or ritual “unclean.” It really wasn’t the same as leprosy - though I guess you could argue that it was theologically similar.

The Church used to follow this same tradition until the century or so. We called it “Churching.”

After the mother gave birth, she wasn’t allowed to return to mass until she was “Churched” and make liturgically clean again.

Ibut I don’t remember the theology behind the Jewish & Catholic versions

The Mikveh is a prefiguration of the sacrament of baptism.

Could this simply been a slip of the tongue?

Qadesh means sacred.

Could he have meant “tumah”, the state of impurity of a woman after childbirth and between the first day of her period until she immerses herself in the mikvah 7 days after the bleeding stops. Immersing herself in the mikvah will change her to a state of purity “taharah”.

Yep. Seems likely. One could always call in when he’s hosting Catholic Answers Live, and see what he says!

I would call here @Rabbi.

1 Like

Actually, yes… but the old laws also seem to have lots of distinctions…

If you watch from the timestamp, which describes John the Baptist’s method baptism, you’ll see the difference between the old and new ways.

It seems important to remember, however - Jesus didnt really come to abolish, but to fulfill…

In a way it’s surprising some Traditionalists dont come forward with more arguments in support of the Mosaic laws… They always seem to argue the old Latin rites, although the Latin rites were long-preceded by the Mosaic laws… So - if one is going to change an immutable, eternal law - does it matter if it was done a millenia ago, in the 17th century, in 1960, or etc.?

Jesus would say “clean the inside of the cup first”, but that doesnt mean he would omit cleaning the outside of the cup, too… Yet we Catholics dont seem to understand what a Mikveh is and is really used for… according to what the video suggests, we Catholics say John’s one baptism covers it all - but that doesn’t seem 100% true, if we look at the law on the whole… John’s baptism covers ORIGINAL SIN - it isnt used for something like a physical cleansing… So - hmmm…

Maundy Thursday suggests Peter was already clean all over, so Christ had no need to wash any more than Peter’s feet… But, since the focus is the washing of the feet, it’s like - does that mean St Peter would have taken a mikveh for one reason or another? I honestly dont get it…

As far as I can see, there are different types of mikvehs used for different purposes, and - in some modern Jewish law, like after sex - if I have it right - a simple shower in tap water suffices… so sometimes it’s a physical cleaning, and sometimes it is like a spiritual one for ritual purposes… what then is the difference? and - if and when - then why and when should we apply it?

A most complex and fascinating subject. I would advise checking the JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA under the heading of PURIFICATION: PURIFICATION IN JUDAISM, an article of which appears online. I could not even begin to summarize the complicated concepts, discussions, and arguments that are found here.

1 Like

Thank you very much

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit