Monday, February 05, 2007

does tevilah require kavanah?

The gemara (Chulin 31) quotes a dispute between Rav and R’ Yochanan whether tevila requires kavanah [intent] or not. For example, if one fell into a mikvah by accident, or went to a mikvah for a nice swim on a hot day - is the act of dunking alone sufficient to make one tahor, or is that act meaningless unless one has specific intention to fulfill a halachic requirement? The Bais Yosef (Y.D. 198:48) rules leniently and says kavanah is not required, while the Rama l’chatchila is strict and requires kavanah. Two interesting conceptual points worth noting here – I’ll start with the easier one first.

There is a dispute many places whether mitzvos tzerichos kavanah – does the performance of a mitzvah act alone suffice to fulfill a commandment, or is intent a necessary condition of fulfilling commandments? For example, if one ate matzah on the night of Pesach because one was hungry, does this suffice to fulfill the commandment of eating matzah, or must one have specific intent at the time of eating that one is engaged in a mitzvah act? At first glance one might draw a parallel between this case and our case of dunking in a mikvah without proper intent. Radba”z (cited by the Badei haShulchan in his Iyunim), however, writes, “Know that this dispute [regarding tevilah] is not relevant to the issue of mitzvos tzerichos kavanah which is debated by Tanaim and Amoraim in many places, as tevilah and shechita are different because…” Sorry, no giveaways yet - How would you fill in the blank?


  1. Yehuda R11:55 AM

    By eating matzoh etc. one needs to kavonah to be yotzey and render the act into a mitzvah.By tevilah the action and water in itself has the power to cause change ones status to toher.
    There is a medrash of a nonjew asking a Tannah how could 'mey chatos' be m'taher a tomey meis and the tanna responded(roughly) The same way smelling herbs can cure anxiety.Point being for this discusion that mikvah can be an external factor (metzius)influencing one internal status.

  2. >>>By eating matzoh etc. one needs to kavonah to be yotzey...By tevilah the action and water in itself has the power to cause change

    You are assuming one tzad of the machlokes Rav and R"Y. What if you hold that tevilah also requires kavanah, as the Rama paskens? What then is the difference between the 2 sugyos?

  3. Chaim, I don't get your last question. The Radbaz's point is that the two machlokesim are independent -- one could hold one way in one issue, and another way in the other. If one happens to hold that both need kavanah, then the two simply by coincidence both need kavanah.

    One difference (maybe this is what you are alluding to) is WHAT KAVANA you need. For mitzvos tserichos kavanah, one has to have kavana to fulfill the mitzvah. For tevilah tzarich kavanah, one has to have kavanah to be mitaher -- which is a different thing.

    Consider this issue in the context of the view in the gemara (which we do not pasken like) that tevilah bizmanah mitzvah -- that there is a mitzvah to go to mikvah on the night of tahara min ha Torah. ACc. to that view one would need TWO kavanos -- kavanah to fulfill the mitzvah, and kavanah to be mitaher. It's quite possible to have one without the other.

    (BTW, I assume from the fact the the Mechaber and Rema discuss this that it applies le maaseh to tevillas Nashim le hatir le baaleihem. There are acharonim who differentiate between tumas niddah and issur niddah. Is it so poshut that if one holds tevilah tsericha kavanaha that that applies to removal of the issur niddah -- the only thing that is le maaseh nowadays -- as well as tumas niddah? Just a thought.)

  4. Anonymous3:11 PM

    Sh'kein nehene (and matza too. A better example would have been k"shm).

  5. anon15:47 PM

    I believe the chidushei ha-ran in chulin, and I believe quoted by the maharatz chayos in Chagigah 19 (maybe 18) where tevilah tzericha kavana comes up there, basically says the chiluk Tal mentioned which is one is kavanah to be yotzei the mitzvah, whereas the other is kavana to know what you are doing. Almost (although not exactly the same) as the two kavanos required by krias shma -- one to be yotzei the mitzva and one to undersand what you are saying.

  6. the chidushei haran, and the ramban before him, say that the issue of kavana in "makhshirin" (shechita and tevilah) does not have to do with kavana latzes of mitzvos. the ramban proves his position by the fact that falling off a bridge may be good enough for chullin but certainly not for mitzvos because mis'asek is not yotzei (mishnah rosh hashanah 32b). however, the or zarua in hil. rosh hashanah, also cited by the hagahos asheri, does compare the two issues. this comparison is also made by the gra, cited in r' schachter's ginat egoz. the obvious problem with this opinion is that the equation does not hold because even the opinion which requires kavanah for shechita does not require kavanat mitzvah, only kavanat chatichah, see the gemara chullin 31b. this is not the ramban's question, though.

  7. Shechita Man9:04 PM

    a thorough analysis of this subject is available at