Question & Answer With Rabbi Fishel Jacobs - A Story About The Baal Shem Tov [Part II]
A Simple Jew asks:
Today, I came across Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 162:10, which states:
"...She should also take care when leaving the mikvah that her friend should meet her and touch her, so that she not be met first by an unclean thing such as a dog, a donkey, a pig, a horse, a metzora, or similar things, or by a person, ignorant in Torah, and not G-d-fearing or a non-Jew. If any of these meet her first, if she is G-d-fearing, she will return and immerse again."
This halacha instantly made me recall the answer from Rabbi Dovid Sears about the story contained in Degel Machaneh Ephraim about the Baal Shem Tov being afraid to touch an Arab after immersing in a mikveh.
Is this story an example of the Baal Shem Tov extracting the essence of a halacha and observing it in his own way, even though it only applies to a woman?
Rabbi Fishel Jacobs answers:
The halacha regarding a woman not seeing something impure when leaving the mikveh is a well-known halacha.
1) I think you're correct. The intention behind this halachah is quite straightforward. It is, as you note, a matter of retaining the bitul, the purity brought about by immersion in the mikveh, to remain with the wife. Meeting these things first would, accordingly, cause an interruption, of sorts, to this state of purity.
Let's note that the power of sight (and thought) on the future children is brought in many places. As a matter of fact, I dedicated an entire section to it in my book, Family Purity. That section is titled: Power of Thought on the Offspring (pg.132).
I don't have the text from which that Ba'al Shem Tov's story is extracted in front of me, at this time. But reading it on your site, would seem to indicate that the Ba'al Shem Tov had the same reason for his behavior. Specifically to not allow anything to cause a cessation of the purity brought about by his immersion.
Yes, it seems that his behavior was in the same spirit of the halacha of a wife leaving the mivkeh. However, I wouldn't be surprised if he had "other" sources for his behavior.
Though not having the text in front of me, I still enjoy Rabbi Sears's eloquent explanation of the "cause and effect" elicited by the Ba'al Shem's behavior. Yasher koach.
2) It's interesting to note that the Ramo (198:48) only lists: "something impure or a non-Jew." The other things brought in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch are mentioned in the Shach (198:61) which are: dog, donkey, a Jew ignorant of Torah, a pig, a metzorah. The Bodei Hashulchan (198:696) mentions: a cat.
In my sefer, Family Purity (pg. 125), this is our language: "When leaving the water, the 'Mikveh-lady' approaches and touches her. If she saw something impure first, for example a dog, cat, donkey, pig, or non-Jew, before seeing the 'Mikveh-lady' (or one of the other women in the mikveh even if she was niddah) ideally she should immerse again, if possible."
3) As an aside, I found one thing (perhaps two) dissimilar in this list. That is, the Jew ignorant of Torah (and perhaps the metzorah).
All the other things in this list, their bodies and souls, are drawn from shalosh kelipos hatmayos legomrei (three completely impure kelipos, שלש קליפות הטמאות לגמרי) [See the sixth chapter of Tanya].
On the other hand, the body of a Jew ignorant in Torah is from kelipos nogah (a kelipoh which has in it good, קליפת נוגה, first chapter of Tanya) and of course his soul is part of G-d (second chapter of Tanya).