O Hope of Israel! O LORD!Jeremiah 17:13
All who forsake You shall be put to shame,
Those in the land who turn from Youe
Shall be doomedf men,
For they have forsaken the LORD,
The Fount of living waters.
Hope – There is something fantastic happening here with the language. Jeremiah writes, Oh YHVH, You are the hope of Israel, the fountain of living waters. Hidden behind the word “hope” is the relationship that pairs it to the fountain of living waters. The word “hope” here is actually the Hebrew word Mikvah ( מִקְוֵ֤ה ).
A Mikvah is a natural pool of water used for ritual cleansing. At Mt. Sinai, all Jews were instructed to wash themselves in preparation for coming face to face with God (Exodus 19:10). Jewish tradition suggests that in the wilderness, the “well of Miriam” served as a mikvah. The priesthood began with Aaron and his sons’ washing in a mikvah (Exodus 29:4). In Temple times, anyone entering the Temple had first to immerse in a mikvah. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest was allowed entrance into the Holy of Holies, into which no other human could enter. Prior to this moment there occurred a series of services, each of which was preceded by immersion in the mikvah. The primary uses of mikvah today, as instructed in the law, is for women to wash themselves when their monthly cycle has completed.
To understand why water is so intertwined with purity and cleansing, we should look at the first use of the word in Torah.
God called the dry land Earth and called the gathering of waters Seas. And God saw that this was good.Genesis 1:10
The word for “the gathering of waters” is ולמקוה , or mikvah. When He created the earth, it was a sphere of water and His spirit hovered over it. He then separated the upper and lower waters, and then after that, He gathered the lower waters together into a mikvah. There’s a lot of moving around the waters. What is God doing?
The sages say that God had to remove, diminish, limit a bit of Himself in order to create things that are not God. After which He then had to move the waters around and limit them to provide room for… us. But the waters was where His spirit hovered over. The waters were that connection to God in a not-God world.
And so the mikvah that He gathered together is that opportunity to immerse oneself in a way of connection with God. The immersion of ourself in water involves leaving the land and entering into water – a place where we cannot live – a place where we can only visit temporarily.
So when God, through Isaiah, claims that He is the mikvah of Israel, we might understand this more deeply. He offers us that place of connection. He longs for us to enter into it and visit with Him – to immerse ourselves in Him. YHVH is that fountain of living water. And now we understand. He is our hope, and immersing ourselves in Him, even if only for a moment, rejuvenates our life.