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The Day the Mikveh Went Dry

When a drought left Omaha’s ritual bath empty, refilling it required some imagination—and a ton of ice

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The empty mikveh, filled with ice, and rain water. (Courtesy of Yaakov Weiss)
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Three weeks later, on Sept. 11, a Muzzy Ice truck pulled up to the mikveh. Inside the truck were seven 300-pound blocks of ice. An extra 100 pounds of dry ice was shoved inside the truck to ensure that nothing melted.

In less than an hour, staff members of the Jewish Federation moved the ice into the mikveh. Along the way, little pieces of ice would chip off and fall on the stairs; Weiss and a colleague would rush to pick them up to make sure that the chips wouldn’t liquefy and contaminate the mikveh water. “It was very intense and very stressful,” recalled Weiss. “[But] it was quite an experience. I’ve never dealt with a ton of ice in a small contained area.”

Once all seven 300-pound blocks were moved, the question became how long the ice would take to melt. Estimates ranged from two days to a week.

They never got to find out.

The next evening a huge torrential storm hit the Midwest. In several hours, the bor z’reih, the place where the rainwater collected, was filled to capacity and the first pool was filled. “I went in the next day and said, ‘Wow.’ ” Weiss told me. “Now our only problem was our mikveh was filled with ice.”

Both Weiss and Gross said that the whole effort pulled Omaha’s roughly 6,000 Jews together and led to a newfound curiosity about the mikveh, even among those who don’t really use it.

“Was it a waste of energy and time? Or conversation and money?” Weiss considered. “We often say that our efforts and actions have repercussions for good and bad and perhaps this was a repercussion. It’s a community mikveh and it’s integral to us. Perhaps by showing how much it means to us, I think … we saw a response or sign from God. For our action, we have God’s reaction: ‘I’ll give you the rainfall you were looking for.’ ”


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marjorie says:

fascinating story.

Obedience to G-d’s word always brings His blessing, there is nothing to hard for Him!

nursemedic says:

Snow was used for a mikvah in Alaska and in San Diego. In the California case, they had to truck it down from Mammoth in a refrigerated truck.

Rebecca Klempner says:

They used snow to start the Vegas mikvah, too. They shoveled it off Mt. Charleston and shlepped it also in a refrigerated truck. But it wasn’t July. :)

Please don’t blame the emptying of the mikvah on “climate change”! The drought that occurred this past summer was, just like other weather phenomena, a part of natural and cyclical weather that has always occurred in Earth’s history and that has changed throughout that history (often drastically). All the human-induced greenhouse emissions in the world do not contribute to climate variability nearly as much as a whole wide range of natural factors (many of which don’t get as much scientific attention as they deserve). This past summer’s drought was not even as bad as the 1930s (Dust Bowl), the 1950s, or (arguably) 1988!

How about getting the Germans off our back 70 years ago? You think none of those people prayed?


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The Day the Mikveh Went Dry

When a drought left Omaha’s ritual bath empty, refilling it required some imagination—and a ton of ice

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