One of the Jewish rites of passage for moving into a new place is the trip to the Keilim Mikvah. For reasons we’re not getting into here, certain new vessels and utensils must be immersed in water to “purify and uplift the vessel” (B. Avoda Zara 75b). Even if someone went for their parents once or twice before, few things compare to schlepping multiple sets of brand new plates, silverware, and cookware to a polluted lake or glorified leak.
Ironically, the body of water used for “purifying” the vessels is usually more contaminated than the Hudson River. Sure there are some exceptions – the one by Breuer’s is relatively clean – most of the ones I’ve seen are in dire need of cleaning, or in some cases, sulphuric acid.
Case in point, I spent part of Sunday at the Springfield keilim mikvah helping out the folks with some of their dishes and without exaggeration, there was at least a full inch of black “stuff” lining the bottom of the basin. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t care – I’d just lower the objects in the laundry basket, move things around making sure they’re totally submerged with no hatzitzot, lift, dry, and repeat.
Today however, when going through the place settings, my mother noticed that a spoon was missing.
Now we know it wasn’ t on the outside of the mikvah, but even though I didn’t notice anything escape the firm clutches of the laundry basket, we’re still short one spoon. Were this a cleaner mikvah, I’d just be able to look in and see, “hey! there’s that spoon!”
Not this one.
The crud at the bottom of this thing swallowed up virtually everything that had the unfortunate fate of coming into contact with it. Think of the black goo from Creepshow 2 only without the whole jumping out of the water flesh eating part. That’s what I’m talking about.
Against all odds there were a few items which reflected the limited sunlight, so there was some hope. The good people of Springfield were kind enough to supply a pole with nothing attached to either end. This allows unfortunate klutzes to push around the gunk thinking they can get their plates back, but in reality they’re just making it harder to see through it.
When I thought I saw something resembling the wayward flatware, I reached in as far as I could, but was still a good 4 inches too short. Going Jacques Cousteau wasn’t really an option but we did try some other unconventional alternatives.1
Skipping right to the good stuff, we had the best success using a combination of a snow shovel and a reaching/gripper thingie left over from when my mother was recovering from the hip surgery. While we did manage to fish out 2 plates (one of which was shaped like a fish) and 3 spoons and knives covered in at least 25 types of dirt, but sadly the lost spoon is still lost in the abyss that is the Springfield keilim mikvah.
I did get a few things out of the experience. First, shuls really ought to clean their kelim mikvahs. Second, thanks to lefum tzar’ah agra (M. Avot 5:23) on both tevillat kelim *and* kibbud eim, I’m set upstairs for a while.
Still, I am curious if anyone else out there has had their own bizarre experiences with a keilim mikvah and/or the absolute worst keilim mikvah you’ve ever seen.
In the meantime, I’ll be in quarantine until I stop glowing.
1. If you’re asking yourself why make a big deal over one spoon, the answer is: “because.”
2. And I just *know* I’m not the only one here