Rabbi David Miller's The Secret of the Jew

The Secret of the Jew was written and privately published in 1930 by Rabbi David Miller. The book is primarily about taharat hamishpacha. But it also contains an extensive discussion of the halachic underpinnings of Mikveh and, more significantly, how to build one. Rabbi Miller had an engineering background and believed that there was no halachic barrier to using city water to build a small mikveh in one's own home. His book contains detailed plans for doing just that.

Not surprisingly, Rabbi Miller's point of view was not well-received in some Orthodox communities. His ideas did garner some support, however, from Rav Nissen Telushkin, author of Taharas Mayim and an important authority on mikveh. It has been reported that Telushkin "believed Rabbi Miller's thesis was unfairly scorned and that he, Rav Telushkin, believed that use of mikveh would have been far more widely observed in this country had the rabbonim not been so quick to condemn Rabbi Miller. In fact Rav Telushkin has a rather lengthy treatment in his Sefer of the New York City water system, and makes mention of Rabbi Miller's ideas as having more than a little validity, and refers to Rabbi Miller as a great person (gavra rabba) who dedicated his life to strenghtening the observance of taharat hamishpacha in this country."

We will note parenthetically that while we agree completely with Rabbi Miller's assesment of the halachic validity of properly handled city water, our own Mikveh (which is described elsewhere on this website) is of a fairly conventional design and utilizes rainwater gathered from the roof of the building.

On its title page Miller's book states "This book is not for sale. It is loaned by the author to whomsoever may be concerned in the subject." Elsewhere he writes "Permission for translation or reprint, as a whole or in part, for the purpose of furthering the cause, will be granted on application." And indeed, Rabbi Miller travelled the US handing out free copies to anyone who wanted one.

We have included here Chapter 17 of the book and most of Chapter 19. Those who are familiar with the halachic aspects of mikveh will appreciate Rabbi Miller's solutions for obtaining water that is valid for mikveh and for building a small immersion pool that is not a vessel (which is halachically forbidden).

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