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The T'vilah ("immersion") service takes place within the mikveh (literally, "a collection of water"), which has been part of Jewish life since the time of Moses.

G-d commanded that the people of Israel should separate themselves from uncleannes by what they ate, by how they acted, and by the recognition of what was impure and what was pure.

The mikveh was designed to be a place of ritual rather than of physical cleansing.  The pool itself was usually 5 to 6 feet in length, 3 to 4 feet in width, and 5 to 6 feet in depth.  It was cut into the ground and was entered by means of descending stairs.  Water was brought to it, and it was used only for this purpose.

 

As Shabbat is separated by ceremonies at its beginning and conclusion, so purification was to be not only a decision of the heart but also a demonstrated act--that of going under the water.  Such cleansing took place after contact with dead bodies, following specific types of illness, at the conclusion of a woman's monthly menstruation,  following child birth, before and after vowes were made to G-d, etc. (see Shemote 30:17-21; Vayikra 11:25, 15:8, 17:15; B'midbar 19:17-18, 31:22-23).

Priests were required by Torah to enter the mikveh before serving in the Temple.  For this purpose, there were many mikveh pools on the Temple mount.
Within the priestly homes excavated in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, one may see the remains of mikveh pools used for this purpose.
 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Mikva'ot (plural) could also be found near synagogues throughout Israel, and may be seen at locations like Masada and Qumran.  They were used commonly as part of the lives of the average men and women of Israel.  This pattern has continued throughout the ages, and in all of the places where Jewish people
have lived.

Maimonides, writing in the 12th century, declared:
"It is plain that the laws about immersion as a means of freeing oneself from uncleanness
are decrees laid down by Scripture. . . .  Now 'uncleanness' is not mud or filth which watercan remove, but it is a matter of scriptural decree and dependent on the intention of the heart. Therefore, the Sages have said, 'If a man immerses himself, but without special intention, it is as though he has not immersed himself at all.' Nevertheless we may find some indication of this:  just as one who sets his heart on becoming clean becomes clean as soon as he has immersed himself, although nothing new has befallen his body, so too, one who sets his heart on cleansing himself from the uncleannesses that beset men's souls--namely, wrongful thoughts and false convictions--become clean as soon as he consents in his heart to shun those counsels. . . .
Behold, the Scriptures say (in Ezechiel 36:25), 'And I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean; from all your uncleannesses and from all your idols will I cleanse you'. (from Yad, Mikva'ot 11:12)

While we would not agree fully with the words of Maimonides, the attitude is biblically correct.  Sin is unclean and separates man from G-d.  Only G-d can make clean what is unclean.

IN THE BRIT HADASHA

Thus, when Yochanan came preaching repentence, cleansing and immersion ("t'vilah"), he followed in the footsteps of Torah and of the prophets, using the mikveh as a symbol of purification from sin.  What he had to say was not new or different, but quickened the hearts of those who heard him because of the power of his compelling message.  He called for true repentence, not mere outward signs or lip service:  (Mattityahu 3:2) "Turn from your sins to G-d, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!" He told his listeners that true repentence would bear fruit.  Immersion was for Yochanan, an outward sign of an inward decision, a decision which would prepare the way for the coming of Messiah.

The word "baptizo" first appears in the Septuagint, a translation of the Tenach from Hebrew to Greek, completed around 180 BCE, by 70 Jewish scholars.
This word literally means "to immerse", as was used of other immersion procession including the dying of cloth.  The Hebrew equaivalent is "t'vilah".

When Yeshua gave the great commission to his talmidim (Mattityahu 28:18-20), he said:"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim, immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."

In the Book of Acts (2:38), Shimon Kefa declared to his brothers who have just come to believe that Yeshua is their Messiah and Redeemer: "Turn from sin, return to G-d (do t'shuvah!), and each of you be immersed on the authority of Yeshua the Messiah into forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh." (clearly the infilling of the Ruach HaKodesh is not a second act of grace as some believe but is instrinsic to
the accomplishment of our salvation)

Rabbi Shaul explained the spiritual significance of the act of immersion (Romains 6:3-9): ". . . those who have been immersed into the Messiah Yeshua have been immersed into his death. . . .  Through immersion into his death we were buried with him; so that just as, through the glory of the Father the Messiah was raised from the dead, likewise, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was put to death on the execution-stake with him, so that the entire body of our sinful propensities might be destroyed and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For someone who has died has been cleared of sin.  Now since we died with Messiah, we trust that we will also live with him."

Ezekiel told us that the soul that sins will die (18:20).  Colossiens 2:11-14, declared: "you were buried along with him by being immersed; and in union with him, you were also raised up along with him by G-d's faithfulness that worked when He raised Yeshua from the dead.  You were dead because of your sins. . . .  But G-d made you alive along with the Messiah by forgiving you all your sins.  He wiped away the bill of charges against us."

Those who confess their faith in the sacrificial death of Yeshua, our atonement for sin, is immersed, as a believer, into Yeshua's death and resurrection, and becomes part of Messiah's visible body, his temple, on earth, and part of his eternal kingdom.  T'vilah is a testimony to faith in Messiah: (1 Yochanan 5:7)  "There are 3 witnesses--the spirit, the water, and the blood--and these 3 are in agreement."

Maïmonide :
http://perso.club-internet.fr/aharon/MRmbm.htm
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