Rebbe mikveh water: Can it be a healer

JERUSALEM — Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson died almost two years ago, but his followers continue to revere his memory and vestiges of his existence, including reputedly miraculous water from a ritual bath in which he immersed himself.

The water, known as mayim haim (living waters), is distributed in tiny plastic vials by those of the rebbe's disciples who continue to revere him as the Messiah. The supply is apparently unlimited as his followers believe a "living" drop has only to be mixed with regular water to turn that into living waters.

The original water, which was collected 10 years before the rebbe's death by Rabbi Yisrael Halprin, the Chabad rabbi of Herzliya, is said to have curative powers. According to a newsletter distributed by Chabad Chassidim in Jerusalem, a tailor who suffered from rheumatism and had no clients rubbed some of the water on his joints and subsequently not only had no pain but also received orders for 10 new suits.

Another incident recounted in the newsletter tells of a boy born with breathing difficulties and a heart defect. After the mother rubbed the baby with the water, he recovered and was circumcised.

In Jerusalem, the water is distributed at Beit Mashiach, a shop just off Jaffa Road. An explanatory flier given out with the water explains that the water is not for sale, but recommends giving a "large" sum of charity to hasten redemption. The recommended amount is 28 times 28 Israel shekels, or approximately $260.

The flyer suggests the user should first say, "Long live our master, teacher, and rabbi, the king, the messiah, forever and ever," make a donation, and then make the request, mentioning one's own name and one's mother's name.

According to the flier, the user may then drink the water, reciting the appropriate blessing, or rub the water on an afflicted area. Finally, the flier says, the user should publicize the miraculous effects.

Chabad spokesman Menachem Brod dismissed the living waters, saying it is the work of a marginal group. There is no need to invent miracles and things that were not customary during the rebbe's life, Brod said.

However, he added, the rebbe had been in the habit of distributing small bottles of "blessed wine" at the conclusion of holidays and some of these bottles still exist.

He dismissed the miracles as mere stories and said the phenomenon had been condemned by Rabbi Yehuda Jeruslavsky, head of the Chabad rabbinical court in Israel.

"I'm sure that during the rebbe's lifetime they would not have dared to do it," Brod said.