Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: At any time in the history of Judaism, did Jews practice baptism as a ritual for cleansing from sin? I have been told that the description of the baptism of Jews by John the Baptist in the Christian Bible would have been unique because historically only proselytes were baptized, not Jews. I am interested in verifying whether or not this idea is historically correct and would appreciate any information that you could give me.
Mesora: Some cases of immersion were performed by the priests, by proselytes upon conversion, and by women upon the completion of their menstrual cycle before engaging in sexual intercourse - all were to demonstrate a change in status. But the water itself had no powers.
When one sins and then repents, his penitence is not dependent upon immersion, but on regret, and resignation to never sin again. Today, it is customary to immerse prior to Yom Kippur, for similar reasons.

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