By Jody Comins, Development and Events Coordinator
“May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”
“On the eve of your Bat Mitzvah, I hope that you will continue to grow and learn with all the wonderful attributes that you have already attained.”
And so the blessings continued as each of the girls and women present gave my daughter their blessing before she immersed this week in preparation for her Bat Mitzvah. These are some of the sacred words that were said:
Her Nana -“Not only do you get to participate as a daughter of the commandments, but you can grow up to be anything you put your mind and heart to.”
Her Gramma -“As you go forth in the world, may you take delight in forming connections with a diversity of people, asking important questions, and doing your part to make the world a better place.”
Her 12 year old cousin – “Well this is actually just weird, the fact that you are
going to be a ‘grown up’. I look up to you as a role model of what I want to
Her 9 year old sister – “I hope you get good presents. Try not to drown.”
How special to be surrounded by people who love you, to stop and contemplate, in a quiet space, in holy water, what it means to become a Bat Mitzvah. Although I’m not yet trained as a mikveh guide, my daughter asked me to accompany her in to the mikveh (the room, not the pool). “Of course”, I said casually, which is how one responds to her pre-teen, even though I was thrilled!
“Ooh, its warm, like a hot tub!” She exclaimed as she walked down the seven steps into the water. She said the prayers and, holding her breath, sank down beneath the surface, feeling above her head to make sure she was under all the way. After two immersions, she realized she had forgotten to open the bor (reservoir) to let in the rain water. Once she did so, she quickly dunked three more times to make it kosher.
Outside the room, our wonderful mikveh guide, Margie, was trying to lead my tone-deaf family in song. According to my sister, the kids were eating, the grandmothers were chatting and people seemed to be focused elsewhere. But inside, for us, it felt perfect.
We felt the love and heard the singing of those outside. Inside the quiet of the mikveh, with my daughters voice echoing off the water as I heard her soft prayers, I felt a calmness come over me. It was like the moments during my bedeken (veiling ceremony in a Jewish wedding) when all the women I loved dance and sang around me like I was a queen. I felt so present in this moment with my daughter, six days before her Bat Mitzvah. Gone were all the thoughts of things we’d been busy doing to “prepare”- assembling centerpieces, talking with the caterer, making hair and nail appointments, fighting over cleaning her room or writing her dvar Torah (a speech interpreting the Torah). Just the two of us, together.
I held up the sheet to give her time and space for more reflection. When she came out of the water, I wrapped her in the sheet and she opened the pocket doors to say hello to the family who burst into “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov” (a traditional Jewish song of congratulations). Of course I cried. I’m still basking in the glow of the experience.
Did I mention that I’m the new Development and Events Coordinator here at Mayyim Hayyim? Over the past five years I’ve come to know Mayyim Hayyim and what a special place it is through other work in the Jewish community. I placed a student here as an intern when I worked at the Hornstein program for Jewish Professional Leadership at Brandeis; I’ve visited for the last four years with a group of young Jewish leaders from London as part of their year long leadership program through LEAD; and my daughter and I participated in the Beneath the Surface class last spring.
I only began working here a few short weeks ago and every day is a blessing. Walking in each morning, through the beautiful garden, and sitting at my desk listening to the celebrations below as people immerse. Think about it – wouldn’t you feel good if you heard eruptions of “Siman Tov u’Mazal Tov” while you were at work every day? I cry at least once a day because I’m moved by a conversation, a reading, or a photo. I’m surrounded by other professional women with a diversity of backgrounds and a common interest in creating and maintaining a sacred space here at Mayyim Hayyim. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be, personally and professionally.
When I come in to work every day, I read the comments in the guest book from the day before; I’ll leave you with my daughter’s comment from last Sunday evening:
“I came before my Bat Mitzvah and I felt a very spiritual connection to the water itself.”
Jody Comins is the new Development and Events Coordinator at Mayyim Hayyim. Her older daughter just became a Bat Mitzvah on June 9, 2012. She has a Clinical MSW from Boston University and has worked in the Boston Jewish Community for 22 years in many different environments. “Working at a mikveh is the hardest to describe!”