Women go to the mikveh for many reasons. For most, it is seen as a monthly ritual to purify oneself in living waters, mayyim hayyim, after menstruation and preparation for physical reunification with a spouse. I think many women look at the mikveh as a monthly chore, another appointment to fit in to an already busy life, and the last step before they reunite with their husbands.
As someone who came to Jewish observance in college, I always associated the mikveh as a secret kept between Jewish women, the place everyone knows you go to, but no one asks about. In fact, I always find it the biggest surprise when I run into a friend at the mikveh. Your eyes meet each other, perhaps smile and nod, and then go back to your own space.
I view my visits to the mikveh as an encounter with nature, a time for me to pencil myself into the weekly hustle and bustle and immerse in rainwater. I admit, between working, traveling, caring for the kids and fitting in holidays, I often find the scheduling of an appointment grueling. But I find that if I can just make the time to go, once I get there, I can finally relax and focus on the moment. A time to care for myself—not just in a physical way but in both a spiritual and emotional manner as well. In fact, I no longer fear the need to visit a mikveh when I am on vacation or visiting family. I enjoy researching new communities, finding out-of-the way mikvaot and making the time to escape the family retreat or hotel of a foreign city to explore into the night. Some of my fondest memories of travel occur on my visits to mikvaot around the world.
It was one of these vacations that recently brought me back to my hometown of Boston and Mayyim Hayyim. To visit a mikveh so gentle on the eyes and calming to the spirit is refreshing. Every aspect of the mikveh was well thought out and planned to be a relaxing experience, from the building design to the fluffy towels. Users are invited to open the bor cap and let in the rainwater directly prior to immersion. I just took in all that surrounded me. A deep breath in and a minute to myself. It’s like stepping into another place in time where everything you’ve been rushing to or from just stops.
To me, the most powerful moment of my immersion experience was being allowed to spend a few minutes alone in the waters by myself. I was left surrounded by the stillness of the night and holiness of my act. It was as if time was standing still and I could finally quiet my mind and focus on coming closer to myself.
Jen Singer works in environmental consulting and lives in Silver Spring, MD with her husband, Steve and their two children, Ma’ayan and Aviv. You can read Jen’s blog by clicking here and follow her on Twitter @jenluftigsinger.