by Rabbi Jenny Solomon
Where is your “happy place?” Some people picture themselves on a sunlit beach. Others have a favorite niche in their homes. Still others conjure up a vacation destination that holds warm memories and sacred traditions. But what if your “happy place” was also your “sad place,” your “worried place,” your “gratitude place,” your “vulnerable place,” and your “in between place?” What if it was your “everything place?”
One of the things that I marvel at, after visiting the mikveh regularly for almost twenty years, is that the mikveh is all of these places for me, and more. The mikveh is one of those rare places that is big enough to hold it all— my tears of loss and devastation as well as my tears of accomplishment and triumph, and everything in between.
As I grow as a rabbi and a fellow seeker, I increasingly find that living soulfully means resisting the urge to label experiences and moments as only “this,” and not “that.” The dualistic model, so common in our Western society, encourages us to judge things as either “good” or “bad,” “happy” or “sad.” This mode of thinking and feeling makes little room for us to experience life as it usually is— mixed-up, complicated, nuanced, and ripe with of all sorts of seemingly contradictory thoughts and feelings.
But the mikveh invites us to explore our souls and experience our bodies in a much more holistic way. I like to imagine the mikveh as a holy container, so expansive and robust, that it can hold all my feelings and experiences without forcing me to chose any particular one at the expense of another.
The first time the etymological root of “mikveh” appears in the Torah is in Genesis 1:9. We read: “And God said, ‘Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear,’ and it was so.” The word for “gather” used in this verse— yikavu (koof, vav, hey)— is the same root used in the word, “mikveh.”
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יִקָּווּ הַמַּיִם מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמַיִם אֶל מָקוֹם אֶחָד וְתֵרָאֶה הַיַּבָּשָׁה וַיְהִי כֵן:
How is the mikveh that we know today connected to the notion of “gathering” expressed in this foundational verse in the Torah? This is a question I often pose to the many students who come to study and immerse at Libi Eir Awakened Heart Community Mikveh at Beth Meyer Synagogue in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their answers are as varied and poignant as their individual spiritual journeys. But for me, the answer to this question is profoundly clear. The mikveh is the place in which I am gathered to myself, gathered to my ancestors, and gathered into union with the Holy One of Blessing. It is the place that invites me to welcome all my disparate “parts,” feelings, experiences, longings, prayers, and dreams and allow them to find expression. The waters of the mikveh envelop me with a loving embrace that calls out: “Make room for it all. Leave nothing out. Every feeling, every experience, every thought is welcome.”
So where is my “happy place”?
The mikveh is my “happy place” because it is my “everything place.”
Rabbi Jenny Solomon, D. Min. is founder and director of Libi Eir Awakened Heart mikveh in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is incredibly proud to be known as Mayyim Hayyim’s “first-born.” Jenny also serves Beth Meyer Synagogue and the wider Triangle area through her pastoral and educational work as well as her leadership in prayer.