by Sophie Hyman
I was a little apprehensive about coming to the mikveh. My sister’s girlfriend, Leah (Mayyim Hayyim staff and mikveh enthusiast), encouraged me to explore this area of Judaism that I had very minimal exposure to. I was afraid that I would enter into this beautiful, Jewish experience and feel indifferent, like it wouldn’t be the experience she envisioned for me, that it wouldn’t be the right time in my life to engage with ritual, that I wouldn’t be received, that my prayers for healing would not be answered. I was afraid of feeling like I wasn’t right for something like this, and thinking ahead, that I would forever feel a seed of disappointment for not having gotten out of it what I had intended.
Leah said to me, “Sophie, I know you better than most. I would never steer you wrong. The mikveh has your name all over it. What’s the worst that can happen? A hot shower with someone else’s fancy shampoo?” I couldn’t argue with that, so I put my trust in her, and quite literally jumped right in.
My apprehension was left at the door when I entered the mikveh waters. The atmosphere of the whole building embraced me. My Mikveh Guide was kind and welcoming, and I started getting excited when she explained to me the nuances of the architecture and the details of immersion. It was different than anything I had ever seen. The building was homey and the mikveh room was filled with natural light from high windows. The smell of holy water was reassuring and gave me a much needed lightness that allowed me to breathe deeply and meditate on my purpose there. I felt ready as soon as I was left to myself, and every word of each step of the preparation process weighed heavily for me.
Time stopped, and though I was alone in the room, I felt surrounded, my heart open and my words heard. I felt like I belonged on that Jerusalem tile. The whole experience was unforgettable. The healing ceremony gave me a sense of wholeness I had been needing. Every step of the way, the intention of my words, my grooming, my immersing, I was absorbing and welcoming this fresher state of being. Something was replenished in me, and I know I will always hold this memory close to my heart.
Sophie Hyman is a Psychology and English major at the University of Florida. She has a minor obsession with makeup, enjoys writing poetry, and volunteering with her service fraternity on campus.