by Kelly Banker
My monthly immersions have been interrupted, and their absence is showing up everywhere I turn. Each immersion felt like a suspension of time; a breath of new life into each month. This summer, though, I was living in western Massachusetts and only recently returned, and have not had the time to immerse at Mayyim Hayyim. What better time, then, to immerse but during High Holy day season and renew my commitment to monthly immersion?
I scheduled my ‘first’ immersion for last weekend – right before Rosh Hashanah began. I could not have been more excited to rest and rejuvenate once more in the loving waters of the mikveh. In the meantime, though, I was seeing and, in some sense, experiencing, the mikveh everywhere. It’s almost as if I had been undergoing mini-preparations for my immersion into the water.
I live just over a mile from school, so I typically bike to get there in the most time-efficient way possible. The other day, however, I had a bit of extra time on my hands, so I decided to walk. That walk, though by no means picturesque, felt immersive in itself. As I walked through the streets of Somerville and Cambridge, my breath began to deepen and I felt myself sinking into profound awareness. I took a moment to notice each person around me, and to greet the plants and trees that I encountered along the way. The air felt crisp, with a slight twinge of chill in it. It felt as though I was walking out of Mayyim Hayyim after an immersion, filled with serenity, newness, and a heightened awareness of all that is sacred, with the living waters still cool against my skin.
And in that space of honoring all that is, I encountered a round challah left outside of a building. The beautifully braided challah sat outside of an apartment building, directly on the earth. I stopped and blessed the intricately crafted challah, and also said a blessing to mark the uniqueness of this moment. How likely was I to find a round challah right around the Rosh Hashanah season on the streets of Cambridge? Obviously, this was no ordinary walk. I continued onwards after the challah sighting, filled with wonder and gratitude at this gift of a day. My ordinary walk thus became imbued with holiness, intention and a special gift.
Immersing in the mikveh, especially during the High Holy day season, is a beautiful way to carve out time to experience the ordinary and the sacred in the same breath. Preparing for immersion calls us to engage in the daily ritual of cleansing and caring for our physical bodies, yet our intention and awareness is heightened by the Seven Kavanot for Mikveh Preparation. Just as my walk was imbued with holiness through my intention and awareness, so too is the preparation for immersion. I eagerly await my return to the mikveh, and with it the return of holy waters into my being.
Kelly Banker is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality in Religion at Harvard Divinity School. In addition, she teaches religious school at Temple Israel and works as a prenatal yoga instructor. Kelly is forever in love with her puppy, poetry, exploring the woods, and the sacred cycle of the moon.