by Laura Bishop
I did not have a traditional Jewish wedding. In another life, where I married another man, I would have loved to have been under the chuppah (wedding canopy), wrapped in a tallis (prayer shawl), as the rabbi blessed us, our union, and consecrated our marriage under the laws of Moses and Israel.
But, that was not the wedding I had.
Instead, I, an agnostic Jew, fell in love with a wonderful atheist who was raised a Christian. Though our wedding had some Jewish elements in it, a traditional Jewish wedding wouldn’t have felt authentic to us, it wouldn’t have reflected who we are and what we believe.
And yet, a part of me mourned the loss of tradition, of hearing and echoing the same sacred words spoken by generations upon generations of Jews declaring their love and commitment to one other.
I didn’t know that I was going to find what I was missing in the mikveh.
The second immersion in Mayyim Hayyim’s bridal ceremony quotes Hosea (a Hebrew prophet). It’s the same passage that is used in traditional egalitarian Jewish weddings during the ring exchange:
“I will betroth you to me forever.
I will betroth you to me with righteousness and with justice, with goodness and with compassion. I will betroth you to me in truth; and we will come to know God.” Hosea 2:21-22
Here I had stumbled upon the perfect way to incorporate tradition into my wedding, in a way that felt authentic to me. Although I couldn’t imagine saying these words directly to my partner, it felt right to say them while standing in the warm, living waters of the mikveh. By speaking these words aloud, in the context of a sacred and traditional Jewish ritual, I was declaring and affirming my identity as a Jewish woman about to get married. It didn’t matter whom I was marrying or how.
By immersing in the mikveh like generations of Jewish brides before me, I felt like I was consecrating my own marriage by taking the time to acknowledge my momentous life change in a traditional Jewish way.
And in the enthusiastic “Kasher!” of my Mikveh Guide, I heard the echoing voices of the generations of Jewish brides who came before me, blessing my union.
Laura Bishop lives with her husband Andrew and their cat Echo in Westborough, MA. Laura and Andrew just moved to MA from NYC, where Laura was studying for her Master’s in Public Administration at NYU. Their wedding was absolutely lovely, and both are looking forward to their honeymoon in Europe next month.