On Friday afternoons, the week begins to fall behind me, its sticky fingers of busyness letting go, one by one. On Friday afternoons, the joyful promise of Shabbat fills the air as the sun dips low to the horizon. On Friday afternoons, you’ll most likely find me at Mayyim Hayyim.
Here, the air is thick with the breath and memory of all who have come over the years, with reverberations of joy and healing, loss and peace. I step inside to warm welcome and warm waters.
I have been coming here ever since Mayyim Hayyim opened its doors. Friday afternoons stitch one week to the next until they thread together a year. And another. And another. Almost eight years now, flowing together. Each Friday is its own: glowing summer sun radiant in the high window, or thin dribble of winter light; forget-me-nots in the garden, or fall’s brilliance of maples – each week is different, and each week I am different.
Some weeks I play and splash in the water, others I slip quietly below the surface with just the smallest ripples over my head. I may fill the room with song (what fun to send my voice up the high walls as if lifting to Heaven!) or with silence and breath. I may come with questions and confusion, or with faith and joy. Sometimes I can quiet my thoughts and simply lift up my prayer. Other times my mind chatters non-stop, unable to turn off even as I say words of prayer and blessing.
Always, though, I begin with a slow step into the water. Step, step. Breathe deep. Step, step. Feel the letting go. Step, step, step into the deep and lift my prayer. Thank you, God, for the work of this week, work for my hands, my head, my heart and soul. Let me learn from it — and let it go. Thank you, God, for the coming Shabbat, time to rest, time to turn myself more fully toward You. Please watch over my loved ones; bring them peace. Ahhh. Dip three times, baruch atah (Blessed are You)… you make us holy in these waters.
Always – always! – I emerge at peace. This is the awesome power of a body in sacred waters: always it moves me toward wholeness. Always I am opened, and joyful, and turned toward Shabbat. What a blessing.
As Mayyim Hayyim marks 10,000 immersions — wow! — I say thank you to all who envision, create, and sustain this beautiful, sacred space. I trust that you know what a gift you are giving to us. Todah rabah – thank you!
Pam McArthur lives in Framingham with her wife, Beth, and their son, Aaron. They are long-time members of Congregation Beth El of the Sudbury River Valley. Of Mayyim Hayyim’s 10,000 immersions, Pam holds the record for the greatest number of immersions by any one person. She first experienced the transformation that can happen in the mikveh twelve years ago, when she became a Jew. “I still sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am! Mah yafa yerushateinu – how beautiful is our heritage. I am blessed by Judaism’s traditions and creative, renewing energy.”