by Leah Hart Tennen, Mikveh Center Directorleah-photo

Before I started working at Mayyim Hayyim, I was trained as a Mikveh Guide and Educator (Cohort 6, baby!).  Although I enjoy my “day job”, there’s a part of me that misses what got me here in the first place.

When I first started guiding, I often chose Saturday evenings as it was quiet and calm; and, although I was technically there for the person immersing, it really felt like I was doing something nice for myself.  As a social worker, you can’t really overestimate the value of self care.

As we are right smack-dab in the middle of wedding season, I recalled a special evening where I was privileged to be the Guide on duty.  A woman was coming for a pre-wedding immersion.  I had been her Guide before and remembered that she liked juice boxes (which we don’t always have) and an extra towel.  Just as I was about to place those items, along with the “Immersion Ceremony for a Bride“,  in her prep room, the doorbell rang.  It wasn’t my bride, but ten other women who arrived a few minutes early to get a few things ready.

The women asked if they could do something in the atrium (the area between the two mikva’ot (immersion pools)).  Since there weren’t any other scheduled immersions, I invited them to make themselves at home and use any space that suited the mood.  All of a sudden, the bride arrived and announced, “we’re having Havdalah (the ceremony that separates shabbat (sabbath) from the rest of the week)!”

I heard a lot of humming as the women gathered in the atrium.  One of the guests came out to the reception area and invited me to join them.  I declined as I did not want to intrude nor did I want the group to feel obligated to include me.  This guest informed me, however, that the bride was insisting that I join them.

I have always loved the Havdalah ceremony.  The blessings and melodies are beautiful, and it always brings back wonderful memories from camp.  Plus, I did a Havdalah ceremony just before my own bridal immersion seven years ago on a Saturday night with  a big group of girlfriends. What I didn’t know, was that the group consisted of mostly cantors and rabbis.  They sang, they harmonized, they taught, and they filled the atrium with joy and ruach (spirit) and so much love you could feel it.

What a beautiful moment.  What a blessing to have been included.  How wonderful that Mayyim Hayyim exists and is able to provide the space and time to honor any transition.

Leah Hart Tennen trained as a mikveh guide and educator in 2010 before joining the Mayyim Hayyim staff in March of 2012.  Before coming to Mayyim Hayyim, Leah was a Child Development instructor and Early Parenting Group facilitator at Isis Parenting. Prior to that, she was the manager of the Group Mentoring Department of The Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. Leah earned her Masters in Social Work and Masters in Public Health from Boston University. She is currently a community-based Big Sister, on faculty at the Boston University School of Social Work, as well as a teacher and clinical consultant for Girls’ LEAP Self Defense.