“Isn’t it ironic” sang Alanis Morissette. Many have pointed out that Alanis’ “ironies” were not, by definition, actually ironic. (See a comedic, “corrected” version of her song).
But it is fair to say that one would not expect someone who works at a mikveh to be saddened by water. And yet here I am in exactly that state.
Two weeks ago, while my family and I were enjoying a wonderful week-long family reunion on Cape Cod, the second floor bathroom faucet in our Newton home began spewing hot water. We returned to a most unpleasant sight, smell and sound. I didn’t realize until then how out of place and immediately concerning the sound of dripping and running water is in an otherwise quiet house. I couldn’t help but think of the many times in my teaching at Mayyim Hayyim that I have said, “Water is an incredibly powerful element. We can’t survive without it, and too much of it is equally destructive”. My students are quick to point out the damaging reality of tsunamis, hurricanes, and “Super Storm Sandy”. In my case, my house was more the victim of a small failure multiplied by days of inattention, but boy what havoc water wreaked on what I had considered permanent structures such as ceilings, walls, floors and furniture.
With the help of insurance and a good contractor recommendation, all of this will be set to right in just a few weeks.
But then there are the sharks. As if unwanted water in Newton weren’t enough, there are sharks in my favorite waters. Chatham (on Cape Cod) has been my family’s summer escape for five generations. Very recently we learned that we now share its waters with Great White sharks. Perhaps they were occasional visitors in decades past, but they now stalk my beaches closer than even a boat would dare cruise. Close enough that even I, an enthusiastic ocean goer, cannot honestly say “oh come on, it’s not like a shark is going to swim right up to you here by the shore”. And no, for me it’s just not the same going swimming in a pond or a bay or the Sound.
I can say that it’s not the same, because where I work, people really understand that the water matters. It matters that it’s crystal clear and clean, that it’s not doused with a lot of smelly chemicals, that it is just warm enough so you don’t get a chill but not so much that you get overheated, that it’s lovely and private and… perfect.
So I still have one place to go where the water is perfect, while I wait for my soon-to-be-dry house to be perfect, and my beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches to be less attractive to Great Whites. And while I wait, I think about the power of water… to create, to destroy, and to transform.Lisa Berman, Mayyim Hayyim’s Education Center Director, has been involved with Mayyim Hayyim since its opening in May 2004. Lisa trained as a Volunteer Mikveh Guide and then served as the liaison to area congregational religious schools and adult study groups. Since 2006, Lisa has directed the Paula Brody & Family Education Center, where she develops curricula for all ages and interest levels; she also organizes and oversees more than 110 programs annually.