Sarah Tasman bio pictureby Rabbi Sarah Tasman

For the past number of years, immersing in the waters of the mikveh has been an important part of my transition into the new year. Immersing before Rosh Hashanah in previous years felt very natural, an extension of the images of rebirth and renewal, of creation, and of the world coming into being on Rosh Hashanah.

This year, immersing in the mikveh during the 10 Days of Awe, in the time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur was somehow about going deeper.  It was about carving out time and space to listen to myself and listen to God. It simply about being in that moment of feeling protected and surrounded by the warm waters of the mikveh, wrapped in God’s embrace. It was not so much about becoming something new, as it was about turning towards myself.  It was this physical, full body immersion I needed, in order to fully be ready for Yom Kippur and in order to turn outwards to the year to come.

When I came to Mayyim Hayyim for my pre-Yom Kippur immersion, I was in the midst of working on my sermon for Yom Kippur about the reluctant prophet Jonah who runs away from God. I began to see that his being heaved overboard into the sea was like a full body tashlich – a casting off his sins into the water – and that Jonah’s three day immersion in the belly of the big fish was just what he needed.

It was only once Jonah was all in that the sea stopped raging. And in the quiet of the belly of the fish, Jonah could hear the kol demmama daka – the still small voice of his soul. He was able to hear what he needed to hear and he answered that call with a prayer. In the deeply profound immersion in the waters of life, Jonah found himself. Jonah became ready.

As we enter into Yom Kippur, may we each be held, protected and nourished by the living waters which ready us to hear the still small voice within. Shanah tovah. 

Sarah Tasman is a rabbi in New Haven, CT and a long time Mayyim Hayyim mikveh guide and educator. She recently directed the first volunteer mikveh guide training for ImmerseNYC, a community mikveh project in New York.