by Ev Bastow
In August of this year, I had the unique experience of visiting Mayyim Hayyim. I cannot talk about that encounter without telling about the life events that led up to that memorable day.
I was born and raised in New York City and grew up in a mostly unobservant home. Except for a rare bar mitzvah or wedding, I never attended a synagogue, but I did attend many family Passover seders. I don’t remember hearing about a mikveh until after I was married. So how did I get to immersse in a mikveh?
After my marriage and the birth of our first son, my husband, David and I, like so many unobservant couples, realized we needed to become more involved in Judaism. We moved from Hartford, Connecticut (where I learned about mikvehs because there was one in a building behind our apartment) to Long Island. Before the birth of our third son, we had the opportunity to be charter members of a new synagogue. Even with the Jewish education and b’nai mitzvah of our sons, we were still minimally involved. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and we became full-time residents of Berkshire County where we found our religious home at Knesset Israel. This was a wonderful, warm congregation and, look at that – there were women on the bimah (pulpit)! We started attending services more often.
Several years later, my husband passed away. Soon after, my congregation offered a bat mitzvah class. Because of our community and our approachable rabbi, David Weiner, I decided to become a bat mitzvah. After two years of study, at the age of 80, I was on the bimah, reading from Torah and conducting the musaf service. I thought it would be a transformative experience, and it was.
But my religious journey was still not over. When a women’s Rosh Chodesh (new moon) group was formed, I joined. I had read several articles about Mayyim Hayyim, and when the group scheduled a trip to the mikveh, I was in. What can I say about my visit? The Associate Director of Education, Leeza, was engaging and informative. When our group decided to take advantage of the opportunity to experience actual immersion, I knew this had to be part of my religious journey. I wanted more than the visit, I wanted the experience.
Leeza’s tour of the preparation rooms, the immersion pools, and her explanations about the living waters, brought a new feeling to the total privacy of the preparation experience and the pool itself. First of all, it was apparent that all secular needs were met. Every article of clothing and adornment needed to be removed, so towels and clothing storage were abundant. Cosmetic needs were also taken care of; lotions and even contact lens fluid were available. One could choose complete privacy, or in my case, having had a severe accident over a year ago, a Mikveh Guide was in the room with me hiding her eyes in deference to modesty.
The silence and the ambiance were very spiritual, very conducive to prayer. I had thought about what I was going to say, but my Guide found the right Immersion Ceremony for me, one that said it all. So I did what I came for: a spiritual experience that included prayer and immersion. When I returned to the waiting room, my Rosh Chodesh mates persuaded me that I was glowing. I like to think that Mayyim Hayyim provided the next, but not the final stop along my religious journey.
(You, too, can celebrate each new moon with Mayyim Hayyim’s brand new Rosh Chodesh Immersion Ceremony. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy.)