Learning by Osmosis

leah-photoby Leah Hart Tennen, Mikveh Center Director

As a staff member and Mikveh Guide at Mayyim Hayyim, I often get asked how often, when and why I immerse.  That might be a personal question to some, but I don’t mind.  I actually like talking about my immersion experiences because each one led to the next and ultimately led to me getting to walk through the gates here every day.

It has, however, been quite a while since the last time I immersed.  I have loved the preparation (I’ve never had a bathtub at home as big as the ones here), the time to myself (I can’t remember the last time I was actually in a bathroom alone–it seems that toddlers don’t quite understand the meaning of the word “privacy”), and the beauty, peace and stillness of the water in the mikveh.  Based on that, one might think I would want to immerse all the time.  I do–it’s just that my kavanot (intentions) for immersion in the past felt big and powerful; I don’t really feel like I have a “good enough” reason right now.

Of course, there are hundreds of reasons why someone might choose to immerse, and I always think others’ reasons are incredibly meaningful and relevant.  Mine just seem less significant in comparison. Perspective is subjective, though, and I imagine that the “right” reason to immerse again will present itself one day.

I am often amazed at how one person’s post-immersion feelings can impact how I feel.  For example, a mother came with her daughters for conversion and everyone was so happy.  There was lots of singing and hugging, and I couldn’t help but smile.  That joyous feeling stayed with me for the rest of the day.  Another time, a couple came to immerse as a way of making amends and to refocus on the future of their relationship.  That commitment to each other was incredibly powerful and gave me the space to think about the important relationships in my own life.

There are only “good” reasons for immersion.  Any life transition that feels important is just the right reason.  I soak up a little bit of everyone’s pre- and post-immersion feelings every day which, in a way, feels like I just immersed myself.

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 and Simmons College Schools of Social Work, as well as a teacher and clinical consultant for Girls’ LEAP Self Defense.


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