Living Waters

Mikveh Guides, Niddah, Shabbat and Holidays

By Leann Shamash

So much of what is written in Parshat Metzora, this week’s Torah portion, concerning blood and emissions still lives on to this day. Who would think that a parsha which details bodily emissions would spur a tradition of mikveh, with water a liquid vehicle to heal and transform? Mayyim Hayyim has taken the concept of mikveh and niddah and expanded it to be a place where individuals can mark transitions in their lives.

On Saturday nights, we celebrate Havdallah, where we mark a transition from one status to another. We are all always changing; whether it is a niddah or a series of life events. This is a poem about the power of mikveh and the experience of tevilah, immersion into the living waters.

Hatevilah – The Immersion

Immersion is a prayer

She stands above the pool.
Her toes feel the water
as cool as the early spring rains.
She shivers.
Slowly she descends
Step by step
The water accepts her presence

She finds the center
Lets the water find her
and with a breath
she searches deep within herself,
her eyes closed.
She immerses.
In her heart is a prayer,
a silent declaration.
A hope for the future
for life itself.
The water covers her
as a blanket
or an embrace
and she is home.

Al Ha’tevilah

At that moment
the water is her
and she is the water.
Suspended briefly
in a liquid universe.
She pauses;
feels the water surround her.
Envelope her.
They are as one.

And she is re-created.

With a breath;
strong and renewed;
she emerges.
Shining and shimmering
through the water.

A thousand ripples spiral through the water
Each ripple a story,
her story;
a thousand traces of a living being
upon living waters.

A thousand drops of water linger on her arms,
her legs, her torso, her hair;
a parting gift from the water
as she ascends.

She moves upwards, always upwards
She is changed.
She is re-created.

The water waits for her return.

* This poem is written with a feminine pronoun, but is meant to be universal.

Leann Shamash writes a blog with poetry on the Parsha, called Words Have Wings. She teaches classes on combining images with torah texts through  the Open Circle program at Hebrew College and classes on Grandparenting Through a Jewish Lens.  She facilitates a bi-weekly yoga dance class.  Leann is a proud wife, mom and grandmother. Leann has been a guide at Mayyim Hayyim for a number of years, and her work there was the inspiration for this week’s poem on Parshat Metzora.


  • SUMMER HEAT ADVISORY: We have new measures in place to combat the high summer temperatures which may affect your immersion. 

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