by Ivy Helman

Rosh Hashanah represents a return to God.  Immersing in a mikveh renews my sense of purpose and grants me a sense of wholeness I just haven’t found elsewhere.  Yet, it’s also so much more than this.

Two thoughts come to mind that truly capture why I go to the mikveh before the High Holidays, as well as why I choose to go to Mayyim Hayyim. First, kavanah, or intention. Number four of their “Seven Kavanot for Mikveh Preparation” reads, “B’tzelem Elohim, I Ivy Helman Appealam made in the image of God…Each person enters the mikveh as naked as the day of his birth, as the day of her birth. Without rank or status. Simply a human being. Gloriously a human being.”  To me, this says that in the mikveh I am exactly as God intended me to be.  There is no pretense, nothing to hide behind.  In the waters of the mikveh, it’s easier to remember that all bodies are beautiful. This reminder opens up a clear and intimate channel through which I talk to God.

Second, the mikveh is where I’ve felt the closest to both God and myself.  The kavanah is palatable.  I’m honest and sincere with God.  We talk, sometimes very seriously, sometimes not.  Sometimes I laugh.  Other times I worry. Occasionally, I sit silently in the presence of God.

Y’hiyu l’ratzon imrey fi, v’hegyon libi l’fanecha, Adonai tzuri v’goali

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, Adonai, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Tehillim (Psalms) 19:15

Whenever I say these words at the end of the Amidah prayer, I recall my experience in the mikveh and I once again feel as close to God as I did immersing.

Unfortunately, I just moved to Prague, so I won’t be able to immerse at Mayyim Hayyim this year. But I’m content with knowing that pre-holiday immersions will be meaningful for many people. Perhaps you too will consider immersing as a way to prepare for the New Year.

Despite my distance, Mayyim Hayyim is my partner in preparing for the High Holidays each year, as it is for so many people who come to mark transitions in their lives. I hope you’ll join me and become a partner in Mayyim Hayyim’s life-changing work by making a gift to welcome 5775.

With your help, Mayyim Hayyim will continue to bring renewal to our entire community.

May you have a sweet New Year. L’shana tova!

Ivy Helman has her Ph.D. in Religion, with an emphasis in Women’s Studies, from Claremont Graduate University and a master’s degree in religion from Yale University.  Her book, Women and the Vatican: An Exploration of Official Documents, explores the creation of a Roman Catholic theology of womanhood by church officials. Ivy is a regular contributor to She currently lives in Prague, Czech Republic.

Join us this Sunday September 14th from 2-5pm, for fabulous teachers and learning at Mayyim Hayyim: “Get Ready: Releasing the Past, Embracing the Future”