Mikveh → Tikvah

by Carrie Bornstein

CBTapestryThe world feels like an ugly place right now.

We can’t escape the reality – all throughout the internet, on the news, on the radio, in conversations with friends – that our world is a highly imperfect place.

We are in the lowest time of our liturgical year too. These weeks between the 17th of the month of Tammuz and the 9th of the month of Av symbolize all that is wrong in our world now, and the way it has been for so many years in our history.

Posting on Facebook or blogging about anything else these days feels like walking around with blinders on. And yet, I hesitate to share my thoughts publicly, particularly about Israel, because I fear that sharing any opinions only drives us farther apart.

So I look for the things that give me hope. That make me feel like we will turn these situations around. And I thank God for summer. The light… the air… it somehow seems just a bit easier to deal with than it would be during the dark days of winter.

Every year at this time, students from the Genesis and BIMA programs at Brandeis visit Mayyim Hayyim to discover a pluralistic institution in action, to contemplate their own spirituality, and to appreciate the possibilities of the Jewish community.

No matter what is going on in the world, their visits give me hope for our future. The root of the Hebrew word mikveh – kuf, vav, hey – is the same as the root of tikvah – hope. I continue to find hope in the people who find meaning here; reading their words and remembering that these are 16- and 17-year old boys and girls – makes me believe that it’s all going to be okay.

“Today was my first time being immersed in a mikveh. I had learned about them in Sunday School but I had never experienced one. As I was preparing, I felt nervous, trembling at the face of God. When I immersed though, time seemed to stop, and I felt closer to God than I felt before. For the three times I was under, all my worries seemed to float away. I felt natural, pure in God’s eyes.”

“I had a very meditative experience in the mikveh. The warm water nourished my skin and warmed my heart. I only heard the sound of my thoughts. It was incredibly serene.”

“I had never gone into a mikveh before. It was a unique experience that will stay with me a lifetime. The reading I chose about coming out was meaningful and brought to the surface something in my heart. I have been out for almost a year today. It was uplifting and freeing to cleanse myself and to have a time to symbolize and bring forth answers to myself and God that I am me – I am b’tzelem Elohim – made in the image of God. Thank you, Mayyim Hayyim. There is a piece of my heart here.”

“Being submerged in the mikveh made me feel God. I do not quite know what that means at this point in my life, but I know that I felt something powerful during my time here.”

It’s all going to be okay.


Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director. She lives in Sharon with her husband, Jamie, their three young children, Eliana, Dovi, and Jonah, and three young chickens.


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