by Rosa Blumenfeld
I am the daughter of a mother who was born during La Violencia, the Colombian civil war so bloody it was simply called ‘The Violence,’ and a father who survived the Holocaust as a 25 year old in 1939. I know what it is to be raised to be on constant alert for the next catastrophe, to be suspicious of the world, and to be miserable as a result. My work as an adult has been to undo these harmful thoughts and choose to walk a different path.
Despite my parents’ horrible experiences, I still choose to believe that love is the most powerful force in the world; that joy, happiness, and peace are my birth right as a human being; that the universe is a generous place that was made to care for all the creatures who dwell within it – animals, plants, trees, rivers, oceans, mountains, and humans; that it is my job to see the wonder of creation and marvel at it, to notice how I am connected to all of it, and to feel the universe envelop me in its light.
This is why I felt called to become a Mikveh Guide. Mikveh for me is about slowing all the way down. As I prepare myself to enter the mikveh waters, I take the time to reflect. I notice every inch of my body. I notice everything that my body and my self are connected to. I step out of the rhythms of daily life, and into the mikveh waters to be both apart and together at the same time. It is where I find my connection to the universe, to my peoples, and to my highest self.
In this time of social distancing because of the coronavirus, during which we will all feel the pull of worry, anxiety, and fear, I feel so grateful to be alive. I feel grateful that I am part of a people with customs, rituals, and traditions that we have practiced in times of hardship and joy for thousands of years, both from the Indigenous/Native Colombian side of my family and the Jewish side. I feel grateful that I have the intelligence to remember that as I enter the waters of the mikveh, I am connected to every Jew who has entered the mikveh before me, every Indigenous person who has ever prayed by the water, and every living being that water has touched.
The water travels a long way to get to me. It evaporates from our earth to form clouds. Those clouds rain back down over every single inch of the earth. That water touches the leaves of the trees and nourishes its roots so that it may grow. As the weather heats up, the roots will keep some of the water underground to continue feeding the tree as the earth gets warmer. The roots of that tree reach out to other trees underground to hug them and communicate. All of the animals and plants around that tree are also touched by that water, whether to drink, to bathe, or to grow. The water connects us all.
I cannot travel to my cherished, sacred, and beloved local mikveh of Mayyim Hayyim right now. Since I cannot go, I am thinking about ways to stay connected to water during this crisis. I can still walk to rivers, streams, and ponds near my house. I can do hand washing ceremonies and other water ceremonies from my home. I can take lots of baths to keep anxiety at bay.
I am writing these words as the American state of Massachusetts in which I live is in a state of emergency lock down, and the novel coronavirus continues to spread. I am a restaurant worker whose restaurant has closed to the public, so I am now unemployed. Yet I do not feel hopeless or discouraged. I am grateful to be alive in this moment. I am grateful that our planet and my fellow humans and I all get a break from being part of a relentless system that exploits us all, that we get to enter into a state of perpetual Shabbat where we get to slow down, breathe, and choose where our focus is. I am grateful that I live in an age where I can communicate and stay in touch with so many people from all over the world using technology.
I am also listening to how others are affected by the virus and what they are thinking about the transitions caused by this virus. I am reflecting on the following questions myself, and invite you to do so along with me:
- If you were not panicked by the virus, how would you like to use the time you are having now?
- What kinds of conversations would you like to have with your family and friends now that you can?
- What harmful hobbies or customs would you like to leave behind once this emergency is over and we have to return to ordinary life?
- How would you like to live your life again if this situation lasted for a long time?
- What are you learning from all this?
Please feel free to comment your reflections below, and we can start a fascinating conversation. Wishing you love, faith, and courage as we face this time of great change and uncertainty together.
Rosa Blumenfeld has been Mayyim Hayyim’s Racial Justice and Equity Consultant. She has ten years of experience as a union organizer, popular educator, and anti-oppression trainer. Her work is informed by her personal journey to peel back the layers of assimilation forced on her by white supremacy and reclaim her identity as a Native Muisca woman while delighting in her strong Jewish identity. She is also excited be a volunteer Mikveh Guide, part of Mayyim Hayyim’s 12th Cohort of Guides.