by Diane Baum
On a recent Sunday in October, the bar and bat mitzvah class of seventh graders from Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton visited Mayim Hayyim to learn about mikveh. Here is what my 13-year-old daughter had to say about it:
The mikveh was interesting and beautiful. We learned through discussion and charades where the idea of mikveh came from and what a mikveh must have to be kosher. We split up into groups and did a scavenger hunt to familiarize ourselves with what the mikveh looks like, and I even splashed my hand around in the water to hear what the mikveh sounds like! Then our Mikveh Guide explained what it might be like to experience immersion at Mayyim Hayyim should we choose to immerse here in the future. The idea that all the rooms are named after different water sources gave a calming-like feel to the place. During the scavenger hunt, we found out that the mikveh is accessible to all ages and bodies, that the water is warm (about 85 degrees) and not too deep, and that once in the mikveh you have to turn a lever to let in living water from a natural water source. Our Guide taught us that, before entering the mikveh and while you are in it, some people choose to pray. What surprised me most was that the mikveh at Mayim Hayyim has colored lights, so that, if you wanted to, you could immerse in a rainbow!
Ritual immersion is something neither I nor my daughter had considered, but I found that pairing the ideas of a cleansing immersion with new beginnings in an act of spiritual rebirth was incredibly meaningful. The way Mayim Hayyim has woven a traditional ritual with progressive ideologies made the mikveh feel relevant. Thanks for a great experience!
Jennifer Baum is a 13-year-old student, gymnast, and 3-time Purim shpieler. Her mom, Diane, works at the Children’s Dyslexia Center in Woburn and volunteers for Communities for Restorative Justice and other social justice causes. They are both members of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Massachusetts.