by Terry Rosenberg, Board Member

My personal, direct experience with ritual immersion happened many years ago, and my memory is sweet. But the felt, lived, embodied experience has faded. I love Mayyim Hayyim for the same reasons as so many others – its inclusivity, beauty, and ability to empower me to enact an ancient ritual in my own way and on my own terms. But I had underestimated the true power of immersion until a couple of weeks ago.

I made an appointment to immerse as part of a reunion with a group of wonderful friends, as the first event in a weekend-long shabbaton. The day of my immersion had coincided with an especially difficult week, one that was extremely emotionally challenging for me personally. In other words, I was in no mood for anything, except hiding under the covers to sleep. This is not hyperbole; it was truly that bad (ask my husband). But I had a commitment to this group, and I rallied, quite certain that nothing we’d planned for that weekend, even the events that would normally fill me to the brim with joy, would pull me out of the depths.

In preparing for immersion, I chose a blessing for healing. I went through the motions while the tape in my head continued to play: “Just get it done, it won’t help, but it can’t hurt.” I followed the guidelines in the kavanot (intentions) for preparation and welcomed the warmth of the water and the beauty of the silence, but the intensity of my sadness remained. But then something unexpected happened. While I was getting dressed and blow drying my hair, I physically felt some weight had lifted. I felt spaciousness, an opening in my heart and soul that enabled me to take a deep breath. The sadness was still there, but the experience of the sadness – the heaviness of the suffering – had diminished. It was the first time in a week that I smiled – really smiled.

I have stopped trying to figure out what it is exactly about Mayyim Hayyim that resonates so deeply. The whole is greater than the sum of its beautiful parts. I am simply grateful that Judaism offers this space and place, both communal and private, that feeds my soul. I am even more grateful to Mayyim Hayyim specifically for revolutionizing this ritual for moments just like this one.

Terry Rosenberg serves on the board of Mayyim Hayyim. She is also an independent consultant and executive coach who has worked in various commercial industries and Jewish nonprofit organizations including CJP’s Leadership Development Institute and the Foundation for Jewish Camp. She has served on the boards of Temple Beth Elohim, CJP, the JCRC, and Hebrew College. She lives in Newton, MA.