Reinventing Ritual

by Rachel Karish, Bronfman Youth Fellow, translated from Hebrew by Daphna Ezrachi, Bronfman Educator

The 21st-century world that we live in is one of constant progress and change. The industrial revolution, which began a few centuries ago following the Enlightenment, led to a technological race. In that race, human knowledge continues to grow endlessly, and we don’t always know how to deal with the changes that result from it. One of the positive aspects of these changes, however, is the willingness to discuss and to deal with the clashes that arise from them.

As Jews, and as people who hold to a belief system, we find ourselves constantly trying to deal with the rapid advances and clashes that occur in our world. We struggle to find solutions that will satisfy people of different opinions; this is not easy. During my visit to the pluralistic mikveh, Mayyim Hayyim, I was deeply impressed with how this amazing institution is able to bridge our progressive and open world with that of halacha (Jewish law), worlds that often clash. The design of the building, the staff of the mikveh, and the work that is done at Mayyim Hayyim creates a powerful feeling that we are all equal, and we are all welcome to enter and find our place.

Immersion in a mikveh is an important and meaningful ritual in the lives of many Jews, men and women alike. The mikveh is a source of physical and emotional cleansing. The most powerful element for me was the fact that Mayyim Hayyim was able to find halachic ways to open up the mikveh for anyone to come and cleanse themselves – no matter what stage they are in their lives, no matter where they come from, or where they are going.

As an Orthodox young woman, I felt that the visit resonated with me personally. A few months ago, we started learning about marriage and the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha (Family Purity) in school. I was amazed to see how Mayyim Hayyim created a viable and halachic way to include all those who want to come to the mikveh, which I plan on and very much look forward to doing regularly upon marriage.

For a while now, I have been looking forward to immersion in a mikveh. There is something so purifying about this experience. During our visit, I realized how important it is to me that the option of immersion be available to every Jew, no matter who they are. It is such a basic and natural thing to want to purify oneself and connect to oneself and to God. I found Mayyim Hayyim’s ability to make this basic, natural, and fundamental aspect of Judaism accessible to everyone profound and deeply touching.

rachelllRachel visited Mayyim Hayyim as a participant in the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, a network of 1,100+ young Jews from Israel and North America. She is a senior at Ulpanat Shirat Hayam and majors in dance. Rachel is active in her local youth movement and will soon be a volunteer through the Israeli national service program. Daphna is an educator and alumna of Amitei Bronfman.

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