So Close You Can Touch It: One Mother’s Experience at Beneath the Surface

by Samantha Woodsamwood

When I brought my daughter to Beneath the Surface, I didn’t know what to expect.

Ritual Jewish immersion was something I had hardly considered, and I didn’t think I would ever be drawn to it. I didn’t know quite what the workshop would ask of us, but I wanted something to help us prepare for her becoming a bat mitzvah. Something that said: this is important and we should try to understand it.

The topic, of course, was intimate. What are you becoming and what does it mean?

In the course of Beneath the Surface, I heard my daughter say quietly, and insistently,

“This is about me.”

When I said, “Yes, it is,” I was faced with this question: Who am I now?

Motherhood is its own immersion.

The three weeks of Mayyim Hayyim’s workshop changed me a little, as a mom and as a person. My daughter said things and I read things she wrote that she had never said to me before. A subtle readjustment was taking place. She was stepping toward her future. I was given the opportunity to see myself again, to take a little piece of me back.

We did not go in the water. We were always near the water.

Mikveh is about getting closer. Mikveh is being so close you can touch it.

From feeling like an outsider to the ritual of immersion, I moved toward realizing this place is for me, too. With no apology for a busy 21st century life, I felt the simultaneous necessity of a Jewish practice.

I can see myself now stepping in. To mark my independence. The individual in contact with the world, on her own terms. The understanding of my place on a timeline in relation to other generations.

In the course of Beneath the Surface, the bat mitzvah stopped feeling like a performance we were prepping to pull off. I began to understand, this is very real for us both in our own ways. And we should not let it pass without taking notice.

Independence. Silence. Blessing.

The arrow on the map, pointing: You are here.

Samantha Wood lives with her family in western Massachusetts. She works as the night managing editor at a daily newspaper, is a mentor for SOLA-School of Leadership Afghanistan and serves on the Education Committee of her local synagogue, where she teaches Jewish history and social justice workshops for teens. Her daughter is expected to become a bat mitzvah in April 2013.

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