Written by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin
The mikveh has been part of my life for 35 years. I have “taken the waters” in Manhattan, Beer Sheva, the Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey, Baltimore, and just this past spring, at Mayyim Hayyim.
I have written healing rituals for post-partum ceremonies, victims of abuse, rape, illness, infertility, separation and divorce. I have grumbled my way to the mikveh, frozen on my way to the mikveh, cried and been bored and elated on the way to the mikveh.
Yet, no matter what my mood, or my status, or my age, I always come home the same, for there is always a moment – that same sacred moment – that happens in the waters.
A proper immersion requires that all parts of your naked body be engulfed, surrounded, by water at the same time. No part of your body can touch any other part of your body and no part of your body can touch the boundaries of the mikveh.
For a moment, then, it must be you, all of you, every bit of you, in the endless ocean of water.
For a moment, there are no walls, no barriers, no endings and no beginnings.
Now, the only way I can suspend myself in the water, the only way I can get myself to float in just the right way, is to let go and surrender. I must let go of my fists, my clenched jaw, my tight shoulders. I must give up control over my movements, my orientation, my sense of agency. I must just be there and give myself over to the water, hang there, for a moment or two.
It is uncomfortable in our world to be reminded that, in the end, there is little we control; hard to acknowledge that staying afloat sometimes is more about letting go than holding on, more about trusting than guiding.
This is humbling and reassuring, liberating and oddly energizing. It is certainly worth the trip once a month to get a booster of this spiritual awareness, no matter my mood or the weather. I am thinking of going even when the tradition says it is past my time.
Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin is the Founder and Director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1988, Rabbi Cardin then served the Seminary in numerous capacities, including Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, Special Assistant to the Chancellor and Visiting Lecturer in Theology. Rabbi Cardin edited Sh’ma: a journal of Jewish responsibility. She was the Founding Associate Director of the National Center for Jewish Healing; and Founder of the Jewish Women’s Resource Center at the National Council of Jewish Women in New York City. She is the author of Tears of Sadness, Seeds of Hope: a Jewish spiritual companion to infertility and pregnancy loss, and A Tapestry of Jewish Time: a spiritual guide to the holidays and lifecycles. Rabbi Cardin is one of the founders of SHLEIMUT, a multi-disciplinary program in the emerging field of Jewish health, healing and wholeness. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland and blogs at blog.bjen.org.