Written by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
What does mikveh have to do with becoming a rabbi? Even before Mayyim Hayyim existed, I had explored mikveh. After spending one Omer soul searching, I gathered some very close friends at Freeman Lake to witness my own mikveh ceremony. The night before I wondered what was next. An Episcopal priest, my spiritual adviser said, “You’ll know.” After the mikveh, I wrote this sentence, “G-d wants me to be a rabbi.” This didn’t fit my rational brain, but looking back it makes perfect sense.
Being a rabbi was a dream early on. My 8th grade English teacher wrote that she remembered me saying I was going to be a rabbi. In college the dream was revived when I attended Simchat Torah services and saw the joy that the rabbis created. I wanted to bring that joy to others. I went home and called my parents. I switched majors, spent a year in Israel and became a Jewish educator.
My dream of being a rabbi took a back seat as life intervened. Although I was always active in the Jewish and wider community, I wasn’t the rabbi. My husband and I raised a family, owned a business, worked on social justice issues, studied Hebrew and had late night conversations about God.
That dream never quite went away. I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the world. I became my daughter’s Girl Scout leader and I led morning minyan. I was working as a strategy consultant for Fortune 500 companies. I was at the top of my game. I walked out of selling a contract to IBM and thought there had to be something more. The Episcopal priest told me two things after that business trip. He turned my question on its head: “Can you find the place in you where you know you are loved?” I ran away—I knew that he had hit too close too home. Then he said, “It’s time to shit or get off the pot.”
After the mikveh, I found the Academy for Jewish Religion. Its commitment to pluralism and second-career students made it viable. Many saw only the obstacles. I saw it as an opportunity and a gift. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
Along the way there were other obstacles—a serious car accident, the death of my mother, the downturn in the economy and the loss of my primary income, my daughter’s hospitalization which nearly prevented her high school graduation. Friends and family stood by me. I found Mayyim Hayyim which became a respite and helped me heal.
I pursued the dream to work on social justice issues. What I discovered, is that being with people in the moment is just as important. Providing a manicure for a grandmother in hospice, making deviled eggs for a shiva minyan, bringing a congregant challah and daffodils—or facilitating life transitions at Mayyim Hayyim are about listening to people’s stories and creating sacred space. Now I teach something I learned at Mayyim Hayyiim: Judaism has a place for everyone, created and loved by the Divine. Finding that love is how people find joy.
How did I celebrate ordination? With two mikveh ceremonies—one at Mayyim Hayyim and one with my classmates in New York.
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein is the principal of Congregation Beth Israel in Andover. She is privileged to serve as a mikveh guide and educator at Mayyim Hayyim. She owns her own consulting firm, Starpoint Consulting, Inc and she blogs as the Energizer Rabbi.