The Gift of Immersion

Men, Shabbat and Holidays

by Rabbi Jeremy Sher

This Hanukkah season, as we get ready to commemorate the rededication of the Temple, I’m thinking back to a very special time of personal rededication: my immersion at Mayyim Hayyim, one of the formative experiences of my life. I had been to Mayyim Hayyim several times to witness immersions, but it was not until right before my rabbinic ordination that I immersed in an indoor mikveh designed for the purpose, and I could not have asked for a more meaningful spiritual experience than Mayyim Hayyim.

A good friend had purchased an immersion gift certificate for me to celebrate my ordination, and I was so grateful, because on a grad student’s income, the gift made it a lot easier for me to immerse. Although Mayyim Hayyim does not “charge” for immersion and no one is turned away, it felt important to me to have a contribution toward my immersion. What a wonderful present that was! When I arrived at Mayyim Hayyim, I was warmly greeted and received a quick orientation to help me feel comfortable. My first impression was that of a spa, or, I should say, it was what I imagined a spa might be, since I’m not much of a spa-going guy. What helped me feel most comfortable at Mayyim Hayyim was the warm welcome and just-right level of attention from my friendly Mikveh Guide.

The immersion itself was like nothing I had ever done, and I remember it clearly to this day. It was so much more than being in a nice room with a small pool in it. The idea that this room was built for this purpose, that every brick and every tile was laid with the intention of helping me, in this moment, feel fully surrounded by the presence of God, the idea that this experience had been gifted to me by a dear friend, all combined to make my immersion unforgettable. I later moved to California, but I know every future mikveh experience will contain something of Mayyim Hayyim.

This Hanukkah, consider the gift of an immersion certificate, because it’s never too late – for you or a loved one – to begin a practice of immersion.

Rabbi Jeremy D. Sher, M.Div., leads a growing congregation in Silicon Valley and runs a spiritual counseling service focusing on providing professional, nonsectarian chaplaincy care to persons living with mental illness, acute trauma, and/or severe social disadvantage. He recently published his first book, “Growth through Governance: What Every Jewish Nonprofit Leader Needs to Know.”  Prior to his ordination, Jeremy was Director of Technology at the Washington State Democratic Party and was CEO of the software company behind ActBlue.com. He lives in Oakland, CA. He enjoys miniature golf, ice cream, and grunge karaoke, and is an avid cyclist.

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