by Abbie Yamamoto
The practice of mikveh feels nourishing. The way the water hugs and buoys me up just a little feels like the physical embodiment of support.
When I enter the mikveh, the water envelops me completely, and gently touches every single part of my body. This feels both intimate and a little invasive. In my pursuit to always see things from multiple perspectives, I preserve my sense of seeing it both ways. I know that the “invasiveness” is what creates the sense of intimacy.
The water is the embodiment of love: sometimes supportive, sometimes a little restrictive; sometimes intimate, sometimes uncomfortably revealing.
The water separates: it separates my “menstrual period” from my “non-menstrual period.” In the moment of immersion, it also separates me from the rest of the world.
The water reminds me that I am ultimately alone even as it hugs and buoys me. The existential aloneness reminds me of my ultimate independence and autonomy. In that autonomy, I always have an existential choice of what I do.
The mikveh also reminds me of collective power and will. We humans must organize to build an entire structure to collect and house this water to use it for our ritual purposes—unless we live by a natural body of water we can use year-round.
The water that I immerse in is “alive.” It contains rainwater, water that has fallen from the sky. The water gives life, like the amniotic fluid. It can also overwhelm us with its force and drown us.
I see the Mikveh Guide as the person that stands there not only to make sure that my immersion is kosher, but also to make sure that the water stays nourishing—keeping watch over my physical and spiritual safety.
So I travel monthly to immerse in the mikveh. It was a commitment I made when I married my partner, who says, “Halacha (Jewish law) is lived poetry.”
Abbie (Miyabi) Yamamoto is the owner of One TransLiteracy, LLC, a company that offers diversity training and coaching in Portland, Maine and the greater Boston area. She is married to Aaron Shub, the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh and Director of Jewish Life and Learning of Levey Day School.