by DeDe Jacobs-Komisar, Development Manager
Living in the Boston area, it’s hard to think about anything these days besides snow. It’s hard to believe that just twenty days ago it had only snowed five inches the entire season; now we’re buried in a collective snowfall of more than six feet that has wreaked havoc on all of our lives. And they’re predicting more by the time this blog is posted. Snow is everywhere and always and forever. Spring, grass, flowers, what are these words? I am writing this after finally escaping my home after the latest round of interminable snow days with stir-crazy children. If someone makes a global warming joke, I’m stabbing them in the knee with an icicle.
So what’s the connection between mikveh and snow? You may have heard the urban legend of women in the USSR risking their lives to immerse by cutting holes in the ice in the dead of night. What else? For one thing, if you’re low on water you can fill a mikveh with snow or ice and let it melt. During a 2012 drought, the Omaha Community Mikveh did just that, carting in 250 blocks of ice to refill an empty mikveh. According to a minority of rabbinic opinions, snow IS a mikveh. Yep, if you have 40 se’ah (about 200 gallons) of contiguous snow, you have your own personal mikveh. I dare you to try it out (no really please don’t).
When Jerusalem was hit by a snowstorm in 2013, there were reports of Kabbalists rejoicing that they would be able to perform the ritual of gilgul ba’sheleg, literally rolling in snow, to cleanse themselves of sin. In the ultra-Orthodox community of Mea Shearim, a Taharat Habayit (“family purity”) van was commissioned to transport snowbound women to immerse in the mikveh.
To me, the most important connection between mikveh and snow is the blend of outside and inside. It’s a way I can refocus my perspective, seeing the snow not as a nuisance but as part of the natural world and feeder into the mikveh in which I immerse. I can immerse in the warm waters of the mikveh, kissed by the melted snow from outside, and be refreshed, recharged in their sanctuary. I can meditate, focus…and yeah, pray for spring to come soon.
DeDe Jacobs-Komisar is Development Manager at Mayyim Hayyim and hopes to one day see her front lawn again.