by Carrie Bornstein

Last week I had the fortune of teaching a group of undergrads at Harvard Hillel and we spent some time looking at texts on the power of water. In addition to the waters of creation when God separated the heaven from the waters of the earth, we also explored waters of destruction – stories like God sending the flood to wipe out humanity and the parting of the Red Sea that left the Egyptians drowning in its wake. We thought of real-world examples, too, like hurricane Sandy, and even the fear of getting caught in the undertow of a strong current in the ocean.

We watched a clip of a show that PBS produced years ago about a woman named Sue Busch and her experience at Mayyim Hayyim. (Feel free to skip ahead to 1:17 on the video where the content begins.)

Sue is a nurse who traveled to Indonesia to do relief work following the tsunami in 2004. When she returned, her rabbi suggested that she visit the mikveh in order to reclaim her relationship with water. The students I taught realized that whenever water serves as a force for destruction, an opportunity for creation often lies just behind it.

One participant astutely came back to the text of creation and found that God’s presence was hovering on the face of the water. With our water today being the same as the water of creation, God’s presence remains.

I don’t know what it is – but it seems like there must be something in the water at Mayyim Hayyim. Coming out of 2014 we found that we had more immersions than ever before: a total of 1,402 by 926 people. Not an insignificant increase as compared to 2013, when 876 people immersed a total of 1,325 times. Interestingly, when we looked at the different reasons people visited Mayyim Hayyim, we found that immersions for challenging life transitions – things like marking the loss of a loved one, healing from a miscarriage, beginning cancer treatments – those immersions increased one hundred percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared with the same time period in 2013.

Simply put, life is tough. We will never lack reasons to heal, but I am thankful that more and more people are finding God’s presence on the surface of the water at our mikveh.

Perhaps not coincidentally, here’s what one woman wrote at the very same time I was teaching this program:

FullSizeRender (2)“Wonderful experience. Made tears in my eyes. I am currently going through cancer treatments and the prognosis is not good. But today I felt renewed and filled with hope. Thank you.”

Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director.