For many years after Mayyim Hayyim opened, I tried to figure out how and when I’d experience my own first mikveh story. Moments came and went. I thought, maybe when I turn 50? Menopause? Last kid graduates from high school? Youngest graduates from college? How about becoming a grandma?
Somehow, I was never ready. Perhaps I was hoping for the perfect moment. Or maybe I was worried that I’m not really that spiritual and my experience wouldn’t be as meaningful or powerful as others I’d heard about.
Anyway, life got busy, the kids got married, and two lovely granddaughters joined our family.
Then, my beautiful daughter gave birth to a stillborn baby boy. We were all devastated. It took everything to keep it together and move on.
A few years later, my husband and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary and that same weekend, my daughter gave birth to Isaac, born healthy and strong. Now was a time to celebrate. Double chai anniversary + healthy baby = triple chai.
When it came time to make an appointment to immerse, I chose my 59th birthday — the first day of my 60th year. Date scheduled. I had to figure out how to create my own ritual. It wasn’t at all clear to me whether this immersion would be meaningful or fall flat. I wasn’t sure I would be able to be fully present.
The very responsive folks at Mayyim Hayyim emailed me their 7 Kavanot for Mikveh Preparation and some sample Immersion Ceremonies to adapt and personalize. I invited my husband and a dear friend from camp days.
It was a drizzly, grey day, but the welcome at Mayyim Hayyim was warm. To my delight, instead of jumping right into the “experience” we were given a tour. We enjoyed the art exhibit and chatted briefly with the Mikveh Guide. Then, I said goodbye to my husband and friend, and went into the bathroom to prepare.
On the sink was a guide to preparing for an immersion. I took my time and read each of the seven steps and reflected on each one.
1) Hineni. Here I am. Take a minute and think about the transition mikveh will help you mark today.
All of a sudden I was able to stop. Me, with my mind always buzzing with the “to-do list.” I surprised myself and actually stopped to be present. Alone. I didn’t have to do anything else. Didn’t have to take care of anybody else. I’m not sure why I started paying attention. Hineni. Like raising my hand in class. I’m here.
2) Hiddur Mitzvah. The unadorned body is beautiful in itself.
I undressed and removed everything – including my wedding ring. It had been on my finger for more than 36 years – the symbol of a good marriage. This was the first time I had taken it off for more than a few seconds. There was a little dish by the sink for safekeeping. Reluctantly, I placed it in the dish.
3) Nekavim nekavim. You fashioned the human being intricate in design. Empty your bladder.
I felt grateful that my body works so well. That I am strong and fit and… I can pee on command.
4) B’tzelem Elohim. I am made in the image of God.
I was as naked as the day of my birth — but not really the same. This body has grown and changed: wrinkles and age spots, soft and a little flabby in places. Yet, it’s powerful. This body gave life to three new lives. Still strong. Still healthy. More gratitude.
5) Elohai neshama shenatata bi tehorah hi. The soul in me is pure.
I took a shower and the water felt so good. Those calluses, the bunions on my feet, they’re not going anywhere but I find myself accepting them. It’s part of aging. It’s okay. Nothing hurts. I feel calm. And strong.
6) Kol haneshama t’halel yah. The breath of every living thing praises You.
I breathe in. I’m a little surprised at how focused I feel. It’s powerful. Breathe out.
7) Tikkun Olam. We can stand for justice; we can build a world of peace and justice.
I looked at my hands and thought about all the babies they had held, my own and so many others. As a nurse, I think about all the good they have done as I do my part to make this world better. For the babies. For their parents.
Then it was time to enter the mikveh…
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech ha’olam asher kidshanu bi-t’vilah b’mayyim hayyim.
Blessed are You, God, Majestic Spirit of the Universe Who makes us holy by embracing us in living waters.
I read the blessing. Take a breath and go under the warm water. I float up; unsure if I went all the way down. This is harder than I thought it would be.
May God grant me strength, courage and peace. Amen.
The second immersion is the hardest as I think about my daughter’s stillborn child and start to cry. It’s really hard to go under water with tears in your nose. I gasp and breathe. Try to release the past and move forward.
Emotion and thoughts overwhelm me. I think about my daughter and son-in-law and their healthy baby, a miracle of love, feisty and adorable. I rejoice in my marriage and all that my husband and I created together.
May the blessings of joy, love, kindness, and compassion be with me always. May I find peace and wholeness as I continue my journey in gratitude.
I emerge from my third immersion calmer yet still emotional.
Drying off and getting dressed is more deliberate. I leave my wedding ring for last and when I greet my husband, I ask him to place the ring back on my finger for me. He does with my dear friend as a witness, just like she did at our wedding 36 years ago.
We share hugs and go out to lunch.
This guest writer wishes to remain anonymous.