When my wife announced she was taking us to a mikveh to begin the celebration of my 50th birthday I was worried. Do men use mikvehs? Will I know what to do? Will I be held under water? Will I need to know Hebrew? Will it be awkward? Will I be quizzed about my support of Israel? My knowledge of scripture? Oy, I was stressed.

My birthday arrived and after a nice early morning with our kids, my wife and I headed off to Mayyim Hayyim. The sun was shining when we pulled in to the parking lot. My wife mentioned that the car right in front of looked familiar. I smiled. I recognized the bumper stickers—it was our friend Lisa Dee Port White’s car. Whew, the fear began to subside. I knew she volunteered at the mikveh and I knew she would be a sensitive and supportive guide.

We went in, said our hellos and after a short wait, were shown some prayers on laminated cards for specific occasions. We each picked the cards we wanted and after a short tour were led to the “wet side.” We each had our own bathroom and parted ways to begin our ritual cleansing.

As we entered the mikveh, the calmness of the space and the gentle power of the water quieted any remaining fears I had. I was happy to be here as a witness for my wife and to be witnessed by her in my own healing immersion.

We witnessed each other saying our prayers and entering the water, immersing and allowing a few drops of sacred rain water to join us in our journey. The repetition of prayer and immersion deepened the experience.

After we each cleansed and witnessed, witnessed and cleansed, we parted ways again and went to our bathrooms to dress.

When I emerged, greeted again by Lisa Dee, I was beaming. Something happened in my reluctant journey. I found a grace that surprised and delighted me. The rest of my day was filled with happiness and delight. I felt whole and loved, by myself, my family and my growing connections, through those healing waters, to my ancestors and, ultimately, myself.

Jonathan Rosenthal has been working hard to make the fair trade coffee and natural and gourmet products industries more just for more than 25 years. He is a serial entrepreneur and an independent consultant at Just Works Consulting creating and managing projects that help advance social justice issues with early stage companies and nonprofits. He is a member of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in Newton and a happily married proud parent of two teenage daughters.