Reclaiming Mikvah

First some housecleaning since it has been so long with no posts from us!  Jessica and I spoke today, and we are doing away with the designated days for posting.  We will post when the mood strikes us as jobs and family life are currently taking more time than they were when we began this project.  We are committed to keeping this blog alive and active and welcome your input!

Ironically (or not, because Hashem has a way of guiding the world just-so), I had been thinking about writing a mikvah post as I have had some interesting conversations lately, and today Chaviva (aka, Kevitching Editor) posted about the lost spirituality of mikvah in her life.  As I began to write her a comment, I realized what I had to say was better suited to its own post here. So thank you Chaviva for getting me going enough to write what has been on my mind for a few weeks now.

Post by Melissa

Mikvah is a beautiful ritual with immense possibilities for spiritual enrichment; a ritual which can be as powerful or monotonous as you choose to make it.  Women singularly hold the power over this experience and what we share with one another can only help empower us to make it our own special moment.  I believe that embracing mikvah as not only something we must do, but something we choose to do, is one of the most feminist things we have the opportunity to do as Jewish women.

As someone with a long history of body image issues, having someone see me naked is no easy thing.  I could be stalled there from the start, however I make the choice to mentally prepare myself for the mikvah attendant to see me and am always relieved when it is a nice woman who doesn’t make a big deal of checking and has trust in my ability to follow the checklist and have appropriate preparation.  Regardless, I find myself having to push aside my fears and issues and simply trust in the tznuit-ness of my mikvah attendant.  I have to believe with all my being that she will not watch me as my naked back is turned to her. Once I slip out of my robe and begin to walk into the water, all else must be forgotten.

I focus on every step I take going into the water.  They are each a step away from the rigors of daily life.  A step into the calming natural waters of life. Being completely present as I descend into this sacred space is a blessing all its own.

Once fully into the mikvah pool, I get myself situated into the middle, take a deep breath and allow myself to be absorbed by the water, exhaling as I go in.  Exhaling all the negativity and stress. Holding in the beauty of the moment.  Taking a moment to right myself before repeating not only the physical dip into the water, but the spiritual one as well.

After I have completed my immersions in a kosher manner, which often takes me many more than the five I am aiming for, I take a moment to just be in that space.  I allow myself to reflect on the past month and the coming month; on the relationships which have grown or wavered; on those people in my life who need the healing embrace of these living waters.  I allow myself a  personal prayer to connect to these people and ask God for the strength to be what is needed in the coming month.

Before I exit the waters, I take the time to embrace my innermost spiritual self, really pushing my own comfort levels.  I force myself to think of the women all over the world who are also in this space at this time, and for the times before.  Connecting not only to my physical ancestors, but to all those who are my soul-sisters in this mitzvah. Sending them wishes for the healing and nurturing waters to provide for them in the month to come.

Ultimately, I find that embracing the deeply spiritual side of this ritual in a world where so many rituals feel monotonous is empowering.  It allows my entire sense of who I am as a modern religious woman to be revived and renewed on a monthly basis.  I know that I will miss it when I am blessed with pregnancy, and only hope I can find another source for a connection of this level.

You are likely asking a few key questions now, so lets just be blunt:  Yes, it is an annoyance to have to re- schedule other things to get to mikvah on the right night and time. Yes, I hate having to trek out in the cold, dark night to be scrutinized by a stranger.  Yes, I dislike having to schedule an appointment in a small window and feel rushed to get through.

Yes, I have to focus hard to get into the space to make it a truly spiritual encounter.

Yes, it is worth it to know that I am fulfilling such a wonderful mitzvah.

Yes, it is powerful to step into my Jewish femininity every month.

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9 thoughts on “Reclaiming Mikvah

  1. kol hakavod to you, rebbetzin, for picking up the dialogue that chaviva started.

    i’ll restate here what i said on kvetching.editor: i think that if we women want to reclaim the mitzvah, and make it spiritual and beautiful [hiddur mitzvah, anyone?], that we HAVE to talk about our experiences.

    keeping things in the dark is a fast track to moldy waters and chlorine-bleached mitzvot.

    again, yasher koach for speaking up.

    • Thank you for your support and encouragement. I think every one of us with the power to do so, must speak up. Hiddur mitzvah, indeed!

      (Though, I must also note – I am not yet a Rebbetzin. My husband will begin his preparatory studies next fall (B’H). The blog title is initially misleading, but it involves the journey and understanding of the title for two future Rebbetzins.)

    • Thank you so much for this beautiful article and also the insightful comments.
      As a non-Jewish outsider I might have one advantage: I have a purely theoretical understanding of Mikvah and have never experienced the more sordid side (stroppy attendants, overclorinated water seem to be a problem, from what I read). But in itself, this sounds like a marvellous and very meaningful way of reminding oneself that one doesn’t just have the everyday side to one’s life, but also this closeness to the divine. The symbolism is so rich – you immerse in a totally different element that what you usually live in, you float completely free from your everyday life, you say a prayer, you immerse in the element where you and all life came from, you create a sacred space and a connection to your ancestors and your community. You have the benefit of finding a sacred space and time created by countless repetitions of this ritual through the generations. You are reminded that you need time by yourself to connect with the divine. I could go on, I hope this doesn’t sound presumptuous.
      The richness of ritual makes me wish that I had been born Jewish, among other things 🙂

      As I’ve seen it in other areas of life, I also think it must be so important to speak about the experience and not just accept whatever you’re dealt.

    • You are very welcome. I think it is essential to keep the conversation going! Look at how much is being generated by sharing your experience. They are all so valuable to keep the spirit alive.

    • Thank you Laura. As I said before and will say countless more times, I feel that it is absolutely necessary to share these thoughts to keep other women moving forward in their actions.

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