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Ritual Immersion in Water MIKVEH): Personal, Jewish, and Powerful

04/25/2023 02:04:52 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Have you ever wondered if there was a ritual from Jewish practice to ease a transition or mark time? Have you ever been to the mikveh? Jewish tradition offers us the mikveh, the sacred waters, for full ritual immersion with. Traditionally we use it for conversion, prior to marriage, to prepare for Shabbat or holy days, and for women at the end of their monthly cycle. We can also create our own rituals for times of transition and change. To celebrate or mark time. To reach for healing. There are no limits to how often you can use a mikveh.

I think of entering the mikveh as entering the womb of Shechinah, and feeling her embrace, or entering Torah and receiving the blessing of our ancestors. What makes it a ritual are the three prayers, and it always involves a witness (done in a modest way) to witness the full immersion all the way under the water.  We immerse ourselves without clothes like the day we were born and we make sure our head and hair go fully under. We take care that our hands and feet don’t touch the bottom or sides.

As a rabbi (and before while I was studying), I accompanied people to either a body of water or a kosher mikveh like the ones in San Francisco or Oakland for many special moments. For example, I have accompanied people following a miscarriage, for conversion, prior to marriage, after a serious surgery, marking a name change and more. Sometimes we used a hot tub, or a bathtub when we couldn’t find another way. (We did a pre-bat mitzvah dunk in the hot tub for my daughter with her friends.) And then there was the time we did an abbreviated immersion of only hands at the medical center, before the first time someone was having chemo.  Letting go of the past (or incorporating the past), being in the present, and hopes for the future are loosely how we structure the three dips and blessings.

I have entered the mikveh at happy times, and transitional times. (My ordination and wedding.) Each time was a uniquely transformative moment in my life. I was one person before immersion, and another after.

Is there something you are celebrating, healing from, or want to mark? Consider joining us on Wednesday, May 10 at 7:00 pm at Cortland for a class about the mikveh and to consider how you might benefit from an immersion in the mikveh. On the 11th at 11:00 am we will have a tour of the San Francisco mikveh and learn about what makes a mikveh kosher. We will have an opportunity to follow up with how we might create a ritual for you and schedule time there or use a different body of water.

Click here to register

Artwork by Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784