Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mommy at the Mikvah

The first time I went to the mikvah it was before my wedding. I am a Reform Jew and mikvah was not really on my radar until preparing for my wedding as a rabbinical student (with a newfound awareness of all kinds of rituals). With my mother and other important women in my life blessing me, I immersed in a beautiful mikvah in Pittsburgh and never imagined I would do so again. Years later, I considered immersing as part of my pregnancy journey but hesitated because there was no mikvah in Atlanta where I felt I could go anonymously and comfortably as a rabbi in the community.

In November 2015, we opened MACoM: Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, a mikvah designed to be welcoming and inclusive of our diverse Jewish community.  I am on the board, a committee or two, and the clergy advisory group, so I knew most of the inner workings of this mikvah. However while I thought I might want to use it occasionally, I never thought about becoming a regular user: until I finally went and discovered this was the ritual I did not know I needed.

I would ask my fellow parents, particularly of young children, this question: When is the last time you heard silence? Our lives are constant refrains of "Mommy" and "Daddy," phone calls, bedtime stories, questions, requests. Even the night isn't silent with the white noise of the baby monitor.

When I went into the mikvah, it was silent. There were no requests, no questions, no calls...just silence. It was disturbing for one moment and then completely soothing. As I went under the water, time slowed down and everything paused.

As parents, there is the feeling that the days are long but the weeks, months, and years are short. We have milestone transitions such as the start of a new school year or a birthday. The day-to-day rushes past with the sweet moments that seem memorable until they are replaced by the next.

Mikvah offers parents--both men and women--an opportunity to pause. Much like the havdalah ceremony at the end of Shabbat, we draw out the time into a meaningful ritual transition. The preparations for the mikvah slow us down, the immersion in a quiet pool invites us to be still with our thoughts. We can make the mikvah experience an opportunity to think about the past month and intentionally go into the next one, reflecting on our many roles, joys, and challenges in the frame of Jewish ritual. Whether going monthly or in another increment of time, we can take a deep breath and emerge renewed, ready to enter back into the noise and see what comes next.

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