Friday, July 08, 2005

A Visit to the Mikvah

This morning I made my first visit to the mikvah, the ritual bath traditionally used by Orthodox Jewish women each month after their period. Reform Jews – both men and women – have come to use the mikvah to mark special occasions – weddings, conversions, and for me an adult bat mitzvah.

The mikvah is a small pool which is fed at least partially by a source of natural water – in this case rain water. You are supposed to approach the mikvah only with what you were born with – no jewelry, no glasses, (in my case) no retainers, no nail polish. You also prepare by cleaning out your ears, your belly button, every crevice, and by carefully combing your hair after you shower and shampoo.

The idea is to completely submerge yourself 3 times, not touching any surface of the pool. In between dips or afterwards, you can recite prepared prayers or any prayer that has meaning for you.

As I entered the warm water I felt very buoyant. The prayers carefully directed me to look backwards, letting go of unnecessary things and feelings, and then to look forwards, reaching out for new meaning for my life. What a perfect way to prepare for what I will do tomorrow, as I read from the Torah for the first time.

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