It’s been a year since you wrote “Since My Divorce, I’m Missing the Mikveh,” and you know what, Mayim? You and I have a lot in common.
OK, so I’m not a movie star. But I have watched “Beaches” approximately 517 times. That’s got to count for something, right?
Like you, I grew up in the world of those who knew not of mikveh, and significantly expanded my learning in college. I immersed before I got married and my introduction to mikveh was from a more traditional perspective. In all honesty, as I learned more about alternative uses for mikveh, I had a hard time with it.
Immersing for your birthday? Come on. It just seemed so trivial to me. How about upon getting a new pair of shoes? Where do we draw the line?
Trust me–I get it.
But then I started hearing the stories. I learned about a woman who decided to immerse to celebrate her 30th birthday. She did that because her own mother had died at age 29–and she felt like every single day she lived past 30 was a complete and total gift. She was ready to enter this next stage of her life with gratitude and strength. And she wanted–she needed–a ritual to mark that moment.
So I started to get that, too.
I learned not to judge another person’s kavanah—their reason for immersion. Because there’s always more behind it than we ever understand.
But I want you to know that to me withholding judgment about another’s reason for immersion also means withholding judgment about their reasons for not immersing. I never want to push someone into the water. If the time isn’t right, if the reason isn’t right; if anything just doesn’t feel right… I respect that. I believe it’s possible to encourage without proselytizing–and that’s what I want to do here.
One year later, I’m wondering if you still feel the same? I respect if you feel that as a divorced woman you do not need the mikveh anymore. Maybe other mikvehs out there agree with you, and feel they don’t need you either, as you suggest.
Not my mikveh.
My mikveh needs you–even if you never come to it. It needs you because should it ever feel right to you, I don’t want you to feel that you don’t belong. That you need to walk onto someone else’s turf. Whether you engage with it or not–this place belongs to you just as much as it belongs to anyone else.
I’d like to suggest a middle ground. After all, it doesn’t all have to be black or white, biblical or modern. Although summer is just getting started, the Hebrew month of Elul is just a few short months away. That time of introspection when we reflect on the past year and commit to bettering ourselves in the future. There is a longstanding minhag, a custom (dating back to biblical times, in fact), of immersing oneself in the mikveh prior to the High Holidays, in order to fully prepare for that clean slate to come. Our texts say that you don’t need to be married to do it… or religious… or “progressive,” for that matter. Just someone who’s ready to put the past behind you, and looking to start anew.
Whether it feels right or not, I hope you’ll tuck the idea away in your mind so it’s there for you if you need it–just like the mikveh itself that you miss so dearly.