An Atheist in the Mikveh
By Janet R., and originally written for the Mayyim Hayyim Blog
Being an atheist has worked well for me. I’ve explored religions, never found much meaning in them, and have happily existed as a culturally Jewish non-believer. I’ve never quite understood what ‘spiritual’ means, except maybe it’s what I felt at the end of a couple of yoga classes, or while listening to some classical music. At times I’ve envied those who believe, those who can turn to a religion for meaning and comfort.
My mother’s death in September was one of those times. If only I could sit Shiva (seven-day period of mourning), or go to a service, or consult with a rabbi, or a minister for that matter. Instead, I found myself grappling to find ways to acknowledge my grief, to understand it, and to move through it. I thought maybe some structure would help, maybe a time limit. I’d give myself two months to flounder and feel and to not know what to do: after two months I wanted my life to go back to some sense of normalcy.
As it happened, a friend had given me a gift certificate for an immersion at Mayyim Hayyim several years before, on the occasion of my divorce. Of course I thanked her, while thinking to myself, ‘she really doesn’t know me that well,’ and promptly tossed it out. When my mother died, the same friend inquired whether I still had the gift certificate—maybe this would be a good time to use it? After confessing to ‘misplacing’ it, I accepted another one. And then I thought, ‘what the heck, I’ll try anything. I’m lost and confused and it can’t make it worse, right?’
No one could be more surprised than me to report the following: I decided to immerse two months (and a day) after my mother’s death and one day before my birthday. At first I obsessed a bit; did I really belong at that place? Wasn’t it a bit disingenuous? I thought about writing a ritual for the occasion but stumbled (what did I know about rituals, after all?), lost interest, and decided I’d just go and do it—whatever it was. At least I could tell my friend she’d been helpful. read more...