At the other end of Temple Reyim’s parking lot is a little path. At the end of that little path is a house. Inside that house are two pools of water. Inside each of those pools of water, in their warm still silence, something incredible is taking place.
As a college student, I spent my summers working as the drama director and songleader for Camp Sabra, a JCC summer camp in central Missouri. One summer, a fellow staff member led an evening kabbalah study group. I don’t remember how the topic came up — it might have been from a text we were learning or just a tangent we were following — but someone asked about mikvah. The staff member teaching us asked if we wanted to try it out, to dunk in a mikvah. We were all eager to try it out, so he led us down to the swimming dock, which stretched into the Lake of the Ozarks, the largest man-made lake in America. The guys went onto one section of the dock and the girls went onto another section , and, in true summer camp counselor fashion, we all threw caution and our clothing to the wind and jumped in.
The water was a perfect temperature. I stared up, greeted by the sky which had also undressed and was proudly displaying its breathtaking array of stars. Our teacher told us that when we were ready we should go under completely a few times. When I finally submerged, I opened my eyes and all was a deep murky green and stillness. I curled into a ball and thought, “This must be what it was like in the womb.” Soft. Silent. Gentle warm water and a body buoyant.
Since my first mikvah immersion, I have continued to return again and again to mikvaot, especially at times of pivotal transitions in my life. Sara and I immersed in a mikvah before getting married. We also immersed after the births of our two children. I immersed in a little men’s mikvah on the Upper West Side the morning of my rabbinic ordination.
Since moving to Newton, Sara and I have become members of Mayyim Hayyim, the community mikvah and education center that is located just across the parking lot from Temple Reyim. Sara and I immerse there each month, and we are usually joined by our son Lev who immerses with me and never wants to leave the mikvah’s soft, warm waters. We also attended Mayyim Hayyim’s Gathering the Waters Conference this week, an incredible three-day celebration of mikvah practice and a testimony to mikvah’s relevance when it is reclaimed and reinterpreted for contemporary times.
We at Temple Reyim are blessed to have such neighbors doing such holy work. Mayyim Hayyim’s mikvaot are a gift to the Jewish people, a gift I enjoy on a regular basis. In the waters of the mikvah, I am able to wash away stress and struggle and find myself again. In the waters of the mikvah, I reconnect with my own creation, with my Creator, and am reborn. All this, from following the little path to the house across the parking lot from my office.
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