The Man in the Mikveh

By Jason P. Stark

 

By the time you are reading this, I will have married the love of my life, Rachel.  Before our wedding, we had the opportunity to complete the mitzvah of immersing in the mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim in Newton.  How I got to the mikveh is very important to understanding my experience.

As a founding lay leader of Eser, the young adult learning series run by CJP and Hebrew College, I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about Judaism and my place in the Jewish community.  When my friend and Eser staff member Elisha Gechter reached out and asked me if I was interested in visiting Mayyim Hayyim, my first reaction was, why?  I believed that the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath, was a female ritual.  I had no connection to the mikveh, though I was certainly intrigued by this ancient tradition.  Since my fiancée was interested in immersing before our marriage, we decided to take the trip from the North Shore to participate in the educational “field trip” for Eser 2013 participants.

I was nothing short of floored by the session led by Lisa Berman, Mayyim Hayyim’s educational director.  Her explanations of the mitzvah, of the evolution from biblical to modern ritual baths, and especially of how Jewish law required not only women but also men to immerse in many different circumstances were informative and eye opening.  I was impressed with the beautiful facility and the guidelines that Mayyim Hayyim had created, and on our 40 minute drive home all we could talk about was that now we couldn’t imagine getting married without BOTH of us immersing in the mikveh.  Almost immediately I booked our appointments for a week before our wedding and asked our friend (and Eser faculty member) Rabbi Neil Hirsch fromTemple Shalom in Newton to be with us that day. 

My immersion was a very powerful experience that almost moved me to tears.  The seven steps into the pool of water that is the ritual bath became a descent into something I didn’t expect – serenity.  This was the predominant emotion I felt during the process of my immersion.  The warm waters of the mikveh surrounded me, enveloping me became like a cocoon.  I felt protection and sheltered, while at the same time freer than I may have ever felt.  Each of the three times I rose out of the water to say the blessings I felt embraced by the dripping water.  That embrace stayed with me as I came out of the mikveh a transformed man.

The ritual was intense and powerful and the staff at Mayyim Hayyim was attentive, caring and professional in guiding me before and after.  My wife had a similar experience with her mikveh guide. We both had a safe and authentically Jewish encounter that I highly recommend to any man (or woman for that matter) at the appropriate time for them.

My wife and I are looking forward to participating in Eser for the third time this year. For more information about Eser, please or Mayyim Hayyim, please consult the following resources:

  1. Eser’s Website
  2. Eser’s Facebook Page
  3. Mayyim Hayyim’s Website
 
 Jason and Rachel on their wedding day. Photo Courtesy of Jordyn Rozensky Photography.
created at: 2013-12-19

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