By Rabbi Jessica Shafrin
Recently through the Jewish Fertility Foundation, women from various religious backgrounds took part in a meaningful ritual for those suffering from infertility.
To the unformed images of G-d that have yet to join me in this world:
Tonight as the living waters of the mikvah flowed from one person to the next, I found myself turning my thoughts and prayers to you. These waters, like that of a river, flowed from one person to another, from one life to another, from one journey to the next. Three women immersed in these waters, each one as vulnerable as the next, and the waters held them and comforted them.
The first, a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy, immersed to mark the new life that will be brought into the world. The living waters, mayim chaim, surrounded her and were blessed by the life she had within her. As she left, I blessed her that everything should happen “in a favorable time” (b’sha’a tova).
These living waters were not done. The next two immersions were for women facing the struggles of infertility.
Their thoughts were brought to our ancestors Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Chana, who asked, begged, cried and prayed to be blessed with a child. The prayer of these two women was the same as for those women who came before them. They acknowledged the salt of their tears as prayers running down their faces. They prayed that the water of the mikvah, pure and natural, would wash away the saltiness and, as they were enveloped in the fresh, living waters, that they would be filled with light and new life.
Each immersion consisted of three dunks, each marking the past, the present and the future. They said two blessings: the first on the immersion in living waters and the second to praise the source of life.
And so I prayed. I prayed that these same living waters that were touched by the first woman to immerse would touch these two women with that which is their essence: life. Mikvah is the womb of the world, creating from the chaos of the waters. These waters were illuminated: G-d spoke, and there was light, a brightness that would be a guide, that would glow in our hearts and in our souls. And with the help of the light, creation can take place and continue.
Sitting in the mikvah, surrounded by the water that splashes around her body, a woman feels this light. For a moment, there is no chaos, no doctors, no tests — only her vulnerable body and the waters. There is hope. There is light. There can be creation.
I prayed and remembered Sarah’s laughter, Rebecca’s tears, Rachel’s innovation and Chana’s prayer. Each of these women had her own response but the same yearning for a child. I prayed that these two women would be remembered by G-d just as G-d remembered Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Chana and blessed them children.
As the final two women departed the mikvah, I blessed them that they would walk with the angels Michael and Gabriel at their sides, would follow the light of the angel Uriel, and would be trailed by the healing of Raphael. Above all, that Shechinat El would continue to rest above their heads.
Rabbi Jessica Shafrin advises the student tikkun olam board at the Weber School and guides spiritual seekers through the immersion process at the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah. She is on the board of the Jewish Fertility Foundation, which provides financial assistance, educational awareness and emotional support to Atlanta Jewish families facing medical fertility challenges.