Spiritual Bond Emerges From Sharing Mikvah
OpinionTaking Root

Spiritual Bond Emerges From Sharing Mikvah

During the MACoM gala March 16, Aliza Abusch-Magder speaks of her mikvah experience.
During the MACoM gala March 16, Aliza Abusch-Magder speaks of her mikvah experience.

When I first suggested to my daughter that she go to the mikvah, it was a nonstarter. She was 12. Her bat mitzvah was months away, but I wanted her to consider the possibility.

My interest in Jewish ritual bath began in high school. For my final project in a Jewish studies class at my high school, I chose to focus on mikvah.

A budding feminist and fiercely curious Jew, I was filled with questions about my own identity. But in the end, I only felt more confused and challenged by the tradition of married women immersing after their period and before resuming marital intimacy.

Still, when I prepared to marry less than a decade later, I chose to dip in the mikvah. I wanted to connect with the act that had for centuries been a hallmark of the transition from single life to married life. It was a powerfully meaningful experience: a pause in the chaos of planning, a celebration of my womanhood, a reminder of the sacred nature of the commitment I was about to undertake.

Not nearly another decade passed, and a rabbi friend was about to celebrate her oldest becoming a bar mitzvah. As she rattled off the list of things that needed to get done, I asked her how she was doing spiritually.

Startled by the question, she got emotional. I suggested that she consider a dip in the mikvah.

The following year, when I prepared for ordination, she returned the favor and accompanied me for a visit to the mikvah ahead of my taking on the mantle of the rabbinate.

Today, mikvah has become a key part of my spiritual lexicon, adding so much to my life at moments of transition.

In the mikvah, tears of fear, joy, anxiety, loss and hope melt into the waters. Sometimes, as with any ritual, it feels rote, but more often than not it is an extraordinary experience.

And so, as my daughter prepared for her bat mitzvah, I wanted to share the gift of this tradition with her. Her teenage hesitations were different from the ones that had troubled me decades before; it was unfamiliar and odd.

Luckily, my cause garnered support when her close friend immersed for her bat mitzvah. Despite some hesitations, my daughter took the plunge.

Now mikvah has become something we share. Ahead of our move to Atlanta, at the beginning of the Jewish year, we went to the mikvah.

Each of us takes her own time in these sacred waters, says her own prayers, has her own experience. Just as I have taken to teaching at our local mikvah about Jewish tradition and innovation and the possibilities of modern ritual, she has taken to talking about the power of mikvah to counter the judgmental toxicity teens often experience when it comes to their bodies.

At the March 16 celebration of MACoM, the Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman spoke of the unique power of the mikvah water to ignite the fire of the soul.

Dipping into naturally sourced water connects us with an ancient tradition and offers us the potential for renewal. As we head into spring, into the busy Passover and tax seasons, consider experiencing the possibility for yourself.

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