Monday, June 15, 2009

Going to the Mikvah

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I knew that eventually this day would come. It isn't something usually spoken about. It is a private matter. In Conservative circles, it is almost a forgotten matter. I remember when I made the leap from Reform to Conservative. I didn't know what to expect from my new community. Did people keep kosher? Did they drive to shul? Did women go to the mikvah? What I learned was that about 20% of Conservative Jews keep kosher. Most do drive to shul. And barely any go to the mikvah.

The mikvah. It is a ritual bath for the purpose of ritual immersion. Many people know of it as the place where converts dip in order to finalize becoming a Jew. It is also used to toivel new dishes for those who keep a kosher kitchen. Men and women also use it to for ritual purity. Mikvah means "collection" and refers to the collection of water. Natural water. Living water. Women are required by Jewish law to immerse between Niddah (menstruation) and resuming relations with one's spouse. The Conservative movement has various Responsa on the subject that range from looking and sounding very Orthodox to changing its purpose and reducing Niddah length of waiting.

I spoke to my rabbi about it over three years ago and I am just now starting that part of my observance. Yes, that means my free ride due to breastfeeding is over and I am once again having to experience that unpleasant part of being woman.

Tonight, I called to make the appointment. I had to leave a message and I am sure I sounded like a total freak. When she called me back, I told her I needed to make an appointment. She pointed out that she did not recognize my name. Was I from St. Louis? Did I know where the mikvah was? Was I a new bride?

I told her that I had a baby 14 months ago and had finished my period. That this was my first time. That I didn't know exactly what to do. She was kind. She asked if I would be more comfortable if no one was around. She would arrange for me to be in the waiting area alone so that I would be more comfortable. She told me what I would need to do before coming. She told me not to worry. She loved first times and she would do everything she could to help me feel at ease.

I am excited, nervous. A little scared even. Of the unknown. I hope I don't do anything stupid or wrong. I hope she doesn't freak out that I have a tattoo from lo-oooong ago. I hope this is a nice transition. Meaningful.

Most of all, I hope this is another connection...to the generations of women before me...
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know that this is a deeply personal experience and sharing your feelings about it are not as easy as one might think, so thank you for sharing with us.

I am so excited for you to beginning this phase in your religious life.

And, you can sort of think of yourself as a new bride, because when you come out of the mikvah you will again be pure.

And, on a lighter side, you must be nervous if you called yourself out on the tiny tattoo that is barely visable LOL.

Rachael