A Field Trip: Mayyim Hayyim
Yesterday afternoon I took an unexpectedly wonderful field trip to Mayyim Hayyim Living Waters Community Mikveh in Newton. I had heard about this place for years, contributed to their book, Blessings for the Journey, and know a number of women who have been quite involved. Although it had always sounded very special, I never felt a particular urge to visit, but was encouraged (strongly!) to do so by a colleague, and am so very glad that I went. Their mission is "to reclaim and reinvent the ancient Jewish ritual of immersion in the mikveh for traditional and contemporary spiritual uses..."
Here is the link to their website which is bursting with beautiful pictures and any information you might want: http://www.mayyimhayyim.org
Important Fact: I am not Jewish. Second important fact: by the time we left there yesterday afternoon, I was sorry that I am unable to partake in the blessings of an immersion.
It is an absolutely beautiful and peaceful spot. Quite an accomplishment to produce such lovely space on busy Washington Street, just down the road from Newton Wellesley Hospital. With apologies for this comparison, it feels like a sacred Four Seasons with the taste and comfort and beauty and a heavy overlay of serenity and welcome. It is that welcome that is immediately apparent and made even me, a curious non-Jew, feel comfortable. It is apparently a very unusual decision to open a mikveh to all Jews, not just those of a single (usually Orthodox) persuasion. It is very clear that everything is about the visitor and her/his wishes and needs. The staff is very knowledgable, gracious, warm and supportive of any choices made by the guest.
Here is one thing I especially loved: In the privacy of a dressing room, after disrobing and washing and physically and spiritually preparing, the suggestion is to look at your naked body in the mirror, recognize that, whatever the imperfections, you are made in God's image, and smile.
Through the years, I have known a number of women who have been there for an immersion. In addition to the traditional baths before the Sabbath or holidays, a mikveh is often visited to mark an important transition and to help healing of body and soul. It is an obvious and wonderful choice for women who have completed cancer treatment and are looking for an important way to mark and honor their experience and to move forward with life. Here is a quote from their suggested prayers for an immersion towards healing: "I come here today in hope of finding healing for my body, my heart, and my soul. As I prepare my body to enter the mikveh, I also prepare my mind and spirit to release the past and allow pain in dissolve....
My God heal me, body and soul. May my pain cease. May my strength increase. May my fears be released. May blessings, love, and joy surround me."
During our conversation, our guide told us that all outdoor waters in the world are kosher and can be used as mikvehs. This includes ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans. I have been thinking a lot about the tidal pond just outside our cottage in Maine, thinking about the tides that are so symbolic, and about the availability of those waters for my own healing.