My children came home from camp last week after being gone for seven weeks. The first day, my 13 year-old daughter, Talia, took to her bed. Itouch in hand, she spent the day crying, listening to music and facebooking with friends that she just left that morning. She posted, “Just spent the last hour crying my eyeballs out, how come I couldn’t do that at burnout last night?” (burn·out, noun, a fire that is totally destructive of something. In this case all the unclaimed clothes from lost and found at camp). Transition from camp to home is called “re-entering society.” My ten year-old daughter, Elizabeth, asked why Talia was having such a hard time coming home. I started to explain that teenagers define themselves by their friendships and that without her friendships so close, she has to redefine herself. Elizabeth said, “Maybe it’s because I have so many more summers left as a camper and she only has two, so that’s making her sad”. That will be a transition from camper to counselor.
As time goes by the sadness fades and the happy memories of that time can lift us up during other difficult times in our life. Life is full of both joyous and painful moments, summer camp helps children learn how to cope with both.
As a family we have certain traditions that mark the end of summer. When the kids came home from camp we headed up to see my in-laws who live on a beautiful island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. When we arrive, my father-in-law said “I love to see you, but if you’re here, the summer must be ending.” Our trip marks this transition for the whole family.
With the end of summer, comes the beginning of school, another transition. My kids go to MetroWest Jewish Day School in Framingham. After nine years residing in a school in town the school moved to a local synagogue over the summer. We had a community bbq last week, which marked the transition to our new space. Students were able to reconnect and meet old and new friends, meet their teachers and see the new classrooms.
In order to prepare for the bbq, we bought new bbq utensils, which had to be kashered (to render kosher). Since I work at a mikveh, I was asked to bring them to work to tovel (to immerse) them.
The toveling of the utensils is a transition in itself. The Jewish table is likened to an altar, its holiness compared to that of the Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple). Before dishes and utensils can be used in a kosher kitchen, they must acquire an additional measure of holiness, which occurs through the ritual immersion in a pool of naturally gathered water, or mikveh. So we aren’t actually kashering the utensils. As Leah Hart Tennen, our Mikveh Center Director, says, you can put a pig in the mikveh and he’ll come out Jewish, but he still won’t be kosher!
We don’t have a dish mikveh at Mayyim Hayyim so I was given two options. I could get in the pool with the utensils and open the tap which lets in the rainwater (which makes it kosher) or I could tovel them in the bor (collection pool) outside. Since I didn’t have a bathing suit at work and didn’t want to get naked with the utensils, I chose the latter. I went outside with the prayer and made sure I wet my hands before I immersed the utensils. I switched them from hand to hand under water to make sure the water touched all surfaces. After I said the prayer, I decided to say the Shechyanu prayer (the prayer said to be thankful for new and unusual experiences) as well since it was the first time that I ever toveled! A transitional moment for me.
Since I began working at Mayyim Hayyim in May, I’ve learned a lot about how people use our mikveh to mark transitions in their life. As I talk with people in my life, I find that I’m suggesting they come to the mikveh when they tell me they are having a birthday or retiring or coming to the end of a year of mourning. Many are surprised at my suggestion, but all are excited by the idea. I’ve learned how lucky we are to have a community mikveh, open to everyone, for any transition people want to acknowledge. If you have a transition to mark, feel free to make an appointment for a tour or to immerse on our website.
Jody Comins joined the professional staff at Mayyim Hayyim in May 2012 as the Development and Events Coordinator. Her older daughter just became a Bat Mitzvah on June 9, 2012. She has a Clinical MSW from Boston University and has worked in the Boston Jewish Community for 22 years in many different environments. She says that, “working at a mikveh is the hardest to describe!”