Sometimes We Don’t Get the Mikveh Experience We Want – But Hopefully We Get What We Need

by Ceceley Chambers, Cohort 7 Mikveh Guide

As a Mikveh Guide I love to witness the joyful immersions: the bashful bride, the excited teen about to become a Bat Mitzvah, and of course the adorable children who are becoming Jewish.  It’s fun to show an especially excited person around Mayyim Hayyim, and to hold their joy while walking them through the steps they take to prepare to immerse.  However, not everyone comes to Mayyim Hayyim with a joyful heart – many come because their hearts are broken – and being witness to them is just as significant and moving to me.

I was once on duty when a woman came in to immerse after suffering a miscarriage.  When she walked through the door, I recognized the sadness and disappointment that radiated from her face and body, and as it was her first time at Mayyim Hayyim, or any mikveh, she was also nervous.  As I took her on a tour and walked her through her prep room, I was careful to give her the same space to experience her feelings as I would a joyful person.  I knew why she was there to immerse, but I did not ask her to recount her story or share her crushed expectations.  However, she chose to share one particular disappointment that was very poignant for me as a guide.

She explained that she had wanted to come to Mayyim Hayyim before her wedding but that the timing did not work out and that she was especially disappointed that her first time here was because she’d had a miscarriage. Unfortunately, for her, immersing at Mayyim Hayyim became one more in a series of dashed expectations.  I told her that while we love that Mayyim Hayyim is a place for people to celebrate, it is equally important that it can be a place where people can mourn.  Sometimes we don’t get the mikveh experience we want- but hopefully we get what we need.

Ceceley is the Assistant Director of the Trinity College Hillel and loves to use her chaplaincy training to talk to college students (and everyone else) about God.  She was an intern at Mayyim Hayyim in the summer of 2010 and is now a Mikveh Guide from Cohort 7.

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About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
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2 Responses to Sometimes We Don’t Get the Mikveh Experience We Want – But Hopefully We Get What We Need

  1. Thank you for sharing this story, Ceceley. The sensitivity you showed is exactly why people feel comfortable to open up to the possibilities of their experience.

  2. Naomi Malka says:

    Hi Ceceley, Thank you for this well-written piece. When I became a Mikvah Guide 6 years ago, I thought it would be all brides and babies, mazal tovs and hugs and high fives. The very first immersion I witnessed, however, was by a woman who had just lost two family members in the same car accident and was looking for a way to “wash away some grief,” as she put it. I quickly realized, like you, that Mikvah is for transitions through sadness and emptiness just as much as for joy and celebration.

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