Tikvah (Hope) in the Mikveh

by Rabbi Ilana C. GarberRabbi Ilana C. Garber

While it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve spent most of my married life attending the local mikveh in my small town.  It’s not as beautiful as Mayyim Hayyim, but the warm waters and kind mikveh guide have welcomed me each month, and I truly enjoy the mitzvah of taharat hamishpacha, family purity.  I know it isn’t traditional to add the “Shehecheyanu” prayer, thanking God for enabling us to reach this special occasion, at each monthly immersion, but at each mikveh visit, I politely excuse the shomeret (mikveh guide) and take a few private moments to pray, adding in this special blessing.

I’ve thanked God for returning my menses after the births of my sons; I’ve thanked God for reuniting me with my husband after our days of separation.  I’ve prayed to conceive; I’ve cried over failed cycles of IVF; and I’ve resolved to be a more attentive mother and a more loving wife.  The secrets of the mikveh are powerful and the hope, the tikvah, I always find in the mikveh is what sustains me in my relationships and life.

When we made the decision not to try to conceive anymore (I am a carrier of a genetic pre-mutation and our younger son has Fragile X Syndrome, so the only way we can safely have a child is through IVF), I cried.  I cried in the shower in the preparation room.  I cried as the shomeret checked my back for stray hairs.  And I cried as I immersed in the mikveh.

Who am I now, I cried, now that I am not trying to get pregnant?  What is the point of the mikveh?

With compassion and genuine concern, the shomeret offered me words of comfort: the mikveh is about hope, but not only hope to conceive.  It’s about the hopeful reunion and reconnection with my husband; the hope and renewal of our time together.  As I immersed in the mikveh that night, I considered her words.  It was a new beginning for me.  I will continue to menstruate, God willing, for years, and I will continue to visit the mikveh each month.  My mikveh visits will not mark the death of potential life and they will not give me hope that we will conceive a baby.  But as the warm waters surround me, I will emerge refreshed and renewed, with hope for my relationship with my husband and hope for all that I can be in my life.  And, grateful to God for enabling me to reach this special occasion, I will recite the “Shehecheyanu”.

Rabbi Ilana C. Garber is originally from Brookline, MA.  She is a rabbi at Beth El Temple, West Hartford, CT.  She wrote the original mikveh guide training curriculum for Mayyim Hayyim.  Rabbi Garber is on the board of Mikveh Bess Israel in Hartford, CT.  Visit her at ilanagarber.com and follow her tweets @ilanagarber.


About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
This entry was posted in Grief, Healing, Immersion. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Tikvah (Hope) in the Mikveh

  1. Janel MacDermott says:

    Incredibly powerful and moving. Thank you, Ilana.

  2. Risa says:

    Rabbi Garber is an inspiration with her words. Her openness will help many others in similar situations.

  3. Beautiful words. Thank you Ilana

  4. barbara samberg says:

    I submerged in the mikvah on my 60th birthday for the first time. You were there as well as my daughter. I did it for the sheer experience with no expectations of anything other than having a spiritual connection with my judaism. I’m glad that I did it and think about my own experience whenever I read about the mikvah.

  5. rglw says:

    Not just beautiful words. Brave brave words.

  6. Ilana says:

    YOU ARE such a beautiful person. It made me think about the need for a spiritual reset and how as women we are blessed with this. thank you. I had forgot about that.

  7. Gwen Weil says:

    I go to the mikvah each month in San Francisco. Not for family purity reasons, but to celebrate and revere the natural cycles of my body, which feel sacred, and given by the divine. I think we women are so lucky to have these bodies of ours, and lucky as well to have something in the Jewish tradition that provides a support and container for really honoring our female bodies and rhythms.

    I have been waiting for a blog post that talks about this particular use of the mikvah, and so was thrilled to read yours, Ilana. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s