On May 29, 2014 at Mayyim Hayyim’s tenth year celebration event, we honored Diane Black with the Nachshon Award. Here are her remarks from the ceremony.
If you know me at all, you know I’m not comfortable being singled out in public like this. I said yes to this honor mostly because my children said that I had to. But also because it gives me the opportunity to tell you a little bit about why Mayyim Hayyim is so important to me.
First, I love that Mayyim Hayyim is a place for everyone in our community; that it’s a place where all Jews are welcome and equal, where we can all learn without feeling judged about what we might not know.
This is personal for me. At our wedding, Chester and I were not allowed to break a glass at the end of the ceremony. Those were the rules in our Classical Reform synagogue at the time. Some Jews were busy trying not to appear too different from our neighbors. So you see, the reclamation of an ancient ritual like mikveh for everyone – this is not lost on me. It’s wonderful and poignant.
Second, I love that Mayyim Hayyim helps break down the idea that there is separation between our religious lives and our secular lives.
This special mikveh gives us the opportunity to remember that our daily life can be infused and intertwined with Judaism.
For example, if you celebrate a birthday with an immersion, you insert a spiritual component into something that could seem purely secular. We enrich our lives when we mark important transitions with Jewish ritual, making them “chosen milestones.”
Finally, I love Mayyim Hayyim because it’s a holy place.
In synagogue, when we recite the Shema, many people close their eyes. I don’t. It looks like I do because I cover my face with my hand, but what I’m doing is feeling my breath on my palm of my hand, the breath of life.
I connect with God in the warm breath in the palm of my hand.
When you immerse in the mikveh you have to hold your breath. You have to contract yourself – like in the story of how God withdrew to make room for the universe. Tzim-tzum.
When you hold your breath in the mikveh, you have to stop and focus on just being there. And that’s the moment we make room for God.
Water teaches this lesson. It surrounds us and holds us. Water always makes room for us. The way God makes room for us.
Mayyim Hayyim is a place where holiness can happen.
Diane Black has been a Mayyim Hayyim board member for eight years and a Mikveh Guide for three. Being around people makes her happy, and she loves to talk with and to cook for family and friends.