by Ruth Oppenheim
When Rabbi Klein announced a trip to Mayyim Hayyim, I signed up immediately. I have reached an age where I am well aware of how finite life is, and I recognized an opportunity for a spiritual experience. Though I was clear that I wanted to join Temple Habonim’s visit to Mayyim Hayyim, I felt less clear about the actual immersion, especially since I seemed to be the only one interested in immersing.
With the encouragement of Rabbi Klein and my daughter, I decided to be more adventuresome than is my usual style. After an educational program led by Leeza Negelev, the rest of the group gathered for lunch. It was my time for the mikveh.
The ritual had been explained in detail. I opted to enter the mikveh alone, though a Mikveh Guide was available. In the modern preparation room, I meticulously followed the Seven Kavanot for Mikveh Preparation. I tentatively entered the mikveh area clutching my daughter’s prayer sheet. I cautiously descended the stone steps of this beautiful mikveh, illuminated by a skylight, a connection to the heavens above.
As I immersed myself three times in the healing water, praying all the while, tears flowed unexpectedly. I was overcome by an unaccustomed feeling of release, of shedding years of suppressed emotions. I slowly made my way back to the preparation room for another hot shower, feeling deeply cleansed, having let go of vanity and trauma.
How difficult to explain the depth of the mikveh experience, which somehow felt like a connection to the ancestral past, while attempting to wash away some of the painful intervening years.
Ruth and her family immigrated from Germany in 1940. She is a widow and has two children and four grandchildren. She previously lived in Lexington, MA and was a member of Temple Emunah. During that time she worked at Harvard University as a Research Assistant. She also worked as a Department Manager at Brown University for 21 years. She now resides in Barrington, RI.