Of course, there are mikvehs in New York. The city is filled with ritual baths serving its many observant Jewish communities. What the city doesn’t offer is a bath along the lines of Mayyim Hayyim in the Boston area, which was the brainchild of “Red Tent” author Anita Diamant. She dreamed of an aesthetically appealing “community mikveh” that would expand the definition of immersion to mean a ritual that could mark any passage.
As some of my readers may remember, I am getting married later this month. I feel so lucky to have met my soulmate, and our relationship gets stronger and stronger as the months pass. And, though I’ve officiated at dozens and dozens of weddings, I find myself feeling as though we are creating the whole thing from scratch. I guess I expected myself to be an expert on all things wedding, but I’ve learned the lesson that you are probably all anticipating: it’s always different when it is your own event!
Huffington Post has a provocative piece this week by Jessica Langer-Sousa, a self-described “observant” Jewish woman who wanted to go to the mikveh before her wedding to a “devout” Catholic. (The quotation marks aren’t intended to be snide, but just to note that since “observant” and “devout” are both somewhat subject-to-interpretation adjectives that she doesn’t define, I am not sure what they mean in this context.)
After being rebuffed by the mikveh lady at one Los Angeles spot, Langer-Sousa consulted with “Rabbi Lori,” the rabbi officiating at her nuptials, and opted instead to dunk in the Pacific. The ceremony turned out to be even more meaningful and spiritual than she’d anticipated.
You might think my knee-jerk “In The Mix” reaction would be to indignantly side with Langer-Sousa as she rails against the (presumably Orthodox) mikveh lady, who told her she wouldn’t be permitted in the ritual bath because her marriage would not be recognized in the eyes of God. But, while the mikveh at the beach sounds great, I actually found the piece troubling.
Few people are more intimately familiar with water’s destructive potential than Rabbi Uri Topolosky.
When Hurricane Katrina unleashed massive flooding, the rabbi’s synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel New Orleans in Metairie, La., was one of the many victims. Water destroyed Beth Israel’s building, Torah scrolls and, somewhat ironically, even its ritual bath.
But last month, while attending a conference, as part of a New Orleans delegation working to rebuild the mikveh, Rabbi Topolosky had a personal encounter with water’s healing potential.
Mea culpa, al chet and all that. Among my other shortcomings, I’ve been one lame blogger lately, posting nary a word for a whole week. And my sole flimsy excuse is the fact that I am, like other Jews, just now emerging from a month-long orgy of holidays.
Admittedly, the more observant Jews – the ones who spend the evening and morning of each yom tov in synagogue while refraining from electricity, driving and hundreds of other offshoots of the 39 melachot – have a better case for using the Jewish holiday excuse. Especially since most (unlike me) work for companies and organizations that remain open on said holidays and who, when not doing the aforementioned malachot-refraining and synagogue-attending, have had to scramble to build a sukkah, do laundry, cook and so forth.
I'm a guest blogger today at Mayyim Hayyim, the innovative community mikveh in Boston founded (in part) by Anita Diamant, the author of "The Red Tent," "How to Raise a Jewish Child" and many other works of fiction and nonfiction. Here's my post: