A Modern Mikvah

A little over a year ago, a few friends and I hosted a women’s circle to celebrate our bride-to-be friend Carrie. I never blogged about it although I got permission, because I don’t feel like I can capture its meaning and beauty in words. But, I’ll share our introductory words and the format in case it inspires, excites, or otherwise moves you to revisit and update your own rituals to bring more meaning to special times.

In the Jewish tradition, a mikvah is any body of mayim hayim, which literally means “living water,” or running water as opposed to stagnant water. Water like the beautiful ocean behind us in an example of an outdoor mikvah. A mikvah is often visited by Jews as a part of rituals as an act of purification. Brides have historically gone before their wedding day, often with her girlfriends by her side.
The word mikvah literally means a collection. Usually, it refers to the collection of water, but we can also think of this women’s gathering today as a mikvah, a collection of women. Our community is formed by women who have traveled from different places to sit in their circle, literally and metaphorically. Each of us has our own story, but it is Carrie’s role in each of our stories that created this particular collection of women. Together, in our closing mikvah ceremony, Carrie, we all are witnesses and supporters of your new partnership as well as your ever­evolving independence and kinship.

We had several of the women in the circle from different parts of Carrie’s life – family, crafting circle, lifetime friends – offer different blessings (seven total) and pour a small bit of ocean water over Carrie’s hands. We talked about its power to cleanse and refresh, and to ready her with a fresh slate to build a life together with her (wonderful) husband. Most importantly, we were able to draw from tradition and community to create a meaningful, structured gathering that marked a significant milestone with resonance to our friend and her mikvah.

In general, I think rituals – religious or otherwise – exist to create known structures to recognize the significance of a moment or place in time. From a courtroom rising when a judge walks in, to political appointees getting sworn in using a bible, to the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in elementary schools in the morning, to singing take me out to the ball game in the 7th inning stretch, to saying grace before a meal, to putting on your right shoe first, rituals aren’t always right or wrong, meaningful or not; they just are. They can help disparate people form connection or also distance, and inform process for those who like knowing how things will happen.

For me, I don’t like blindly doing things just because it’s how they’ve always been done. Carrie, my friend who is now a year happily married and growing her mikvah every day, is the same; bringing meaning to what we do and how and why we do it – the process – is more important than the end itself.

What’s one ritual that you want to rethink, revise, and rebirth?

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