To me, mikveh is a reset button. It’s a spiritual refresh. A great way to set things back to the way they were before I got lost in the too-often Godless maze of the week.
I usually dip on Friday mornings, in keeping up a custom instituted for me by a rabbi in my yeshiva in Israel, who stated so beautifully that “One of my major goals in life is to ensure that every single Shabbat I experience is better than the one preceding it.” Mikveh, he said, was essential for this. An inimitable way to make a physical transition from the wildness of the week to the stillness of Shabbat. When things worked well, a mental transition would follow, neatly allowing the mikveh to serve as an agent of transformation.
A reset button, if you will.
Being a religiously creative and exploratory person (at least in my own estimation of myself), I embraced my weekly visits to the mikveh and quickly ritualized this experience, adding on to it special little flairs that made it my own, including pre-Shabbat (and often pre-Mikveh) music, such as Josh Ritter’s “Lillian, Egypt” (with its lyrical nod to that most special erev Shabbat song, Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs), with “The lily of the valley, the lily of the west was a rose”), Bob Dylan’s “Someone’s Got A Hold of My Heart” (“I’ve been to Babylon and I’ve got to confess/I can still hear that voice rising from the wilderness”), and Yosef Karduner’s “Vitaher Libeinu.” I also made sure to consume some chocolate, twisting a teaching I’d heard from Rav Kook that roughly said take what you love and set it aside for Shabbat (or, in my case, erev Shabbat).
I upped my religious game, donning a different yarmulke, a more lavish pair of tzitzit, and studying the weekly parsha (Torah portion) after morning prayers. But it all started with the physical recharge of dipping deep into the warm, welcoming waters of the local mikveh (which men were only allowed to use during certain hours).
New rituals developed. Soon it became a regular thing for me to write a “poem of the week,” inspired by my time in the mikveh and comprised of thoughts that had been kicking around my brain all week.
For me, mikveh is a recharge. A way to pull the reigns, to try and force that shift, so often the hardest thing in the world, that Shabbat seems to demand of us, from breathing and breezing and being in a whip-fast world of self and worries and things to a slowed-down world of others, prayer, and God.
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