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Immerse and Emerge: Revisiting the Mikvah

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A new year is approaching, and winter is settling in. As we prepare to jump into 2012, and think about what sort of resolutions we will be making, I can’t help but reflect on how the Jewish year began a few months ago, and the specific blessings I sent to myself then—while underwater in a mikvah in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

When I was married, I struggled with going to the mikvah. I struggled with having the mikvah attendant watch me immerse in the waters of the ritual bath and then deem me kosher. (I realize that she was declaring my dips into the water kosher, and not my actual self, but having someone sing-song “kosher!” over you blurs the lines of how the experience feels.) Why did an outside institution, and another human being, get to have a say in the cycle of my most personal relationship? I resisted the structure. I often wished that I had access to a lake, where I could quietly go by myself under the moonlight, or I half-jokingly wondered if I could just take a really long bath at home.

This particular struggle was over—and others began—when my husband and I split up over the summer. Right before Rosh Hashanah, I received the get, the Jewish bill of divorce. I barely observed Rosh Hashanah this year; I had a meal with a friend with honey and figs on the table;  I bought a ticket in advance but didn’t go to shul. I napped, a lot. I felt guilty and thrilled and guilty I felt thrilled.