Friday, August 19, 2016

Mikvah before the wedding

I have always regretted not going to the Mikvah before I got married in 1984.  At the time I was preparing for the wedding in Crystal Lake, Il with my parents. The only mikvah I knew about was on Touhy in Chicago; the one we use today, especially for conversions and for other Lakeside members is located at Beth Hillel in Wilmette and called the Community Mikvah; it had not been built. As Lital's wedding approached I asked her if she was interested in going to the Mikvah before she got married and I was happy that she did indeed want to go.  To best explain about Mikvah I want to share an explanation of  Mikvah from their website:

The word “mikvah” means “a gathering of waters”. A mikvah is built according to precise rules of location, dimension and source of its natural water. The mikvah looks like a small pool, is about four feet deep, and is filled with warm (92 degree) water. This “mayim chaim” – “living waters” – reminds us of the pure waters of the Garden of Eden. The ritual of immersion in a mikvah is a means of spiritual purification, helping us to prepare ourselves for events in our lives of great spiritual importance. In the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, the high priest immersed himself in the mikvah five separate times during the services for Yom Kippur. According to the Talmud, if a new Jewish community is established, it is incumbent upon the community to build the mikvah first, even before building the synagogue. Performing the rite of circumcision and immersion in a mikvah are the two oldest rituals in any religion, having been performed continuously for almost 3,500 years.

Before we went to the mikvah Lital had a list of preparations which included bringing a new tooth brush, taking a shower before she came and taking off all nail polish.  You must take another shower at the mikveh as well.  When you submerge nothing is to come between your body and the waters.  Your hair must be combed and you examine yourself to make sure you have nothing else on your body.  You submerge one person at a time.  There are wooden shutters which allow friends to hear as the person in the Mikvah says their Hebrew prayers out loud.  Wedding mikvah visits in Wilmette are done at night in a more private time.  Mikvah is a personal decision and I did ask Lital first if I could write about her visit and she gave permission.  It was beautiful moment for her and I wanted to share and teach about this sacred moment. 

Traditional Blessing:
Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam asher kid-shanu b'mitzvo-tav v'tzi-vanu al ha-tevilah.

Blessed are You, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with the mitzvot and commanded us concerning immersion.

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam she-heche-yanu, ve-ki-y'manu, ve-higi-yanu la-z'man ha-zeh.

Blessed are You, Source of all Life, Who has kept us alive and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day.

Carol our mikvah attendant explained that the water from the shower symbolized the past and the water from the mikvah was the future.  I am not sure what the water from my tears symbolized as I listened to Lital immerse in the water.  Lital was presented afterwards from her friends present with thoughtful gifts including a WATER bottle. After this Jewish ritual of Mikvah we were prepared to enter the Wedding weekend. 
I am thinking about Mikvah for myself to celebrate the change of life.  I would like to feel the waters around me as you dunk and jump up at the same time so the water touches every part of you.  Men use the mikvah too before they get married, Shabbat and on Chagim. 
I think Mikvah is a meaningful ritual and one which I encourage you to research and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.  For more on the wedding weekend stay tuned.