I am writing these words from a different time.
The year is the same, the days are the same, but the months are different.
The time in which I exist today is neither solar nor truly lunar. It is a time quite individual—created by G‑d especially for me.
Today is one cyclical month since my first immersion in the mikvah. This day, this time, is shared among only three: G‑d, my husband and me. Today I am brought back to the very moment of recreation of self that took place for the first time on the day of my wedding.
In the excitement and anticipation that preceded the wedding, I had counted the days, checking them against G‑d’s calendar and my own body’s. The rebirth for which I was preparing would take place in a home of sorts, under the chuppah (marriage canopy). My fiancé and I, often swamped with the details of wedding plans, finally began to focus more on the spiritual preparations we needed to make in order to escort the shechinah (divine presence) to our wedding and into our lives.
The most important part of this self-preparation was gaining the ability to slip ourselves into mikvah time. This step would prove monumental, for within the entire planning process there was nothing so full of potential and meaning for me as mikvah. Somehow I felt that only after I had experienced this immersion would I be able to understand the oneness that defines the relationship between husband and wife.
I walked to the mikvah on a beautiful Thursday, on a rosh chodesh (first of the month). I had spent the early part of the day preparing my body for immersion. Filing, trimming, scrubbing, soaking, combing and inspecting, I realized that this was the first time I had ever spent such concentrated time focused on my body. Yet, inherent in this moment of complete physical absorption was a palpably electric surge I felt run through me as I connected, for the first time, the spiritual and physical aspects of myself.
As I walked up the hill to the mikvah, a song came into my head and I stopped short. The song was Shir Hamaalot, a Song of Ascents, originally sung by the Levites as they stood on the stairs that led to the Holy Temple. The words of the psalm speak of the Jews returning to Jerusalem as if in a dream, filled with laughter and singing. And here I was, a modern Jewish woman, feeling that the boundaries of time had blurred. I walked on smiling, simultaneously there at that moment and a part of all time.
I approached the mikvah alone, and as I reached it, I saw the smiling face of a friend who said, “You shouldn’t have to go to the mikvah alone the first time.” My joy and nervousness blended with the comfort I took in the familiarity of her presence, and with a sense that I would never really be alone at the mikvah. I felt, as we entered, that there exists a collective neshamah (soul) shared by all Jews throughout history. The mikvah is the link of all those years, the container of that soul. The waters of the mikvah today are the same waters that have filled mikvahs since the beginning of time. I imagined that by immersing myself in those waters, I could, in that silence under water, hear the voices of my ancestors.
Later, as the shomeret (mikvah attendant) held my shaking hands in hers, the power of this process filled me with tears. For when I was completely enveloped by those waters, I had realized that this birth was not of a new me alone. The still voice of the mikvah told me that this was the birth of “we.” From now on, mikvah time would be counted by two. From now on, this merging with the collective Jewish soul would enable me to merge with the other half of my own soul, this man I love.