We had amazing food, luxurious accommodations, exciting water sports,
enchanted evenings, tropical breezes, and technicolor days surrounded by
turquoise, crystal waters.
We snorkeled. We water cycled. We climbed rock cliffs. We toured the ocean
floor in a submarine.
It was a fantasy-come-true family get-together. My parents had treated us to
this dream vacation at the Americana in Aruba, a five-star hotel. There was my
brother, a sister, their spouses, and my nieces and nephews. This was a big
departure from our usual journey to the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
We had everything – but a mikvah We had everything – but a mikvah. Owing to a glitch in my menstrual
cycle, the absence of a mikvah presented a challenge.
What to do? To me it seemed obvious. My husband was incredulous – no,
astonished – when I told him that I would turn the Caribbean into a mikvah.
“Helene,” he said, “I think you’re nuts!
Do you want to risk a shark attack
or pneumonia, just so we can make love?! Wait a few days until we get home and
use our community mikvah!”
I know my husband. There is no way he would want me to take any risks just so
that we could resume marital relations. But here we were in a romantic setting
out of a travel brochure, enjoying an almost perfect vacation surrounded by
My husband, a logical M.D., Ph.D. scientist, tried to discourage me, but my
older sister conspired in my plot. She was to be my willing accomplice. My
sister would watch as I dipped three times under the cover of darkness. My
husband finally agreed to my wild plans and offered to keep a sharp eye out for
“peeping Toms” from his post 250 feet up the dry side of the beach.
Way back there, past the darkness of the wide beach, my husband would stand
in ear shot – someone to hear our screams if disaster struck.
It was late in the evening when my sister and I slunk through the hotel’s
public rooms. Wearing fluffy white robes and carrying towels, we could have been
headed for the hotel pool. But we crossed the patio and made straight for the
Couples strolled the beaches. Their paths were lit only by a sliver of moon
and the fuzzy lights of the hotel setback on the beach. We waited until the
coast was clear, literally. After half an hour, at 11 P.M., the last of the
strollers faded into the hotels.
My husband was in place, and my sister and I made our move.
As we approached the water, we tried to calm our fears and convince each
other that this was a well-tended resort beach that was cleared of debris each
day; that the walk into the sea was smooth and graded; that the water was clean
and clear’ and that sharks were unlikely in the area – especially at night.
But no matter how logical we tried to be, darkness was not our friend, and
every scary thought surfaced in our minds. We wondered if there would be broken
sea shells or glass underfoot, sharks and other sea creatures, sudden drops in
the ocean floor, and murky waters bearing globs of algae – or worse yet, a night
My husband, a logical M.D., Ph.D. scientist, tried to discourage me, but my older sister conspired in my plot
Sparking white, hot sand had turned grey and damp. Clear water was now black,
hiding who knew what. And without the Caribbean sun, the water was cold – really
cold. And I hate cold. My body is averse to cold. I wear thermal underwear all
winter long and sleep with three blankets.
And I had undressed, my sister screened my dash for the water with my robe
and I paddled through the breakers. My goal was to reach chest-high water about
a city block out; my sister, in the water, trailed behind. She had to go into the
water to see me fulfill the halachic requirement of submerging three
Once in the water, I tried to think of G‑d and the mitzvah. But it took all I
could muster just to fight the discomfort and fear. I said my blessing in record
time. You could call is speed dunking or express mikvah. And I dashed out
of the water as fast as my flailing limbs could carry me. But I did it.
As the soles of my feet hit dry land, it dawned on me that my mikvah
experience could have been worse. What if we had been vacationing at a desert
resort or an arctic lodge?
Walking up the beach, the first sounds I heard were the strains of calypso
music from the hotel patio where a midnight make-your-own ice cream sundae party
was under way. The thought of ice cream had a chilling effect on our already
half-frozen, soggy bodies.
Looking like two drowned rats with purple lips, we dripped our triumphant way
through the lobby. Bypassing the ice cream kegs, the maraschino cherries and hot
fudge, we headed straight for our rooms.
The following evening, good, warm feelings flowed through me. I was dolled up
and strolling with my husband in the promenade, looking out at the beach that
been so fearsome the night before.
“My dear,” he said, “you are a brave woman.”
Under his loving gaze and the starlit sky, I didn’t feel like the same wife