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immersing in Prayer

by Rabbi Jenny Solomon

There are myriad pathways to the Divine in Judaism. In fact, there is a mystical idea that each Jew has a “mitzvah” that is their mitzvah — their special path to encountering God. My mitzvah is mikveh.

Just as we see it described at the very beginning of the Torah, I have the distinct sense that the Divine presence flutters in and around the water. In the water, I am enveloped in the womb of the Divine Mother. In the water, words melt away and my prayers become embodied. In the water, there is no separation, no impediment to my truth, because there is nothing to hide behind, no words I have to say, no specific way I have to show up other than as my authentic self.

Preparing for the mikveh is itself a kind of prayer. I “shower” myself with love and appreciation. I remove all the “stuff” that I put on to present myself to others in the wider world. I come home to my Self, just as I am. And it is precisely that quality of radical self-love and acceptance that gives me access to God.

Mikveh is a spiritual practice that does not ask me to be perfect, to improve in any way, to demonstrate mastery. It’s a practice of embracing my “being” rather than my “doing.” And unlike many other mitzvot that we are invited to fulfill whether or not we are “feeling it,” mikveh requires kavannah (heartfelt intention). I cannot simply go through the motions to fulfill the mitzvah. I have to bring my whole heart — body and soul. Immersing reminds me, as it says in the Talmud, “Rahamana liba ba’ei” (The Divine Sources of Mercy requires, above all, the heart.”). When I immerse in the mikveh, I re-discover what is in my heart and I commit to taking that connection and those prayers with me into the world.

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784