The Women of the Mikveh
By Ashley Cohen, Tsfat Mikveh
As I left the Tsfat mikveh, a breath of fresh air waved over me, a contentment and resounding peace flowed overhead. The pure Tzfat air mixed with the transcendent experience of the mikveh I had just left filled me with a sense of hope, anticipation, and excitement. I was on a Birthright trip and it was my first time in Israel. I had never been to a mikveh before and I certainly did not understand what it meant to go to one, but the women of the Tsfat mikveh were peaceful, cool, and content. I was a sorority college girl, donning a skirt only to visit Tsfat, but I was peering in with eyes wide opened into a world I’d never seen before. There was something tugging at my heart, pulling me in.
Now, four years later, and a long way from the sorority girl I once was, I return to Tsfat once again. This time, newly married, donning a skirt, as I always do, and with a deeper knowledge of the mikveh, I came to meet up with one of the tour guides from the Tsfat Mikveh. She is one of the extroadinary, tranquil, beautiful women that help to run the place and we speak about the majesty involved with the mikveh experience. We discuss the beauty, spirituality, and transformative experience associated with it, and after I wonder, what makes the women of the mikveh different than other women? What was it that I saw four years ago? They seem to have a certain sense of calm, of contentment, and fulfillment. But why?
Each month the women of the mikveh tap into a deeper side of themselves: their femininity, their individuality, and their divinity. The mikveh experience helps them to introspect, to wipe, clean, and to reconnect. They take time to recognize their own pure beauty, and they acknowledge the splendor of keeping it private. The mikveh gives them a chance to immerse themselves in purity and when they come up again, they decide they are anew. They hit the recharge button on their relationship. They hit the recharge button on themselves. They hit the recharge button on their divinity. And because the mikveh is so private and special, they realize that they too want to be private and special.
So it appears the women of the mikveh have a secret.
However, their lives are not perfect. Each day is not dance in a flowery garden. There are chores to do, children to attend to, husbands to take care of, mitzvot to fulfill, but they have a secret of life. I think that secret is hidden in the mikveh.
What do they discover inside those mikveh waters? They realize that their femininity is a beautiful thing. They know that the more private something is, the more it is valued. They take the time to appreciate their hair and the beauty of keeping it covered, to remember it is just theirs. They enjoy putting back on that skirt and long sleeve shirt, because they know, it is beauty that they are covering underneath it. On a day to day basis, they allow people to see their essence and not their bodies. It is in this way, that they create a resounding aura around them, exuding “respect me as I respect myself.”
They realize that they are unique, and they treasure this uniqueness. At the mikveh, in that private time alone that they so rarely get, they rediscover this uniqueness and they turn that discovery into love; a love of themselves. They bring this discovery, this self-contentment home with them and deal pleasantly with their husband, kindly with their children, and forgivingly with themselves.
They realize their divinity and connect to their soul. They “uncover” to recover. They become one with themselves to become one with their spouse. They connect to their spiritual side to enhance their physical life.
The women of the mikveh remember that their soul is the main feature of who they are. It is their truest self. They reprioritize it, remembering to focus more on the One who gives them life, who gives them air. When they go home, they remember to make the blessing more slowly over their food, to more consciously do their chores, grateful for having a family to do them for at all, to more vivaciously wake up in the morning, and appreciating the life they have been given.
So what do the women of the mikveh know? I think they know the glorious wonders of being a Jewish woman, one who is proud of her femininity, proud of her individuality, proud of her divinity. They try to live a life directed by their souls, taking part in spiritual acts and enhancing each day by uplifting the physical to the spiritual and the mundane to the transcendent. I see the women of the mikveh breathe with an easiness, and I know it’s because they have their feet on the ground while their thoughts point toward the sky.