We can all picture the image of the spiritual guru sitting on top of a mountain meditating peacefully, not a soul in sight, not a sound to be heard. Even the crickets and birds seem to know to be completely quiet and still.
To be honest, I can’t relate to this. Not one bit. Can you? My life is filled with noise. Beautiful noise: laughter; voices, some loud and some soft, some coming in idle chatter and some in deep meaningful conversation; sounds of sniffles and cries; sounds of excitement and frustration. Life. Thank G-d!
I’m a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an employee, a friend, a volunteer class parent, and the list goes on…I wear a lot of hats. We all do. I could have stopped at “I’m a mom” or “I’m a daughter” and it would have been enough. Life is busy. Life is hectic.
Sometimes I try to remember what “normal” used to feel like, when I wasn’t that tired when each day winded down. I have only a faint recollection; it’s been a while. How is it possible to tap into spirituality when you are just shuffling along, just getting through the mundane daily grind?
I try to think of myself sitting up there on that mountain top, cross-legged, eyes closed, fingers up in meditation form, “Come on inner peace; where are you already?!” It’s comical. There must be more to life.
And there is. Of course there is! You can go deeper and deeper as you travel through life. There is no end to the levels you can reach as we mature and grow in our understanding. This is a game changer. In Hebrew we have a word “kavannah,” which means intent. The buzzword we throw around nowadays is “mindfulness.” Yes, we can insert some intent or mindfulness into just about all of our daily physical tasks and uplift them, making them holy. Let’s take making bread as an example. What could be more physical than making bread? you think.
Yet when we, Jewish women, prepare our loaves of bread for Shabbat, we call them challah. We put prayers into the dough as we knead it; we put in heart; we put in our anticipation for Shabbat and our hopes for our loved ones. We separate a portion of the dough and recite a blessing. We access something infinite in the process of bringing G-d into our physical world. The challah becomes more than just food for the body; it becomes food for the soul.
Same with many other things in life. We elevate the wine we drink on Shabbat into a ceremony called Kiddush. Our clothing keeps us dignified and represents who we are in this world. Our food can turn us into a glutton or into a grateful, healthy person, all with the right mindfulness. Even our most physical intimate relationships are upheld as the holy of holies. As the Gemara states,
“B’zman she’adam mitchaber im ishto b’kedusha, Shechina beineihem,”
when a man and woman bond conjugally, G-d’s presence dwells among them. All of the beauty and bounty in the world, all of life’s physical pleasures, can be elevated. Just add a bit of kavannah and – BAM – it becomes something otherworldly!
I don’t consider myself to be an extremely spiritual person. I live in this world. I am a modern woman in today’s day and age. I enjoy the latest technology at my fingertips and an ice coffee sipped on a lounge chair at the poolside. I love all the pleasures the world has to offer. I also appreciate and enjoy spirituality, ritual, and connection to G-d.
Jewish women were given the gift of mikvah. It is an opportunity to press pause, get off the treadmill of life, and recharge our battery packs. It is a time for reflection, prayers, and catching one’s breath. It is an opportunity to connect to one’s spiritual and physical self. There is a feeling of empowerment felt among the movement of women who are enjoying this mitzvah. These women experience the feeling of autonomy over their bodies and over their sexual relationships. There is strength and comfort in the knowledge that human beings can successfully use boundaries in their relationships. We are in control.
The gifts of family purity are endless. It is a G-dly system of ritual that benefits the woman and upholds her. These practices have been recognized by Jew and non-Jew alike. It is well known that the power of the mikvah is what has kept our Jewish people thriving throughout all these generations.
There is a whole community of passionate women out there who are connected to this practice and who enjoy life to its fullest.
I might never get to that place of total serenity and meditation on a mountain top. (Not happening!) But I’m ok with that. Every month I walk down the steps into the warm, caressing waters of the mikvah. I am one with the mystical waters, one with G-d, and for those rare few moments in my busy life, I am one with myself. The beauty of those moments; the opportunity to be a spiritual being, so connected to where you came from and where you are headed; the heartfelt prayers spoken in the waters; all of this is what keeps me going. It keeps me connected. It keeps me spiritual.