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Mikvah Talk

“The Spiritual Empowerment talk given by Sarah Karmely was truly inspiring. She is a poised and empathetic speaker whose words touched me. At age 61, I recently went to Mikvah for the first time in my life, guided by my very special mentor Rebbitzin Chana Shain. The Mikvah itself was serene and beautiful, and the immersion, moving and empowering. I had never felt so strongly connected to Hashem and to all Jewish women as I did in those pristine waters. I had a distinct sense that I had been there before, and deep in my soul, I knew this to be true. And on the following days, I knew that some of my most heartfelt prayers had been recognized, even answered! It was a transformational experience.”

Marcella Burney

Syosset, NY

“Ever since I went to the mikvah to prepare for my wedding night, the mikvah has always been a very special mitzvah for me. For one, hello, mandatory spa night! At no other time will I soak in a hot tub, give myself a full pedicure and manicure, and make sure that the rest of me is 100% squeaky clean. I always feel so fresh and beautiful when I leave.

But the greater gift of the mikvah is what it gives to my marriage. The “before mikvah” and “after mikvah” phases in my marriage allow for a back and forth of yearning and closeness that echoes the beginning of our relationship. Only G-d could have come up with such an amazing system for keeping the romance alive in a marriage despite life’s inevitable challenges and stressors. A true gift.”

Rachel Espinoza

Pittsburgh, PA

“I’m going to start off by saying that as a convert I already had a memorable once-in-a-lifetime experience at the mikvah. It was beautiful and unique – a real life-changing moment. Here I am stepping into the cool water as a gentile and emerging as a Jew, feelings of weightlessness and pure joy, emotions that honestly I would never feel again, uncontrollable tears ran down my face.

Fast forward a little bit and it was the night before my wedding. I had to go to the mikvah again but this time as a bride. I felt a truer connection to Jewish life than I did the first time, and more importantly, I felt a sense of oneness with G-d. My mother and future mother-in-law recited a beautiful poem for me that I cherish and think about often; I am glad I was able to share that moment with them at the mikvah.

Once everything was done, I changed into a new white dress and joined my friends and family who were patiently waiting for me in the reception area. These women, family and close friends, were so proud of me for doing what I did. There was so much love in that space.

Looking back, I don’t regret leaving my past life. I don’t see it as a loss but more like a reason to keep going. I want to keep going to the mikvah and keep laws of family purity so that I may build on my relationship with G-d and with my husband. It’s not just about keeping traditions and laws alive. To me, it’s more about showing that although something may seem routine, it really is something you cannot live without once you experience it.”

Lucia Truzman

Portland, OR

“My husband and I have been growing in our Judaism over the last five years of our marriage. Once we had our first child, we realized we needed to "step it up" so that she would be raised with the Jewish values and traditions we wanted for her. I had thought about starting to fulfill the mitzvah of family purity, but life was busy.

My oldest was around a year and a half and I felt I was ready to have another baby. I went off birth control. After a few months of still getting a period – my first pregnancy happened immediately – I thought, well maybe this is G-d's way to encourage me to learn and delve into this mitzvah. But still life was happening and I continued on with my role as wife and mother. Then, my grandmother became very sick and we knew that she was in her last months. I felt a little restored in my faith, that G-d knew that I had some tough work coming and being pregnant was going to make me less available to be with my grandmother. After she passed, I was hopeful that I would get pregnant after that cycle. I wanted to believe that my grandmother was with G-d and picking out just the right neshamah (soul) for my next baby.

Well, another period came. I felt sad. I wanted my daughter to have a sibling, I wanted our family to grow, I wanted a sign that my grandmother was still with me. That week, I contacted a rebbetzin that I am close with and told her, "I need to go to the mikvah."

My first mikvah experience was wonderful. I felt confident, excited, and connected. I prayed that G-d would pick just the right baby for me at the right time. I always added that I knew He was in charge and had faith that He was doing what was right for me. I truly felt that this was in His Hands.

A few weeks later, another period came. I was excited that I could go to the mikvah again – this time with full preparation. I counted my days, reminded my husband of the dos and don'ts, and mikvah night came again. This time, I got to say the blessing, pray, and feel completely in G-d's Hands while I floated in the warm, supportive water. A few weeks later, no period came and I was pregnant with my second baby. I cried when I got a positive pregnancy test, and the first thing I said was, "Thank You, thank You, G-d for knowing exactly what I need and when."”

Amy Sohn

Portland, OR

“My relationship with Judaism changed significantly when I started using the mikvah for family purity, nine years into my marriage. The mikvah and its surrounding guidelines are a feminine sanctuary. This process is between G-d and myself.

The mikvah itself is a physical manifestation of this feminine sanctuary. Self-care is so important but so hard to schedule for our busy selves. This “oasis of time,” as my teacher called it, is built into our religion. It is truly a gift to be able to take that time to take care of ourselves physically and spiritually before we start a new month, a new beginning with our partner, and really a new beginning in every avenue of life. I think of it as my mini-Yom Kippur. I leave my guilt for whatever happened in the previous month in the water. Whether it was impatience with my kids or a spiritual failing, it is washed away in the mikvah, and I have a clean slate to move on to the next goal I have in mind.

Knowing that this mitzvah is based on trust between a woman and G-d has really softened my view of Judaism and allowed my heart to be more receptive to other Jewish thoughts and ideas."

Sarah Levine

Chicago, IL

“I loved mikvah in the beginning. When I was a newlywed, mikvah night represented a time and place in which I could truly pamper myself. It marked the night I could joyfully reunite with my husband, who was anxiously awaiting me at home.

However, once my husband and I made the conscious decision to start having children and expanding our family, all of that began to change. I was convinced that I would get pregnant easily. I would simply come home from mikvah, and BOOM a month later the pregnancy test would be positive. However, this was not the case. After getting off birth control, no natural period resumed. After months of waiting for a period that never came, I was diagnosed with PCOS.

Once it became clear that we were going to need help transforming our dream into a reality, I was promptly started on medications, forcing my body to ovulate in the hope that conception would be successful. However, each time and month that my synthetically induced period started, my heart would break. This experience unfortunately didn’t only negatively cloud my perception of myself, my relationship with G-d, and pregnancy in general, but it completely changed how I viewed mikvah.

A mitzvah that I used to embrace and revel in became an evil reminder that the one thing I wanted was denied to me—again. I lived in this negative existence for months until I finally sought counsel from a cousin of mine. My cousin unfortunately had battled her own wars with infertility but thankfully I was blessed with two beautiful children. I opened my heart and soul to her about what we were going through and how mikvah had become something that I now resented. After hearing me out, she took my hand in hers and said, “I am so sorry you have been living with such a major misunderstanding in your heart. In times of infertility, mikvah should not represent lost hope and failure, but rather it should represent renewal, a do-over, another chance, another shot at life.”

From that moment on, my relationship with mikvah would completely change – again.

Thus, the next month after another no-go at conception, as I entered the mikvah I noticed that I no longer harbored anger or resentment toward the waters. Rather, with each dunk I became more and more enriched with hope that in the merit of this holy act, my husband and I may try again and with G-d’s help be successful. I feel so blessed to say that very shortly after this life-changing conversation with my cousin, I conceived successfully via IUI. We are the grateful parents of a beautiful baby girl.

It is my greatest blessing and hope that every woman who reads this has not experienced what I have just described. Regretfully, however, I doubt that this is the case. For those of you who are still waiting to meet your future child, who try month after month and some days feel like giving up, and whose hearts have hardened, I hope that through my words and personal experience your hearts may soften again. Remember, above all else, that the mikvah’s purpose is not to mock, taunt, or serve as a painful reminder that your little one is not yet in this world. On the contrary, the mikvah is there to embrace you, envelop you in its warmth, and remind you that you have another chance. With Hashem’s help, may we all merit to see these chances actualized.”

Eleanor Warshaw

Far Rockaway, NY

“When I started in my journey to connect to my spiritual side of being Jewish, I was young, naive, and had young kids and a relatively new marriage. I wanted to learn about the mikvah and the reasoning around its various rituals.

Well, to be very honest, it was uncomfortable at first but I left with a sense of being clean and fresh. It was a very pleasant experience but to me it seemed more of a hassle. I stuck with it for about six months.

Fast forward some six years and I was lucky enough to go to Israel with the JWRP trip. My trip leader was my close friend and I could ask her anything! I explained to her that I hadn’t been to the mikvah for years due to various excuses, but ultimately because I had had a hysterectomy. She explained how I should go one last time. In my mind, I was thinking...okay, yes, I need closure.

After I meticulously cleaned myself from head to toe, I made my way into the beautiful mikvah in the heart of Jerusalem, washing away the stage of my life that was for creating new life.  I was now transitioning into my next chapter of life.

After dunking three times and saying the prayer, I came up for air with a new spiritual cleansing. I was now in the next phase of my life. I washed away the feeling of creating. Now I moved into the phase of teaching and raising my children; enjoying my relationship with my husband; enjoying the Jewish home that I built with devotion and dedication.

I was no longer trying to find my way.  I had already found my way. Words cannot exactly describe how I felt.  I literally transitioned myself in those few minutes. I will forever remember that beautiful experience.”

Traci Sidon

Denver, Colorado

“Going to the mikvah for the first time after my ectopic pregnancy changed my mikvah experience forever. Here I was entering the same mikvah I had entered a few months earlier praying to be blessed with a healthy pregnancy. Now I was back again. That pregnancy was short-lived and I could have lost my life in the process.

I came to the mikvah feeling somewhat down over this recent experience and was hoping for a transformation.  I took my time preparing and focused on the gifts in my life, most specifically the gift of life. As I said the prayer before immersion, I added my own thoughts: G-d, please help me feel the renewal in my life and hope for the future. G-d, please help me move past this experience of an ectopic pregnancy and become a stronger person. G-d, please help free my mind of the negative thoughts and emotions and come home to my husband with a clear head, ready to start fresh.

I've been emotional when praying at the mikvah before, but I don't think I have ever cried like I cried that night. Tears of pain and loss flooded my eyes, but once I immersed thoughts of hope and renewal filled my mind. Going to the mikvah is a gift, an opportunity to leave behind events of the last month and start again fresh.

After that experience, I look forward to my monthly chance for renewal with a new perspective.

Miriam Kalter

Queens, NY

“It was our first meeting. We had only spoken once before on the phone. She received my number from her Israeli rabbi and reached out to me, asking me to teach her the laws of family purity. She had to learn them so that the Rabbanut in Israel would approve her upcoming marriage. She made it clear to me on the phone that she was not actually interested in hearing and learning about keeping family purity, but rather she wanted to get this meeting over with as quickly as possible, get the letter in her hand, and be on her way. Shalom.

I prepared myself, welcomed her with a warm smile, and offered her a drink. She responded with a cold tone and did not accept a drink. Ok, then...

We sat down and I started to relate the beauty of family purity as I had done dozens of times before. I spoke about the power of the Jewish woman, the beauty of the mitzvah, the way this mitzvah is set up to protect us, how it is called mitzvat Onah, which means to answer her call. It’s all for the woman’s benefit. Judaism upholds the woman.

Somewhere midway through the talk, I noticed a shift in the young woman’s body language. She was suddenly listening. Not only with her ears but with her heart. Toward the end of our hour together she emotionally said to me, “How come no one ever told me any of this? I feel like I was robbed. I grew up in Israel, but I never knew any of this. No one ever shared with me the beauty of what you have shared with me today. I never thought any of those religious practices could ever benefit my life. I was robbed of my own heritage.”

I held her hand and smiled at this beautiful, striking woman in my presence. She was technically a complete stranger, yet she was very much my sister at the same time. I felt privileged to have been the one to return to her what was rightfully hers.”

Eve Levy

Portland, OR