My husband and I have been married for ten years, and six years
ago we were blessed with a son. Within a year of our son's birth, cancer was
discovered in my husband's kidneys and they had to be removed. Since the onset
of his illness, I have watched my husband slowlydeteriorate. His joints and
tendons have become calcified to the point where he hobbles like an old man.
Neuropathy has taken away his fine motor skills, so the man who won my heart
with humorous magic tricks can no longer manipulate cards and dice. We have been
waiting for a kidney for almost six years now, and I have been forced to face
the possibility of becoming a widow with a young child.
I have often felt the need to be spiritual. When I was
growing up, my family observed Passover and Chanukah and my mother lit the
Shabbat candles. For Rosh Hashanah, we dipped apples in honey; for Yom
Kippur, my father would sometimes fast. I had a Bat Mitzvah as a girl,
but soon afterwards my parents stopped going to the synagogue and lighting
Shabbat candles. This gave me the idea that Jewish prayer and rituals
were not a necessary part of life.
Over time, I've lived in Hawaii and Japan - neither of which is
exactly brimming with Judaism. I tried several times to attend Jewish services
on military bases, but they were hard to reach. Now, the circumstances of my
husband's illness have increased my need for spirituality.
Recently, I came upon the website askmoses.com, which had me "chatting" with a Mrs. Bronya
Shaffer in real-time. During one of our many online discussions, she recommended
I go to the mikvah. My husband had his doubts and I was skeptical of
the idea, wondering what good it could do to immerse myself in a pool of water.
I've been to the town pool many times and i didn't think there could be much of
a difference. But Mrs. Shaffer made the mikvah sound like such an act of
holiness that I decided to try it.
I was very nervous about going, but she promised to meet me
there. During my morning shower, I must have washed myself at least five times
and when I got there, I showered again and called for the attendant. She brought
me to the pool of rainwater, which is the mikvah, where I immersed
myself in the waters and was left alone to pray.
I decided to ask G-d to help my family. And I had a sudden
compulsion to cover my eyes during my prayer. I still don't understand why I
felt this need so strongly; I've sometimes closed my eyes to pray, but never
covered them. I finished my prayer, and got out to dry off.
Then it dawned on me. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam,
Esther - all these women throughout our history had done what I had just done. I
had made a connection to all the women before me, over thousands of years, who
prayed in the mikvah. I suddenly realized that they prayed in the same
way. At that time I did not yet know that covering your eyes to pray was
something that Jewish people often do. As I left the mikvah, I felt
such a deep connection with Jews all over the world - I felt that I have so many
people to help me through this.
The next day, I returned home from a visit to the dentist to
find my husband outside playing with my son, pulling him in the wagon. It was
only for a minute or two, but given the state of my husband's health, it was
like a miracle to me. I don't know whether this was a result of my prayers at
the mikvah or the increased spirituality of our home. But whatever it
is, it has given me hope that my husband will get the kidney he needs and that
we'll be okay.
My husband accepts my use of the mikvah, and has
agreed to observe the Jewish laws of family purity. This shows how the holiness
of this mitzvah has really touched him. He's still pretty much against
me getting "too religious," but with Mrs. Shaffer's help, I have been able to
raise the spirituality of my home without it upsetting him.
Since then, he and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary,
and he felt well enough to go out to a fancy restaurant for a romantic dinner.
There are days when he can't even make it out to the car, so it was nice that he
had the strength not only to go to a fine restaurant, but to get dressed up and
do it in style.
It's difficult to know that other families can go to the mall,
the movies and amusement parks without blinking an eye, yet an excursion to a
restaurant is sometimes hard for my husband. But I keep my hopes up, and, to my
own amazement, have found that doing more "Jewish woman"
things helps. You wouldn't think that using the mikvah, making a
special dinner once a week for Shabbat or lighting candles could make you feel
better, but somehow, it really does.
I'm not totally observant, but I look forward every month to
going to the mikvah for a profoundly moving experience. It restores my
spirituality, reconnecting me to Jews everywhere and throughout time. I believe
the mikvah is one of the greatest gifts G-d has given the Jewish