Full Circle

Full Circle The mikvah is a beautiful place, filled with spirituality.

It represents the chain of generations of Jewish women of which we become another link.

And, for me, one of the most frightening, embarrassing, and uncomfortable experiences I ever anticipated.

Hi. My name is Chana. But it wasn’t always. I was born an American. Technically, I was born Jewish, but that didn’t matter in my home, I was Kimberly then.

Flash forward to adult life. I was still Kimberly. I knew there was G-d, and I was determined to connect with Him. I was thirty six years old, married for 15 years, with three children when, I found out there was a mikvah.

I was involved in the Partners in Torah program. When the three mitzvahs for women came up, I had to know what they were. (I was the annoying “but why” type of child, and never outgrew it) So, I found out there was such a thing as a mikvah, and I wanted to go.

The woman I was learning with made all the arrangements for me and walked me through the halachot of preparation. She is the most amazing and patient woman….. if there was a difficult or stupid question to ask, I asked it. About halfway through the one on one study, I was considering chickening out. “You want me to do what?” and “You’re joking, right?” frequently danced in my mind.

The day finally arrived. I was going to the mikvah. I was going to a ‘Jewish’ place. I needed to wear ‘Jewish’ clothes. I dug into the closet and found the only skirt I owned. It was white crinkly gauze, only a few years out of date. I put on a short sleeve button up blouse and headed to the door looking like a fashion misfit.

I lived in rural middle Georgia. The nearest mikvah was about 100 miles away in Atlanta. We drove over to the next small town where my parents lived, to drop our kids off. My parents were so sweet to watch them, and so sweet to be supportive of my craziness. My father, having no concept of mikvah, could only equate it to the baptisms he had seen in movies. As we got into the car, he cried out, “Don’t let them dunk you too many times!” And, with those inspiring words, we were off.

When I got to the mikvah, I was so nervous, so afraid. I have never felt more out of place, more embarrassed, more stupid.  Everything was unimaginable to me. Even the name of the lady I was meeting. Her name is what? How do you spell Rifky?

I really wanted to run away, as fast as I could. But, I took a moment and I prayed.
 
I still remember what I said, “G-d, I don’t really know or understand what any of this is, but You said to do it, so I’m going to do it. No one in my family has kept Your Torah for a while now and I know that I have a choice to make, right now. If I turn away from this, no one in my family will even remember that we are Jewish. It will end here and now. But, I am going into that water and I know when I come out, it is a done deal. I will be Jewish and I will keep Your Torah. G-d, I am making this commitment to You now.”

When I came out to the car, after my immersion, my husband was staring at me. “What is it?” I asked. Amazement crossed his face and he said, “You are glowing.” And, I was, from the inside out, amazing!

From there, my becoming acquainted with mikvah observance had its ups and downs (no pun intended). But, I didn’t give up and eventually we moved to the Atlanta Jewish community.

One day I got a call from the receptionist at the mikvah. She asked if I would like to come in and be trained as a substitute mikvah receptionist. I was so happy! Me, working at the mikvah!?

So, just a bit over a year later there I was working as the substitute mikvah receptionist. I realize that the lady I was working with (who is also the substitute attendant) is the same Rifky from my first trip to the mikvah. Wow! What an amazing moment. We had not been together in the mikvah since the first time I was there.

I remembered myself then, at that time in my life, and I realized I was not the same person. My life had changed, I had grown so much. Hashem had done so many amazing things for me in my life that drew me nearer to Him. I went into the mikvah as Kimberly and I came out as Chana. I marveled at the wonder of things, coming full circle.

About a year later, I was asked if I wanted to be trained as a mikvah attendant. More than anything! I thought, but I played it cool and said, “Yes, I am very interested.”

I became a mikvah attendant at the very same mikvah where my spiritual commitment to Hashem began. I feel honored and privileged, every time I walk in the door, to be part of the mitzvah of mikvah.

Do I believe that the water I am standing in is the same water that Sara, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah stood in? Oh yes. Just as I know that the place I felt the most embarrassed in is same mikvah I am now an attendant at.

Full Circle.

May we merit to see the redemption come, full circle, in our lifetime.

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