Kol ha-kavod to the Jewish Ledger on covering the development of the subject of mikvah (“The Mystery of The Mikvah,” August 19, 2011). I would just like to point out something between Rabbi Ilana Garber’s discussion of mikvah’s renewed and expanded use by women and Rabbi Yossi Pollak’s description of classical mikvah use by men.
I am a mikvah guide at Mayyim Hayyim, and I was trained using Rabbi Garber’s curriculum. Since becoming a mikvah guide, it has been my privilege to witness and/or guide the immersions of boys and men ages 7 to 70. Some come to complete their conversions, or before their weddings. I have also been present for men who are coming to mikvah to mark other life transitions: before bar mitzvah, the end of a year of mourning for a father, becoming a new father, beginning the divorce process, facing health issues, facing personal crisis due to our economic situation, or for “mere” spiritual exploration.
Mikvah offers a physical, non-verbal, non-intellectual way for men to have a ritual connection with Judaism when they are intimidated by other classical modes that seem to require lots of Hebrew and detailed specifications. Mikvah allows men to have a creative opening for their own thoughts and prayers in a way that other modes do not, again due to lack of Jewish knowledge and skills. I often tell men they can’t do mikvah “wrong,” and they smile with relief.
Men returning to mikvah also completes a spiritual cycle. Judaism has benefited from women taking on rituals that were not “theirs,” and it will benefit from men using the mikvah. Professor Rachel Adler of Hebrew Union College has written, “Perhaps the great reclaiming of mikvah can only happen when men as well as women return to it.”
So may the Source keep your borot otzar (collection pools) ever full of mayyim hayyim, and your immersion schedule ever full of eager women and men!
Reb Zisha, a/k/a Scott A. Tepper, Ed.M.