Since Biblical times, Jewish tradition has understood the power of water for spiritual purification. The mikvah, the ritual bath, is the centralized space our community provides for spiritual cleansing and renewal. The mikvah becomes different from a regular pool by virtue of the mayim chayim, the “living” or naturally flowing waters which are incorporated into it. Traditionally, the mikvah is used by women for “family purity,” that is, the immersion following a menstrual cycle or in preparation for marriage and by men, women, and children for conversion to Judaism. Yet, the mikvah’s living waters offer us a space for that and so much more, opportunities to create new rituals and sacred time for the numerous life moments, bitter and sweet, which we seek to acknowledge in a Jewish frame.
Men and women can find power in mikvah at numerous moments: in preparation to begin trying to conceive, after a miscarriage or failed fertility treatment, at the conclusion of chemotherapy, after concluding the first year of mourning, in celebration of a milestone birthday, before graduation or major transition, as part of a gender transition, and more.
In the context of Shalom Bayit and healing from domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood abuse, the mikvah can play a critical role. With the help of clergy and mikvah guides, a survivor can immerse in the mikvah and leave behind some of her trauma, emerging with a sense of renewed beginnings. Survivors can mark transitions—moving to a place of safety, taking legal action, finding a new job, or other milestones—which are part of their personal journey towards safety and wholeness. A person can go alone or with close friends to support her. It is also possible to bring children to immerse as well, providing an opportunity for a family ritual.
This is possible with a community mikvah, a space which is safe, inclusive, warm, beautiful and accessible. We are excited that MACoM, Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah, will break ground in May on a new building on Congregation B’nai Torah’s campus which will service as a beautiful, welcoming space for the Jewish community to use. For more information, please visit www.atlantamikvah.org. We look forward to working with Shalom Bayit to ensure that victims of domestic violence interested in the mikvah can find spiritual support and comfort, and to welcoming all in the Jewish community who are seeking a place for spiritual refreshment and renewal.