I was chronically early that Sunday morning, circling the unassuming office building for a parking space. Pulling up to a spot on the street, I noticed the nearby telephone pole with two “Kidnapped” posters on it — further proof that our thoughts of the victims and captives of the Israel/Hamas war were nearby too.
“The Mitzvah of the Mikvah” was held at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life, in Merrick, New York sponsored by Hadassah, the Ahava Machar Chapter of Wantagh, New York.
Recognizing the location as one I had formerly visited for a doctor’s appointment, I remembered how I had waited for the elevator, noticing the Center’s offices and corridors. It was a little bit of comforting déjà vu considering the unknown adventure and learning to come. And although I was a first timer in this facility, I would discover the déjà vu of other attendees and how they had visited this site when the Center broke ground more than a decade before.
The facilitator of the program, prompt and expectant, greeted the attendees upon arrival and situated us in an all-purpose room that lived up to its name: prayer minion dissolving into the “mikvah” meeting while religious school children moved on through on route to the outside playground.
This was anything but a shy group, speaking of the mikvah’s origins, the tradition that building a mikvah took precedence over building a synagogue, its spiritual significance for women and the family. Who could attend? Who should attend? What procedures would it entail?
It was inevitable that the conversation found its way back to the war and its devastation and our worry. Then came the revelation of mitzvahs of all kinds, not just spiritual immersion and cleansing, but ways to bring light and God’s mercy and favor in the midst of the darkness that the world is witnessing.
And then, of course, we went on a guided tour of the mikvah itself.
This day stands out for all the demystified answers. The opportunity to evaluate the process, practice, the evidence of faith that the mikvah provides. It could have been any other Sunday morning, study and knowledge without the overarching canopy of war, antisemitism and hate. Yet it was simply a group of women, bonded by their Judaism, sent forth into their communities carrying gifts of shabbat candles to light the following Friday evening. Spreading our light, praying for healing, driving hope for redemption.
Lauren B. Lev is a member of the Hadassah Educators Council.