Thursday, May 18, 2006
Purification
It's not the easiest thing to be an atheist. Honestly, I wish some days that I wasn't. It has occurred to me more and more now that I work in the Kosher Canyon (which I would put on Pico and Olympic between Fairfax and Roxbury) that the loss of my faith separates me (not entirely, but mostly) from this community of which I was once a part.

Yesterday I stopped at Office Depot, just 4 or 5 blocks from my office. Across the street is Mikvat Esther, a place I visited when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Too young to use the mikvah but old enough to be awed by it.

A mikvah is a place where women go to cleanse themselves before their wedding, after childbirth, after coming in contact with the dead and 7 days after the last day of their period. It is essentially a ritual bath to rid you of loss (of childhood, of mourning, of a potential life).

The water is a collection (mikvah) of tap water and rain or well water that has not been carried by human hands. There is a woman there (the mikvah lady) to make sure that she is completely clean and has no knots in her hair before she steps in the bath - even checking under her nails for a speck of dirt.

It seems ancient and superstitious, and it is, but it is a practice that Jewish women have been engaging in since before the common era (that would be before Christ (B.C.) for anyone who goes by that calendar). Anyway, I can remember the smell of the mikvah. I can remember thinking that someday, I too would take my ritual bath with all of the other women who come here.

I never have used a mikvah. The idea of ritual cleansing after my period is not something I'm all that hip on, especially since I think that your period doesn't technically put you in contact with death, despite the lost opportunity for life. But there are some things that I do wish, in some way, I could purify in myself - and so in this way, I think a mikvah, despite being a bit (!) ritualistic, is somehow attractive to me.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Peigi said...

Okay. So, as someone who has let go of a very ritual-oriented religion herself, I understand the desire for the rituals and reassurances of tradition. Here's my suggestion, do with it what you like, maybe it's time you built your own mikvah and figured what the things are that you wish to be cleansed of.

Blogger miss kendra said...

i've been in a mikvah. i did underwater flips and the rabbin just about died.

Blogger Allison said...

In the title of your blog you call yourself a Jewess, and in this post you say you're an athiest (which I have heard you mention before.) Based on my understanding of Judaism, I am curious how you can be both?

As an agnostic Unitarian, I would love to talk to you about this sometime.

Blogger TBLJ said...

I think the Mikvah is wonderful. I have not been in a long time and I have never gone after my menstral cycle. I found the experience very purifying. I recited the Shema and the Shehecheyanu. I think the reasons you listed for wanting to go are great reasons and if you want to go maybe you should think about going.

BTW the last time I went to the Mikvah, my partner was in the room with me and thought I would never come up out of the water. I was having so much fun.

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