When you live in a place where there is a mikveh, then toivelling is something you do at that mikveh. You can love it, or not. But it’s generally a regular experience. However, when you live in a place where you need to use a different body of water, such as the sea, there are often interesting or funny incidents that happen. I have toivelled, or taken other women to toivel, in many unique places, including the Atlantic and Pacific and Caribbean oceans.  They have all been exciting and rewarding experiences. But a few are worth sharing!

I took an Israeli woman to the bitterly cold Atlantic ocean in Tokyo, Japan in March, so she could get married the next afternoon. Her fiance was in graduate school in Japan, and they decided they liked the idea of getting married in Japan.  So they spoke to our dear friends Rabbi and Rebbitzin Edery of Chabad of Tokyo and got the green light, provided the kallah went to immerse before the wedding. So the day before the wedding, the Rabbi drove the chatan, kallah, and myself out to Tokyo Bay. It is much closer to the city but much more populated than the spot where my friend, in the following story, immersed. So the wind was blowing and the waves were churning and it was downright chilly, maybe even cold!  The rabbi and the chatan peeled off to the side to wait until we called them to pick us up. We stood by the ocean as people wandered around and we waited for a clear time to run into the water and immerse ourselves.  She looked wide eyed at me as the realization hit that we would be taking off our clothes and running into the ocean as the ultimate preparation for a healthy, successful marriage based on Jewish law and custom!  So the coast finally cleared. We started to strip and she hesitated. I grabbed her hand and told her that it was cold but we could do it together.  She asked, “Now?” and I said, “NOW!” and we ran in together.  She immersed like a champ and we came back onto land triumphant!  I hugged her and wished her a giant mazaltov!  The next day, under a wind-blown chuppah they were married, and we celebrated their union in true Tokyo style with Jews and non-Jews coming from all over the megalopolis to celebrate with food, (I made the wedding cake), dancing, and joy!

Another immersion in Japan was a little more scary, but ended well. My friend needed to immerse, and she preferred a spot about an hour away.  We met at the local train station and traveled away from Tokyo. It was a rare chance for both of us to be away from the many responsibilities that we had in our respective homes and communities, so we were glad just to talk and giggle and kibbitz like young girls (even though we had a baby in a stroller with us).  Eventually we arrived in the seaside resort town, out of season, so the area was deserted. We walked to the boardwalk and I noticed a colored flag fluttering fiercely over a beach house. I wondered what the flag meant, but we weren’t there to sightsee; we were there for holy activities!  We got ready to immerse, and she entered the water, and then yelped and ran out again.  Her leg was bleeding from a cut sustained from a rope that had wrapped around her leg in the powerfully surging surf. I asked her if she wanted to continue and she said “of course!”  So she immersed, and we got dressed and washed our hands. Our tradition was to bring a chocolate bar with us, (almost impossible to locate in Tokyo), and have a little post-mikveh nosh.  At the time we started to rip open the wrapper, a fire truck and police car sped up to us and out jumped a police officer. He ran up to us and then stopped because he just did not understand what he was seeing – two Western ladies with hair coverings and skirts, a baby in a stroller, and a ready-to-be-eaten Schmerling chocolate bar. He hesitantly asked in Japanese and then English if we were ok. We looked innocent and my friend replied in Japanese, “Of course we are fine. Why do you ask?”  He hesitated and said people had seen us and called the police. At that moment we understood that they had been called because someone thought we were going to kill ourselves, as this was a common way for Japanese women to commit suicide. We then vigorously assured the police officer that we were going to be leaving right away, and would go back to Tokyo after our delightful evening walk down the beach. We left in a hurry, and were both sad that our efforts at sustaining life and love through the mitzvah of mikveh could be confused with the terribly sad end of life brought about by some women in our host country. But we were also thrilled that yet again we could bring some holiness to Japan. Just in case you’re wondering:- The flag’s meaning? Yes, it was a gale warning flag. We kind of did take our lives in our hands as the actual wind and waves were very high, just past where we were. We were even more grateful to HKBH for all the good He gave to us.

What follows is my favorite story of my own tevillah. It was my first Shabbos living (short term) in Honolulu, and I called to ask to be taken to mikveh on Friday night. I was used to toivelling in the ocean, after living in Japan. So I bought a wrap and an old t-shirt and walked to the Chabad house close to candle-lighting time. The Rebbitzin lit candles and we walked to a FULL beach. I looked at her with raised eyebrows. She told me that I should just wait. Sure enough, we waited just a little while and miraculously the entire beach emptied out. We then waded out into the water and as I came up from my first immersion FIREWORKS exploded as I said my bracha. I laughed and said that God evidently accepted my tevilah. I found out the next Friday that fireworks happen at sunset every week, but it sure does make for a fun story. To have HKBH answer your bracha with fireworks was humorous and deeply gratifying.


Author Yael Aldrich

Yael Aldrich is the mom of four unique and delightful young people.  She also loves to work at Daughters of Israel Mikveh in Boston Massachusetts.  She homeschooled her children for 17 years, traveling all over the world and having many adventures with her family.  She thanks God everyday for His goodness.