Something about those moments standing in the soft waters of the mikveh causes deep and sometimes buried feelings to surface.  Suddenly, unexpectedly,  the sobs rise and burst out.

Many of us have a need to cry, but there is no time, no safe place to release our restraints and just…cry. Unmeasured energy is spent keeping the pain deep inside so that we can continue to function and appear “normal”.

Mikveh is our unique safe haven. Mikveh is our trysting place with the Holy Schina (Divine Spirit). My tears blend with the tears of  women throughout the generations. Tears of joy, of anticipation, of hope; and tears of bitter disappointment, dashed hopes, fears, yearning, beseeching.  Here it is safe to cry, to pour out my physical and emotional pain. Here my tefillot (prayers) are lifted up: those I articulate in words, and those beyond words that are so so deep and precious that only Hashem knows them. In this moment of immersion, my open, vulnerable, intimate self is embraced and reassured by the Schina Herself.

Hashem loves me. I am in His protective hand. Everything I struggle with has purpose, Hashem is greater than my mistakes.  I am doing the right thing. I am forgiven.

Each immersion is accounted to us as merit. Each woman’s immersion affects all of Am Yisrael. Moreover, the waters embody the accumulated merit of our Mothers Sara, Rivka, Rachel, and Leah and the merit of all women in all generation since, including me — together with those of the women who immersed tonight before me and will enter the mikveh after me. Our tears are embodied in the waters of the mikveh. Our prayers are supported by the merit of all Jewish women.

As I emerge from the mikveh, I emerge from my meeting with the Schina, uplifted in the merit of Jewish Womanhood.

Chaya Zusman is a mikveh attendant (Balanit) in Alon Shvut