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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Living Waters

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

So much of what is written in Parshat Metzora concerning blood and emissions still lives on to this day. Who would think that a Parsha which details bodily emissions would spur a tradition of Mikvah, with water a liquid vehicle to heal and transform. Mayyim Hayyim, a Mikvah in Newton has taken the concept of Mikvah and niddah and expanded it to be a place where individuals can mark transitions in their lives.

On Saturday nights we celebrate Havdallah, where we mark a transition from one status to another. We are all always changing; whether it is a niddah or a series of life events. This is a poem about the power of Mikvah and the experience of tevillah, immersion into the living waters.

Hatevilah- The Immersion

Immersion is a prayer

She stands above the pool. Her toes feel the water

as cool as the early spring rains.

She shivers.

Slowly she descends

Step by step

The water accepts her presence

She finds the center

Lets the water find her

and with a breath

she searches deep within herself,

her eyes closed.

She immerses.

In her heart is a prayer,

a silent declaration.

A hope for the future

for life itself.

The water covers her

as a blanket

or an embrace

and she is home.

Al Ha'tevilah

At that moment

the water is her

and she is the water.

Suspended briefly

in a liquid universe.

She pauses;

feels the water surround her.

Envelope her.

They are as one.

And she is re-created.

With a breath;

strong and renewed;

she emerges.

Shining and shimmering

through the water.

A thousand ripples spiral through the water

Each ripple a story,

her story;

a thousand traces of a living being

upon living waters.

A thousand drops of water linger on her arms,

her legs, her torso, her hair;

a parting gift from the water

as she ascends.

She moves upwards, always upwards

She is changed.

She is re-created.

The water waits for her return.

Photo of the Mikvah at Mayyim Hayyim

Print of the mikveh in the Ashkenazi synagogue in Amsterdam, 1783. Print by Pieter Wagenaar.


אִשָּׁ֕ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר יִשְׁכַּ֥ב אִ֛ישׁ אֹתָ֖הּ שִׁכְבַת־זָ֑רַע וְרָחֲצ֣וּ בַמַּ֔יִם וְטָמְא֖וּ עַד־הָעָֽרֶב׃ {פ}

Likewise for a woman: when a man has carnal relations with her, both shall bathe in water and remain impure until evening.

Leviticus 15:18. (Translation from Sefaria)


* This poem is written with a feminine pronoun, but is meant to be universal.


For more about Mayyim Hayyim in Newton:

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