Just like that (no, not really).
As you can imagine, cameras were not allowed in the mikvah.
There I was, standing naked in the mikvah, having a life-changing spiritual moment, yet the man I was thinking about wasn’t my now-husband. It was Jonny. My husband’s friend.
Jonny had told me, just days before, not to screw up my mikvah by floating away like a pufferfish (my words, not his). He said to fully exhale so I would sink and remain curled like a ball without unfolding like an accordion.
After each of the three blessings, which I had spent all week memorizing, I thought of his stern but caring advice. I had done my best all year to be a model student.
I couldn’t all of a sudden have a less than perfect mikvah experience!
After each blessing, I inhaled deeply before slowly exhaling and sinking into the warm water.
In just a few minutes it was over. With the last “Kasher!” from the female rabbi who was making sure all my dunks were kosher, everyone waiting for me broke out into a hearty rendition of Siman Tov to celebrate. Overwhelmed, I took a moment to bury my face in my wet hands to collect myself.
I slowly made my way up the seven stairs, wrapped myself up in a towel and, as the door swung open into the foyer, introduced myself as a Jew.
Actually, I just wrote a letter.
It’s considered a mitzvah (good deed) to write a Torah.
Recently, my fiance and I performed one of the 613 mitzvot – a commandment or “good deed” – that likely isn’t done by many Jews. That’s because it’s to write a Torah (the book of Jewish law otherwise known as the Old Testament). Now, we don’t have the time nor the knowledge to do such a thing (never mind not having access to the skin of a kosher animal to write on), so it was a symbolic gesture done by holding onto a quill (with a much more qualified person at the helm) while writing the Hebrew letter “hay.”
This Torah is being symbolically written by congregants at our synagogue to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
How it went down
We ascended the bimah at the front of the sanctuary, and joined the visiting rabbi/sofer (Torah writer) to write a letter as part of the last few lines of Genesis. The experience was intense, sitting under the chuppah with my fiance while the two synagogue rabbis looked on. The sofer gave us a pep talk of sorts to explain “our” passage – essentially to be kind and to remember that kindness starts at home. It’s only after you’ve looked after one another, that you can branch out and be kind to your extended family, friends, community and so on, is what he said. My fiance and I were so taken by the moment that on the car ride home we kept repeating the line we had helped write – “and they ascended” (which has multiple meanings).
I couldn’t help but get a little misty-eyed when our rabbi congratulated us and offered a blessing over the wine to commemorate this very special experience. With my conversion and Jewish wedding ceremony not too far off in the distance it was especially meaningful.