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Tradition & Innovation

A Mikveh Ceremony for Increasing Commitment to Judaism

By Rabbi Haviva Ner-David
close up of woman's face, eyes closed, as she floats peacefully in water

This ceremony was created by Rabbi Haviva Ner-David for a mikveh immersion at Kibbutz Hanaton, in Israel, in collaboration with Karen, a seventy-seven-year-old woman who decided to make a deeper commitment to her Jewish practice. They titled it: "Karen's Getting-off-the-Fence Ceremony."


To be Recited Before Entering the Water:

I stand here today ready to jump off the proverbial fence upon which I have been sitting for years, right into the living waters of the mikveh. Water is timeless, always present, yet constantly changing. Renewing our spirit, offering us another chance, and connecting us to generations before and after us. I think of those Alaskan glaciers, and I feel both comfort and awe. I know that I am part of something much larger than myself, yet I also know that those same pristine, dependable and evolving waters flow through me as well. 

As Hillel the Sage says in Ethics of the Fathers (1:14): “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?”

I have always believed in human rights, and even considered that belief as part of my Jewish identity. But that was the extent of being Jewish for me. Slowly, over the years, and especially most recently, I have been adding more and more – hosting family Friday night dinners, lighting candles with my granddaughter, going to synagogue, studying Torah, starting to learn Hebrew, putting up a mezuzah in my home – but I have been reluctant to commit, to throw myself into this project with my full self. I have held myself back from my own spiritual core.

Now that I am entering this final stage of my blessed life, I want to learn and do more. I want to commit to exploring Judaism more fully and open myself up to incorporating Judaism into more aspects of my life. If I do not pass my Jewish heritage on to my children and grandchildren, through experiential ritual and personal example, no one will. Coming to Israel for the first time, daring to immerse in the mikveh for the first time, considering having an aliyah to the Torah for the first time, I am choosing to literally jump fully – body and soul – into this project and trust that these waters will inspire me, support me, hold me, and rebirth me into this exciting new life phase.

So here it goes…

WALK DOWN THE SEVEN STEPS INTO THE WATER, saying:

In my 77th year of life, I honor the 7 days of Creation and 7 Blessings recited at the Jewish wedding ceremony, and I renew the vow I took on the day of my own wedding to build “a home filled with loving, learning and a reverence for Torah.”

IMMERSION #1:
Fully immerse your entire body in the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath, say:

On the first day of the Biblical Creation Narrative, The Eternal One created Light amidst the Darkness. Without the dark we could not see the light, and without the light, we could not see in the dark. With this first immersion, I honor both the challenges I have faced in my life as well as the blessings, the dark times and the light that has emerged from them and helped me get through them. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who has given me both the dark and the light.

IMMERSION #2:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the second day, The Eternal One divided the Lower Waters from the Upper Waters, reminding us of the Divine presence here with us always. When we want to tap into that Unity of Divine Spirit, we can come to you, Living Waters, and reconnect – to ourselves, to our pure essence, and to all that surrounds and embraces us. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who has given me the ability to connect with my inner core and with the universe, to explore my Jewish heritage while remaining committed to my universal humanity.

IMMERSION #3:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the third day, The Eternal One told the lower waters to collect into pools, revealing the dry land – the earth from which we draw nourishment for our bodies, and upon which we stand erect and find our grounding. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who has helped me step into my role as matriarch of my family. Please help me stand tall and firm in the task of living up to my vow to nourish my spirit and pass on what I have gained from my spiritual journey to my children and grandchildren.

IMMERSION #4:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the fourth day, The Eternal One created the sun and the moon to light our days and nights. Let me learn from the sun to share my power with others and grace all equally with my compassion and light. Let me learn from the moon to humbly work in collaboration with others to bring light to the world. None of us can do this monumental task alone. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who empowers me and humbles me, again and again and again.

IMMERSION #5:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the fifth day, The Eternal One created the creatures of water and sky. How awesome to see the variety of life and remember that we humans contain the characteristics of the fish and the birds. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who has granted me the insight to know when to flow, when to float, and when to fly, when to let the current carry me and when to swim against it, when to soar on the breeze and when to flap my wings as hard as I can against the strength of the forces that dominate and try to overpower the still small voices of love and compassion.

IMMERSION #6:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the sixth day, The Eternal One created the beings who walk the earth, but only humans did The Eternal One create in the Divine Image. Let me be reminded every moment of my life that I contain the spark of the Divine inside of me, and that it is my task in this life to shine that spark out to others and to see that spark in them, too. Blessed are you, Breath of Life, who created me and all humans in the Divine image.

IMMERSION #7:
Fully immerse your body into the mikveh waters. When you come up for breath say:

On the seventh day, The Eternal One rested, creating the concept of rest for all. In order to live, we must replenish our spirit and strength, recharge our batteries. I have come here today to renew and reaffirm my life force, and to recommit to channel it towards a life I can look back at in my final days and be proud, feel content and at peace:

Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh HaOlam, Shehekhianu, Vikiyemanu, Vihigianu LaZman HaZeh.

Blessed are You, Mystery of Being, who prepared me, held me, guided me, sustained me, and brought me to this awesome moment.


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה

Complete Ceremony

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