Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you double
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.
Adrinne Rich, Prospective Immigrants Please Note
Creating a new ritual is always a risk, but I decided it was a risk I needed to take at this point in my healing process. I chose to begin my ritual with this poem because it represented for me the struggle I experienced in making my decision. If I had not created this ritual, I would have still been able to heal and to live a Jewish life, but the cost may have been that I would have allowed my abuser to render me invisible in the sight of my tradition. Of course, the ritual is only words and the mikvah is only water. They make no promises. But the spirituality and faith which I bring to this place and event can be the guiding forces in my search for the healing which lies ahead.
"According to the Talmud, the ultimate source of all water is the river that emerged from Eden. By immersing ourselves in the mikvah, we participate in the wholeness of Eden. Natural water is required for a mikvah because water is a symbol of the life force of the universe. Fundamentally, mikvah is not about "uncleanliness" but about human encounters with the power of the holy."
For me, the mikvah represents many things. The waters represent life, the womb, a protected environment where we are given the opportunity to grow unscathed by the outside world. Entering the water is to re-experience the tranquillity of the womb, with the understanding that to come back out is to once again face the harsh realities of the world, somewhat refreshed and renewed.
The mikvah also represents my tears. Sue Ann Wasserman mentions the mikvah as representative of tears in a ritual which she helped to develop. She mentions that surrounding oneself with the tear-representing water outside can help prompt the release of those tears which remain inside. When I enter the mikvah, I hope to imagine the water as both those tears which I have shed and those tears which I have yet to cry. Part of my hope is that this ritual with provide the catharsis necessary to allow me to begin to shed those tears.
The mikvah also represents my struggle. One year ago today, I came out of the hospital, unsure of what the future held, unsure if I would make it through another year. I never imagined what memories that year would bring. But I made it through. I can stand here today and say out loud, I was a victim, but I am becoming a survivor.
The timing of this ritual is also very important to me for other reasons. Spring is a time of renewal, the flowers bloom, the trees blossom, and many creatures give birth at this time of year. In Judaism, not only is this first month a time of renewal, but one of redemption as well. This month of Nissan marks the Exodus from Egypt. Just as Miriam and the Jews entered the waters of the Red Sea, separating from a life of slavery and entering into a new beginning, I will enter the waters of this mikvah, separating from the past which I can not change and entering into a new stage of my healing process.
It is important to note that crossing the Red Sea was not an ending for Miriam and the Jews, it was only the beginning of a journey which lasted a lifetime. Nor was the exodus without its struggles. As the Jews wandered in the desert, there were times they regretted leaving. There were memories of the few advantages to their past situation. Furthermore, there were times when the Jews felt lost, physically and spiritually. But the Shekhinah was with them throughout their journey providing them with the strength and courage to continue.
So it is with me. Entering this mikvah is not an ending, it is merely the beginning of something new, of a year I have chosen to dedicate to healing, of a lifetime as a survivor of incest. Even as I go through the stages of healing, the past will never be completely wiped away from my mind. There will still be the memories of the love and affection which came with the abuse and pain. And I will continue to struggle to understand where I am going and where I've been and to believe that there is life after abuse if I only choose to live. But wherever I go. I know that the Shechina will be with me to guide me with strength and courage.
As I immerse myself in the waters of the mikvah, may this mark for me a new beginning, a time of renewal and healing yet to come.
Immerse then recite:
בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ מָקוֹר הַחַיִּים, מְחַדֶּשֶׁת בְּכָל יוֹם תָּמִיד מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית וְהִגִיעָתְנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה לְהִתְחַדֵּשׁ בִּטְבִילָה
B'rukhah at M'kor ha-khayim, m'khadeshet b'khol yom tamid ma'aseh b'reyshit, v'higiatnu la-z'man ha-zeh l'hitkhadesh bit'vilah.
Blessed are You, source of life, who renews the works of creation daily and who has given me this opportunity to find renewal through immersion.
Immerse then recite:
נְבָרֵךְ אֶת מַעְיַן חַיֵּינוּ שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה
N'varekh et ma'yan khayeinu shehekhiyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu, la-z'man ha-zeh.
Let us bless the flow of life that revives us, sustains us, and brings us to this time.
Immerse for a third and final time.
מִי שֶׁבֵּרַךְ אִמּוֹתֵינוּ, היִא תַּעֲזֹר ל__________ לִמְצֹא אֶת הַגְּבוּרָה לְהַמְשִׁיךְ בְּהִתְרָפְּאוּתָה. הַשְּׁכִינָה תְּבָרֵךְ אוֹתָהּ עִם רְפוּאָה שְׁלֵמָה הִתְחַדְּשׁוּת הַנֶּפֶשׁ וְהִתְחַדְּשׁוּת הַגּוּף. וְנֹאמַר אָמֵן
Mi she-beirakh imoteynu, hi ta'azor l' _______ limtzoah et ha-g'vurah l'hamshikh b'hitraphota. Ha-Sh'khina t'varekh otah im r'fuah shlema, hitkhadshut ha-nefesh v'hitkhadshut ha-guf. V'nomar: Amen.
May the one who blessed our mothers, help _______ to find the courage to continue on her journey to healing. Sh'khinah, bless her with a complete healing, a renewal of spirit and a renewal of body. And let us say: Amen.
"Women connect to each other....
This connection is powerful --
a strong current of feeling
conducted by the medium of our tears.
To some, tears may be a symbol of woman's weakness.
Here they are the symbol of a woman's strength:
her ability to express feeling, empathy,
Shekhinah, I pray that Your spirit may pervade
those whose tears will not flow; that they may
experience the release of feeling that connects
us to each other, to the tradition of our ancestors,
to our progeny and to all humanity.
For the blessing of tears,
I thank God I was born a woman.