Disclaimer: I am not an expert on Jewish halacha regarding immersion. However, I do the best I can under my present circumstances. I do not claim this to be a Torah commandment, but rather a beautiful tradition that I have found to be profoundly beneficial for my own spiritual growth. The following is my current understanding of this practice and my personal testimony.
The concept of immersing in a mikvah, or ritual waters (referred to as baptism in Christian circles) is a common practice among religious Jews. The differences between ritual immersion within the Jewish tradition and Christian baptism is, primarily, the way it is done. In the Jewish tradition, no one and no thing is supposed to touch the individual who is immersing. They dunk themselves, and the act is done often in a pool of living waters called a mikvah, or a living body of water such as a lake, sea, or river (it must be moving in order to count).
Ritual immersion is done at the time of conversion to the Jewish faith. It is also customary to go to the mikvah before Yom Kippur. Some men immerse every morning before going to pray. Women usually go to the mikvah right before they marry, and after the days of their separation (for more on family purity, read about it HERE).
Immersion is what my husband refers to as a “restart button” and, I think, serves as a pretty accurate picture.
Recently, I have become more “religious” about immersing at the end of the required time of separation between my husband and myself. Not that I believe it is explicitly commanded in the Torah, but because I see in the tradition of immersion, just as in the Havdalah ceremony, a way of “marking” the end of one thing and the beginning of something new. I love the intention of the mikvah. I try to be deliberate and thoughtful as I ready myself to immerse in the living waters of renewal.
First, I remove all my jewelry. I trim and clean under my nails–fingers and toes. Then I shower. Lastly, I fill up my tub (yes, I am aware this may seem unorthodox, but it’s all I can do at this time), and then I dip three times while I unstop the tub and turn the water back on. This causes the water to flow out while new water flows in (mayim chayim), but also ensures all of me is completely covered by the water. When I am done, I say the following blessings:
ברוך אתה יי אלוהנו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצבותיו וצונו על הטבילה
Baruch ata Ad-nai El-heinu melech ha-olam asher kid-shanu b’mitzvo-tav v’tzi-vanu al ha-tevilah.
Blessed are You, L-RD our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with the commandments and commanded us concerning immersion.
ברוך אתה יי אלוהנו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה
Baruch ata Ad-nai El-heinu melech ha-olam she-heche-yanu, ve-ki-y’manu, ve-higi-yanu la-z’man ha-zeh.
Blessed are You, L-RD our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and sustained us, and enabled us to reach this day.
One can also choose music that will add to the experience. During my most recent mikvah, I listened to two songs from one of my favorite singers, Yonatan Razel. The first was “Et Paneicha” (Your Face), which comes from Psalm 27:8, 9a, 14:
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you, “Your face, L-RD, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Wait for the L-RD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the L-RD!
Et Paneicha (Your Face)
Following the immersion and the blessings, I listened to “V’erashtich Li” (I Will Betroth You To Me) from Hosea 2:19,20, which says,
“And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy.
I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the L-RD.”
V’erashtich Li (I Will Betroth You to Me)
Immersion has become something that I look forward to. It is truly otherworldly and my spirit feels elevated after coming up out of the waters; it is rebirth; it is freshness; it is renewed beginnings. It is truly a beautiful experience, and one I highly encourage all women to do, if they feel so inclined.
I hope sharing my personal testimony encourages you to consider this wonderful tradition, which has added so much beauty and meaning to my faith walk.
Blessings and Shalom,