At the start of the Three Weeks I made a pledge to do more with my life. So far it’s been tough but there is one thing I can say that I have accomplished that really means a lot to me. And that’s the Mikvah.
What is the Mikvah you may ask?
The Mikvah is like a ritual bath (NOT A BAPTIZING) on takes to purify his or herself spiritually. The physical cleaning may be questionable, since they’re frequented often, though I’m sure the water is cleaned often. The bath has pipes that bring in water from a natural source, which usually qualifies the mikvah as okay for use. After entering the mikvah, completely nude, one completely immerses oneself beneath the surface a few times and the deed is done. Normally most mikvah laws are reserved for woman regarding their cycle, which is a whole different topic itself (too much for this post…), men are still obligated to go to the Mikvah on certain occasions too.
Which brings things to me: It’s not that I don’t like going to the Mikvah, it’s just something I’m not that comfortable diving into (no pun intended). I’ve only gone once in my life and that was a spur of the moment, once in a lifetime chance, peer pressure induced opportunity in Israel at an ancient natural mikvah in Chevron, the burial place of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. Technically, all natural bodies of water are considered mikvahs so even though I’ve probably done it more than once, I never really had specific intent when in those scenarios. It was more like; hey I’m in the water… I might as well (drop the drawers and down we go.)
So why start now? Without going into too many details, I realized that I’m not the purest of all people. As corny as that may sound, I’ve done things I regret and I feel like they cleave to me both physically and mentally. So when I decided I wanted to start this improvement process, I figured I should do something to clean myself, figuratively speaking.
Another deciding factor was opportunity. Though technically you can go anytime, that’s not always the case as Mikvaot have visiting hours, which are usually restricted to the day before Shabbat (Fridays) and days before holidays. Normally during the school year, I’m downtown on Fridays so I rushing just to get home in time for Shabbat. But now being summer, and working on the Bathurst corridor (just off Sheppard), where a few Mikvaot are nearby, including one a friend called the best in town, I said hey let’s give it a shot. I mean I can’t be scared of going my whole life.
And why am I scared? These things are public and I’m self-conscious. That’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of… I’m also afraid of standing out and showing inexperience… Yes, it’s true, but I’m not ashamed to admit it, which is progress itself…
So after doing my research, which consisted of finding out what to do and bring, availability hours and how packed they usually are etc. After getting off work at around 4:15 pm, I hoped on a bus south to Wilson where a mikvah is located at the Agudah building situated behind Bobov, a Chasidic synagogue. (Now you know where to find me 😉 Carefully tracing every step, I find the mikvah without difficulty and get myself ready. I’m surprised to see how clean the place was, as well as how empty it was too. They have showers there too, which you can use before and after use. I would soon learn that this might just be one of the greatest conveniences ever because showering there meant I could go home and not have to go into panic rush mode getting ready.
Let me just say that it happened so fast it was surreal, but not because it happened so quickly. It was surreal because there was a gigantic sense of relief and accomplishment that filled once I was finished and back on the bus heading home. I had thought all this time that this was so hard because of my insecurities, yet once I actually did it, I was so pleased cause it really wasn’t all that tough in the first place. Rather, I’d never felt so clean in my life. Removed from me the physical astigmatism of sin and replaced with clear mind, understanding the magnitude of what I just done.
In my slow and necessary path on the way to becoming a better me, I think I’ve found my new favourite mitzvah. I hope this initiative can spawn several more, one better then the one before, constantly moving up.