Back in the day blogging was navel gazing.
I’ve consciously chosen to reclaim the navel-gazing space.
The now-12 year old recently decided to become Jewish.
This (finger quote) decision (unFQ) culminated in her experiencing the ritual bath known as a mikveh.
Mikvehs take different forms (from appearing bathtub-like to open bodies of water) with one being that of a natural spring.
Enter (literally) our motley crew of varying levels of religiosity Jews on a hothot weekday morning to celebrate the (soon to be official) Jewtemalan.
By way of full disclosure everything I knew heading into our mikveh experience I learned from the Google.
“Immersion in a mikveh serves as transition between convert’s old identity and her new one as a Jew.”
Essentially, immersion indicates abandonment of one form of existence to embrace one infinitely higher.
(this meant not much to the 12-year-old. this notion was quite intriguing to the then-48-year-old)
Before the immersion could begin the three of us sat down with our Rabbi for discussion and to answer questions.
The rabbi asked the Child why she wanted to become Jewish.
She challenged the Child around the idea how, especially in today’s climate, choosing to voluntarily become “the other” is not an easy path.
We adults answered general questions about supporting her decision and providing/creating a Jewish home.
And I cried.
I supported the Child in converting, but had no way pushed or encouraged the ceremony (complicated spoiler alert: I may have actively discouraged).
Each time our daughter spoke her clarity and confidence around the decision she’d made moved me deeply.
I glimpsed a maturity I’d not seen before and a self-awareness I don’t know I possessed at her age.
And then the rabbi noticed my swimsuit under my clothing.
A bikini worn at the request of the Child as she insisted we’d celebrate her conversion with a post-ceremony group swim.
“Are you participating?” The rabbi asked.
“Yes she is!” The Child blurted out before I could respond.
And the ‘already Jew participating in converting to becoming a Jew’ experience was born.
And it was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire fucking life.
We fully submerged in water 3 times and repeated the prayers our rabbi said.
The 12-year-old committed to being a Jew and the then-48-year-old made a different commitment of sorts to herself.
As we submerged and were fleetingly unable to breathe it offered me opportunity to make a break from my former self-definition.
Each time we shattered the water’s surface it created for me a commitment to a new way of life and re-defining myself.
The very fact we humans cannot survive submerged for longer than a few moments was indicative of death for me.
Death of beliefs it’s time for me to shed.
And each time I resurfaced/was able to breathe I was reborn.
The rabbi reminded us:
A fetus is surrounded by water, but does not yet “live.” The water breaks in a split-second and a child emerges into a new world just as the convert immerses, emerges and is reborn again as a Jew.
In those moments it mattered not the Child had always viewed herself as Jewish.
The ceremony was renewal and re-definition for us both and we had the stunning opportunity to undertake it together.
As evidenced by this long post (which has, in fact, been edited) words cannot do justice to the transformative power of the experience.
The surprise inclusion of me and the profound sense of rebirth for the 12-year-old which none of us saw coming.
And the fact we had family and friends-who-are-family around to bear witness to the entire thing.
One of the saddest facets of separation for me has been the loss of a daily-someone to bear witness to my life.
It’s something I was not aware held value until it was gone.
That morning was a reminder of the importance of that feeling and offered hope I could re-create/re-find it again.
Mom, Papa, newJew, Bubbie, cousin. <3