Waters of Life
Among Judaism’s most ancient traditions is mikveh—the ritual bath. Contrary to popular misconception, ritual immersion is not about “cleansing” oneself from impurity. Rather, it is a ritual of transition, a shifting from one state of being to another.
Such is our predicament today, as we move from the sheltered isolation of living in fear to the restoration of breathing air freely. And as I watched this family, still cautiously holding on to mask wearing while washing their shoes and feet from the residual grains of Coney Island sand, I imagined this act to be not merely hygienically sound but symbolically essential.
Is this not what we need? To find a ritual akin to mikveh that can allow us to move on? Is it enough to just go back to living the way we used to? There is a reason we create rituals, ceremonies through which we can give meaning to the essential moments of life. This period of re-entry and re-connection is, I think, desperately in need of such symbolic behavior.
I would love to run my feet beneath a flow of living waters right now.
Copyright © 2021 Steven Kushner
Steve is a Reform rabbi who, in his retirement, found purpose and meaning in photography. Although primarily a street photographer, of late he has turned to seeing the power in images of abandoned buildings and still lifes. His award-winning work has been presented in galleries and shows in New Jersey.