Friends, in this week's Shabbat message Jo Bruce, a member of the Board of Mikveh Bess Israel, shares her thoughts on the mikveh's rich spiritual history and modern significance. Shabbat Shalom. - Howard
Here in the Greater Hartford community, we are very blessed to have such a strong Jewish Federation that supports an array of Jewish agencies. We value the work that it does, its leadership, and the regular, inspirational messages that Howard Sovronsky shares with all of the partner entities. Mikveh Bess Israel is honored to be given this special opportunity by the Federation to share some thoughts, so with respect and appreciation we share the following message.
The Jewish people wandering for forty years in the wilderness were blessed with excellent leadership. You may already be familiar with Moses, their teacher and spiritual guide, but they were also led by Aaron and Miriam. It was because of the virtues of all three of these remarkable human beings that the entire community was sustained on their journey. Whilst the manna and the cloud of protection were there because of the merit of Moses and Aaron, it was in Miriam's honor that the people were accompanied each step of the way by a well of water.
Why is water given to the people in Miriam's merit? Miriam was the leader who saw potential and acted upon it. She saw that the redemption of the Jews in Egypt was possible, and she prepared wholeheartedly for it. Others may have doubted, but Miriam confidently packed a tambourine for the moment she would need it to dance and sing in celebration of their true freedom. A well of water is not a gift from above; it is the realization of the potential within, the water hidden beneath the surface waiting to be released.
For the past couple of weeks my mind has been swirling with declarations and details from the #metoo campaign. Women in every community have moments in their lives when they feel vulnerable, powerless and the object of others' will. Some of these revelations recount criminal levels of abuse, but for most women it is more mundane incidents that affect our lives. The unwanted comments, invasions of our personal space and dismissals of our thoughts and feelings remind us that we cannot simply "be" in the world. We always have to think about the space we fill and how we can safely do so. The #metoo campaign is encouraging society to think about how women can safely find their rightful place in every community. How can men and women change their attitudes and behaviors to make the space for others to meet their potential?
In order for women to truly reach their potential, they need a safe space to find their own hidden depth. Mikveh Bess Israel is a resource that provides the whole community with a safe and sacred space for cleansing and purification. The Greater Hartford community mikveh remains the source spring of enduring Jewish life today. Both men and women use this mikveh to maintain the integrity of Jewish family life and to bring Jews by choice into our community through ritual immersion. Using the mikveh is a physically immersive experience, but for many of its users it is also a space in place and time to immerse themselves psychologically and spiritually in order to find their own potentials for the weeks, months and years ahead. By creating these special, safe spaces for ourselves and for others, the whole community can reach its potential.
Member of the Board
Mikveh Bess Israel