Mikvah: The Ultimate Bridal Experience

Jewish weddings have many traditions that are recognizable in the secular world: standing under a chuppah, a groom smashing the glass, wedding guests yelling “Mazel Tov!”, and dancing the horah during the reception. These were the images that flooded my mind when planning my Jewish wedding, along with dreams of the perfect dress and décor, of course.

So when a colleague and friend that I deeply respected offered to usher me through a bridal mivkah experience, I thought “sure, why not?” 

Leading up to the date of my appointment, I started to feel a little anxious. Would I have to get naked in front of people? Did the appointment match up with my hair washing schedule? After the immersion, could I get a manicure appointment in time to attend some pre-wedding events? Looking back, these concerns feel incredibly shallow. But in the spirit of being truthful, it feels important to share.

When I arrived, I was greeted by a woman with a smile who introduced herself as “the mivkah lady.” My friend was there waiting for me and handed me a one-pager about preparing myself for the immersion. Reading the document, I realized I was about to embark on something much bigger than a warm solo skinny-dip. The handout from ImmerseNYC included questions like:

What do I want to allow to dissolve in the water?

How am I experiencing this present moment?

What am I looking forward to as I emerge from the waters?

I was instructed to take my time and pay careful attention to the “miracle of my body.” As I stood in the shower, I closed my eyes and thought hard.  

How am I experiencing this present moment?

I stood at the vanity brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, and taking my time trying to focus. I took a few deep breaths and locked eyes with myself in the mirror.  

What do I want to allow to dissolve in the water? What am I looking forward to as I emerge from the waters?  

Essentially, I was being asked “Who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you want to leave behind and what will you take with you on the next step growing into who you are meant to become?”

How could I possibly answer these questions in such a short amount of time?

I thought about my fiance and the type of life we dreamt of together. The wife I wanted to be, the relationship we had, our approaching marriage and home we would build together. I thought about our future children, what it would be like to experience motherhood, and how I wanted my friends and family to see me. This mivkah immersion was so much more than just another Jewish wedding tradition to cross off my to-do list. This was about transformation.

Once I entered the mikvah pool, with each step I moved deeper into the water — and deeper into this undertaking. The immersion ceremony guided me to think about the biblical mothers and all women that have come before me. Blessings I was instructed to recite after each immersion spoke to this transformation of moving from who I currently was, into the next stage of life: a married woman, partnered with another, a fresh start full of possibility.  

A few days after the mivkah I stood before our rabbi, surrounded by family, as my husband gently pulled the bridal veil over my face. I walked arm in arm with both of my parents towards the chuppah, circled my groom seven times, each time thinking about how I answered the question of who I wanted to become after emerging from the waters. I laughed joyously when my husband stomped on the glass after missing it the first time, kissed him as our wedding guests yelled “Mazel tov,” and then walked down the aisle with my husband, no longer a bride but instead a wife, to our family and friends clapping and singing “Siman Tov u’Mazel tov.”

Now, six years and two children later, I often find myself reflecting on my bridal mivkah experience as one of the most meaningful and impactful moments of my life, Jewish or secular. I still think back to how I answered those questions:

What do I want to allow to dissolve in the water?

How am I experiencing this present moment?

What am I looking forward to as I emerge from the waters?

Am I truly able to say that I have allowed everything I wanted to dissolve in the water to remain in the past? No. But I certainly have tried. Am I always intentional in thinking about how I want to experience my present moment? No. But I do find myself attempting to be fully present — both in body and mind — when I am with loved ones. Have I become everything I wanted to be and dreamt of since emerging from the waters? No. But I do work towards growing into that person every day, both in my marriage and for myself.

When I looked at myself in the mirror of the mivkah preparation room, I was given a kavanah, an intention, to think about.

“The water changes us neither by washing away something nor by letting something soak into us, but simply by softening us so that we can choose to re-mold ourselves into a different image.”

I find that no amount of Hebrew School growing up helped me to realize all the opportunities Judaism gives us to re-mold ourselves, over and over and over again. Whether it be starting a new week refreshed with the gift of Shabbat, or leaving shul with a clean slate for the upcoming year on Yom Kippur, our holidays and Bible stories are all about transformation. Yes, we are all made in the image of our creator, but we are given the ability to re-mold ourselves into a different image, one of our choosing, time and time again.

I wish I could say that I have since made a monthly mivkah immersion part of my personal Jewish practice. I have not, though one day that may change. But I have taken this beautiful experience that I first encountered unintentionally as a young bride and I carry with me the lesson of mivkah — the gift of transformation — through my life.

At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.


Mikvah: The Ultimate Bridal Experience
Kate Blumenthal
Kate Blumenthal

Kate Blumenthal lives with her husband and two young children in Pittsburgh, PA. In her free time, you can find her running, swimming, knitting, baking, or curled up under a blanket with a new book. Connect with Kate on instagram @k_blumenthal

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