The Bible Says What? ‘On the third day, God created… a mikveh!’
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The Bible Says What? ‘On the third day, God created… a mikveh!’

 Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers takes a controversial issue from the Torah and offers a Reform Jewish response

Example of a Mikveh - (White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland. (Wikipedia/Stefan Walkowski))
Example of a Mikveh - (White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland. (Wikipedia/Stefan Walkowski))

We all know the story of creation: the seven days, which may or may not follow an evolutionary pattern, to create the world as we know it. I have read it so many times, but far too often take it for granted, because it is such a well-known narrative. 

It was only over the past few months, while training with Boston’s Mayyim Hayyim as a mikveh guide, that I reread Genesis 1:9-10. “God said, ‘Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:9). I realised this gathering of water into one area is called a mikveh – meaning a gathering of water.

So many people associate mikveh with negative words, such as “impurity” (a very poor translation of the Hebrew tamei). The waters of the mikveh don’t make us “pure” but serves to honour moments of change and transformation in our lives, whether honouring the regular cycles of our bodies, or marking larger moments of shift.  

I was incredibly excited to find this beautiful origin story of the mikveh. The gathering of the primordial waters by God during creation roots our own water rituals in the act of creation, rather than in any acts of purification. When we immerse in a mikveh, we allow ourselves the opportunity of regeneration and refreshment, change and transformation honoured in ritual.  

We are not yet out of the Covid-19 woods, but I found myself in June creating a mikveh ritual for leaving lockdown, ritualising our loss, and our re-emergence into the world created by the gathering of waters. As God used the gathering of waters to help the land we would live on emerge, we can use our own gathering of waters to allow ourselves space to process our own transformative moments, and find solid ground to stand on again. 

  •  Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers serves Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue
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