A Dip in the Mikveh, Nearly Derailed by Fake Eyelashes, Was Vital to My Conversion
The whole idea of a ritual bath seemed foreign and too religious. But now it’s a warm reminder of the moment I became a Jew.
The water felt body temperature, almost silky, and wading in, I was immediately reminded of the unique wonderfulness of skinny-dipping.
“OK, honey,” Gita said once I was all the way in, and pointed down with her finger. I inhaled, held my breath and went under, lifting my feet off the floor into a sort of fetal position as I’d been instructed, so that the water reached every part of my body. When I couldn’t hold my breath any longer, I popped my head above the water as Gita yelled, “Kosher!”—signifying that my dunk was good to the rabbis who were listening at the door.
As soon as I had wiped my eyes and gained some semblance of composure, Gita cued me to start the first prayer. Then it was time for another dunk. When I emerged from the water the second time, I was legitimately out of breath. As I came up for air the third and final time, I heard, at first muffled and echo-y, and then clearly, Gita and the rabbis belting out, “Siman tov and mazel tov, mazel tov and siman tov!”
When I had changed back into my street clothes, my fiancé, the rabbis, and I gathered back in the waiting room and one of the rabbis sang the final blessing. As she sang, I began to cry, my tears pooling on the floor with the drips from my still sopping wet hair and my extended eyelashes clumping together. I was Jewish. How I lived out that change and what it meant for me day-to-day was something I still had to discover. But I would never forget the moments when the change happened. If my conversion had simply been marked with the recitation of a Hebrew prayer or a celebratory dinner, the memory would have inevitably become fuzzy. But the mikveh made the day I converted unlike any other day. And whether I ever went back, I was grateful to the mikveh for taking me out of my life and starkly demarcating the time I became Jewish.
When the ceremony was over, my fiancé and I walked out onto the street. I held his arm with one hand and clutched the envelope with my official certificate of Jewishness in the other.
“Mazel tov!” someone on the sidewalk said when we’d gone a few steps.
We both looked up, startled, to see a man in his thirties grinning at us. How did he know? Was it that obvious? Was I just radiating an unmistakable, new Jew glow?
“I’m next,” he said, and walked past us into the brownstone.
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To the Talmudic rabbis, a miracle is more plausible than the notion that their sources were incorrect