Recently, I sat with Saturday Talmud students, and we discussed the power of immersion in Jewish life--as way of getting involved actively in Jewish life and really developing deep, meaningful Jewish practice and identity. Afterward, for insight, I turned to Rabbi Google, looking up the phrase: "immersion in Jewish life." The results all focused on mikveh. Curious about what answers may reveal themselves, I proceeded to study about our custom of ritual bathing.
And, what I learned is that lowering and immersing oneself in the mikveh is like rising up to an elevated religious state, to a new way at looking at ourselves as spiritual beings. Anthropologists tell us that no matter who we are or what culture in which we live, we all have a capacity called liminality--a "tunnel in time" through which changes take place in our "self-identity, behavior and attitude." (My Jewish Learning)
We practice liminality in many different ways. Life cycle observance, for example, creates rites of passage that alter us. So something like Bar/Bat Mitzvah reconstitutes our children into adults, responsible for the mitzvot. In addition, we call parents and grandparents to engage in change themselves as they prepare to receive young adults.
In my mind, any form of immersion, be it daily prayer or weekly participation in Talmud study or Jewish summer camp or travel to Israel, or anything else that enables us to dive in to Judaism, even just for a short, concentrated moment, has the power to change us, to help us grow Jewishly. Anything that helps raise our Jewish awareness--that fills our Jewish identity--transforms us and renews us.
It is in this spirit of immersion that I personally invite you to join me, Cantor Friedman, and Rabbi Manewith at our upcoming Memorial Day Retreat at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI. Just as we do in a mikveh, we will submerge ourselves in the warmth of Shabbat. In community-building. In prayer and study. In rest and repose. And, we will emerge from our liminal experience happier and more whole.
The theme of our weekend is finding resilience in challenging times, and it borrows from a line in the Harry Potter novels: "Happiness is found in the darkest of times, just remember to turn on the light..."
Come join us. We look forward to welcoming you.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!