Real Men Can Dunk (in the Mikveh)
Even though my wife has visited the mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) and my daughter is the executive director of Mayyim Hayyim, a community mikveh in Massachusetts, it never occurred to me that I would go to a mikveh and immerse. That was something women do, not men. It never occurred to me until I retired.
It was not about being closer to the end of life than the beginning, although at 68 that was undeniably true. It was the awareness that I was embarking on a transition that took 44 years of hard work to reach, and the recognition that it was not just hard work and lucky breaks that got me there.
There is a sentence in the morning blessings I recite that took on added meaning one morning shortly after I retired. “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the universe, Who has provided me my every need.” While each of us defines the word “need” differently, I wanted to feel content, and I remember feeling a different level of contentment than I had ever felt before. I thanked God that morning, and so many times since, for enabling me to reach this season of my life- but I also wanted to mark this major transition in a spiritual way, because my feelings rose to that level. That was when Mayyim Hayyim came to mind, and I decided to go.
Did I, as a man, feel a bit uncomfortable going to a place that (I thought) was meant for women? Yes, I did. But when I arrived and entered the building, I realized that it felt much more like a home; not a building or even a house, but a home. It was serene, warm and inviting, as was the preparation room, and I undertook each part of the preparation process and meditations, carefully and sensitively described, with real intention, and an increasing sense of peace.
Upon entering the mikveh itself, I realized that I was in a sacred place, and became rather contemplative. I enjoyed each step into the pool, until I was fully enveloped. It was so soothing, and as I read the prayers provided, and one of my own, I felt close to God and thankful to my wife and daughter, who opened up my consciousness to a possibility that I might not otherwise have experienced.
While driving back to my daughter’s house, I took a wrong turn, which normally would have elicited some strong language on my part. At that moment, however, I didn’t even care. I just smiled, turned around, and felt ever so content.
Edward C. Bermant spent his career in commercial banking, most recently as Senior Vice President and Credit Risk Manager at New York Community Bank. He retired in April of 2013, and founded 20/20 Strategic Focus LLC to provide consulting services to middle-market companies on Long Island and New York City. He is a graduate of the Lawrenceville School, Columbia College, and Columbia Business School, and lives with his wife, Alison, in East Norwich, NY, where they are members of North Shore Synagogue and Young Israel of East Northport. Ed is the proud grandfather of four boys and one girl, and father of Jason and Carrie, executive director of Mayyim Hayyim.
This piece originally appeared on Mayyim Hayyim's blog, The Mikveh Lady Has Left the Building, and is reprinted with permission.