The Woman I See at the Mikvah


The Woman in the Mirror at the Mikvah


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Woman I See

By Elana Horwitz

There is a woman I see at the mikva. She is a typical woman. She walks in unobtrusively but without hesitation. She looks comfortable here. She is not unfriendly, but her focus is not on the other women. She appears to be deep in thought, and she seems relaxed in her thinking, as if she is used contemplating one idea or another.

She completes her preparations and immerses in the waters. Afterwards, I see her. And she never looks typical then. I gaze into her eyes. I notice the determined angle of her jaw. She is both young and old, this woman. Her years have been full, oh, so full. Some say she looks younger than her age, but they are not searching her eyes. Like every woman, she is part little girl, but I never see that part of her here at the mikva, never. Here she feels what only women feel. I am also not fooled by the signs of aging that her body shows. Her body may age, but her determination never does. Never. Her spirit falters at times, and she cries. When she cries, she weeps alone, with no one to comfort her, because she cannot schedule her heartache at the convenience of her well-meaning friends. Her husband is a great comfort, and she is also blessed with children, whose little hands stroke her, and whose fresh perspective warms and inspires her. And yet…and yet…a part of her remains untouched. The deepest part is frozen. She lives with it, and it is pretty much okay, but sometimes it gets…so…cold. 

Graciously often, the sun shines. She sings, when nobody can hear, and she dances too, when nobody can see. Perhaps she lacks talent, but that doesn't matter a bit to her audience of One. She knows this, and laughs. Her heart bubbling over with appreciation for the harmony of life's music, she reaches out with arms open, and loves.

There are times she can fall so weak. And I see how strong she can grow, because she must. I can see beauty in her. Her beauty is not about her features or her weight or the color of her hair. It is about her soul, which, for all the harm it does and all the benefit, she chooses at times to wear on her sleeve. 

Here at the mikva she arises from the purifying waters, a woman anew. And then she moves on, because that is what a Jewish woman does. And no matter what…no matter what…even when she is scorned and spurned, or ignored and rendered invisible, or proven a fool to the world, or badly humiliated; even when she feels despised, or she doesn't get her way, or her work overwhelms her; even when people she loves die to her and she cannot hold them close, she arises from the waters and moves forward. Because she is what a Jewish woman is.

A typical woman, I see her at the mikva. She is the woman in the mirror that I peer into after immersing. I seek her out every time, and every time I find her there, anew.


from the August 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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