Samain and the Choice Moon
Late Tuesday gratefuls: Alan. Laura. Liz. Joshua. Steve. Joan. Veronica. Jenny. Gary. Martin. The Mikvah of East Denver. Hatafat dam brit. Ritual extraction of a drop of blood. By Rabbi Joshua. The Beit Din: Rabbi Jamie, Rabbi Steve, Joan Greenberg, and Cantor Liz Sacks. The Mikvah. Warm Water. Immersions three. Naked. With feet off the floor of the mikvah so all body parts touched Water. Prayers in Hebrew. A naming ceremony. Israel ben Avraham v’Sarah. Israel son of Abraham and Sarah.
Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ritual transformation
One brief shining: Took out my penis for the Rabbi in the pink shirt with Superman cuff links, swabbed it with alcohol, he removed a plastic lancet (yikes!), pierced just behind the head, I felt nothing, he gave me a piece of gauze, I put in on the spot where the lancet went in, turned it over with a drop of blood, he said good, and threw the gauze away. Oh.
Yes, I write to you now with an additional name, Israel, and several certificates proving I’m a Jew whose name is Israel. The conversion is over; I felt energized and excited both during and after.
We got to the mikvah about 9 am, maybe 50 minutes from Evergreen. Rabbi Jamie and I drove to Joan’s and picked her up. Then on to the heavily Jewish section of Denver north and east of Cherry Hill. Many of the houses there are a boxy modern style which the mikvah quotes in its structure.
Rabbi Joshua met us at the door. He was the guy in the pink shirt. One of two Rabbi’s in the Denver metro who perform the hatafat dam brit. He had to leave early so that was the first thing done. Technically it should come after the beit din, the court of judgment, has decided whether to admit you or not. But apparently the word of the sponsor, Rabbi Jamie in both mine and Veronica’s case, seals the judgment. So not much of a risk.
Once we were there and the process got started I became very comfortable.
After the drawing of my blood, I had to wait while Veronica had her beit din, then her mikvah. Some of the folks who were part of her beit din had to leave early. I read the Iliad while I waited. Not exactly devotional material.
My beit din was fun. Meaningful. We talked about my spiritual journey, about Kate and how she guided me to this point just by living her life, about my life long wrestling match with the ideas of the sacred and the holy, also how they prompted me to choose Israel, which means struggles with God, as my Hebrew name.
After the beit din, I went in the preparation room, undressed, put on the white rob and slippers, went out and walked about 15 feet to the mikvah, took off the robe and slippers and walked down the steps into the ritual bath. The Water was so warm. So comfortable. The first immersion was being born anew as a Jew. The second immersion was the first time I spoke as a Jew, and the third and final time I said the shema. Rabbi Jamie and Rabbi Steve witnessed my immersion and helped with the prayers.
They left, I dried off, dressed, and went back out where the group there greeted me with smiles and applause. Rabbi Jamie then did a naming ritual which included introducing me as Israel ben Avraham v’Sarah.
According to the Rabbis, the miracle of the mikvah is that once you come out of it you have always been a Jew. I do feel changed, fully Jewish. Didn’t expect to but there you are. I think it was the ritual aspect of all this. Other people caring about me. My blood being drawn. And immersion. Community and body, both involved and important.