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Mikveh Meditation for Erev Shabbat by Rabbi Haviva Ner-David and Shira Gura

The following is a meditation I wrote (with the help of my friend Shira Gura, who teaches meditation and Yoga) to be used on Friday before Shabbat at the mikveh. It is based on midrashim related to Shabbat (for example, the notion that we receive an additional soul on Shabbat), as well as meanings behind mikveh in general (for example, the connection between the waters of Creation and the mikveh waters), and on some kavanot (sacred intentions) that came out of the Kabbalah and Ḥassidut movements (See Rav Yitzhak Luria’s Shaar Hakavanot, Kavanot Hatvilah shel Erev Shabbat; the Commentary of the Ba’al Shem Tov on the Torah, Parashat Yitro, Section 11; and the Siddur of Rabbi Shneur Salman of Liadi on the Kavanot for the Mikveh of the Baal Shem Tov.) There is a strong tradition to write kavanot to use before immersing in the mikveh, since, as Maimonides writes in his Mishneh Torah 11:15, “If a person immerses but without buttressing him or herself [with sacred intention], it is as though he or she has not immersed at all.”

This meditation was written specifically as part of a mikveh education project happening at Shmaya: A Spiritual and Educational Mikveh in Galilee, the only pluralistic mikveh in Israel (located at Kibbutz Hannaton), which is also the only mikveh in Israel run by a woman rabbi—Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David (ME). The goal of this project is to spread the word about mikveh as a ritual tool for all Jews, no matter of what age, gender, marital status or religious belief. Shmaya is also the only mikveh is Israel that is open to anyone who wants to use it and that strives to make the immersion experience as meaningful, spiritual, pleasant, and non-intrusive as possible.

Erev Shabbat Mikveh Meditation

By Rabbi Dr. Haviva Ner-David and Shira Gura

(This part should be read SLOWLY… the introduction can last at least 5 minutes… It’s very important to allow this part to go slowly and allow the participants to feel, experience the words that are spoken. They shouldn’t feel the need to necessarily “think”, but more “experience” than anything else.)

Allow your eyes to close gently. Let your arms to rest by your sides or on your laps, palms facing up. Allow your feet to relax. Feel the support of the chair/floor/ground/earth under your body (adapt according to position the meditators are in) and allow yourself to melt completely into that support. There is no need to hold on anywhere in the body because you are supported.

Now begin to notice your breath. Without feeling a need to change it, simply begin to notice the rise and fall of the belly as you slowly inhale and exhale. Listen to the sound of the breath. Receive each inhalation as if it is breathing every cell in your entire body. Let go of each exhalation as you prepare to let go of the week that has just passed.

In order for us to be ready to receive the Shabbat and the additional soul that we are given on Shabbat, we must take precious moments to let go of the past week.

Take a moment and notice your legs. The upper legs, the lower legs, all 10 toes. It is quite easy to forget our legs during the week… to take them for granted. Take a moment and notice the blessing of your legs. Where did your legs take you this past week? How did your legs enable you to achieve what you sought after this week? Imagine all the activities of the past week that included your legs… (slowly say)… walking, driving, stepping, hiking, bathing, sitting, standing.

Notice your legs…. And allow them to relax. Yom Rishon.

Begin to bring awareness to your belly. How easy it is to become disconnected from the belly during the week. When we are preoccupied during the week, when we are holding on to stress, when we are worried, concerned or anxious, we tend to hold those thoughts in our belly. As we prepare for Shabbat, allow your belly to be completely free. Feel the support of the floor/chair/earth/ground. Feel the breath breathing renewed health into the life of the belly.

Allow the belly and the muscles supporting the belly to completely relax. Yom Sheini.

Notice your back, your spine, your shoulder blades. Your spine enabled you to get through the week, bringing you where you needed to go, keeping you upright as you sat and worked and studied, laying your exhausted body to rest at night.

Feel the support of the ground/earth/floor under your entire back/the chair behind your entire back. Allow your back and all of its muscles to completely relax. Yom Shlishi.

Bring awareness to your arms… your upper arms, lower arms, hands, and fingers. You worked your arms an incredible amount this past week… writing, cutting, typing, holding, crafting, hugging, schlepping so that you could achieve your goals. Our arms are a blessing, but we must be aware of that blessing, moment by moment, and appreciate them.

Feel the support of the earth/floor/ground/chair/your lap beneath your arms, hands, and fingers and allow them to completely relax. Yom Rivii.

Notice the muscles between your eyebrows and around the eyes. Just by simply noticing… you realize how we tend to hold our thoughts, our stress, in our eyes. Your eyes allowed you more opportunities this week than you possibly can imagine. But, just as all the muscles in our body need, the eyes need to rest from time to time.

Allow the muscles around the eyes to relax. Yom Ḥamishi.

Bring awareness to the forehead and the scalp. During the week, your mind was preoccupied – thinking, worrying, organizing, preparing…

Give permission to your thinking mind, your forehead and scalp to relax. Yom Shishi.

Now go through the week day by day. Did you accomplish what you set out to for the week? Did you follow a usual routine, or were there deviations for good or for bad? Did you sleep enough? Did you eat well? Did you feel productive? Did you enjoy yourself? Were you creative? Were you active? Were you focused? Did you make time for yourself? Did you make time for others?

Now imagine all of these experiences from the past week as threads that you are sewing together to create a garment. A weekday garment. Imagine what this garment looks like… Notice the colors, the fabric, the shape. Put it on… Feel the weight of this garment on your body.

Now, imagine yourself removing the garment. Slowly, limb by limb. Feel the fabric sliding off of your body. Your arms, hands, belly, back, legs, feet, until the garment is pile on the floor and you are standing naked above it.
Look down at your pile. That is the garment of your past week. All of the stresses, all of the accomplishments, all of the tasks, all of the work unfinished, all that you know you still have left to do, do, do. You will not wear this garment again until after Shabbat.

You are standing completely naked. Just you and your body. As you were when you were born into this world. Imagine before you a collection of water. Any kind of body of water. There are seven steps into the water. One step for each day of the week.

Step into the water. Slowly. Step by step.

Yom Rishon — feel your toes, legs touching the water.

Sheini — feel the water reaching your belly.

Shlishi — notice how the water feels as it rises up on your back

Rivii — allow your fingers just to brush the water… feel the water on your fingertips… push the water down with your hands and feel the water as it rises up to your shoulders.

Ḥamishi — Without immersing completely, simply put your face in the water and let the water cover your eyes.

Shishi -– rest your head backwards and feel the water touch the top of your head.

And now you are here, at the seventh step. Step down into the water.

Feel the water surround you. Allow yourself to be playful in the water. Move the water. Just feel the water.

Take a deep breath in…. Now lift your legs and dunk. You will stay here for several moments as you are completely immersed beneath the water. Feel the water entering all of your hidden spaces. You are a fetus back in your mother’s womb. You are the Tohu Vavohu before Creation. You are nothing and you are everything. You are you and you are not you. You are Ein Sof. Stay there. Hang there. Be there.

Let your feet find the bottom of this body of water and spring yourself up… renewed… refreshed… revitalized…. As you prepare to leave the water, notice that your Shabbat garment is waiting for you… hanging just steps away from the water.

This is a white garment. A Shabbat garment. It is a garment of angels. A light garment. A garment with no writing, no pictures, no color. A garment of openness and endless possibility. A garment with a special soul. An additional soul. A Shabbat soul. You put it on. Pull it over your head and let it envelop your naked, still-wet body. Wet with the Shabbat waters. The waters of Creation. The amniotic waters. The birthing waters that birthed you into this Shabbat.

Image: Shmaya Mikveh in Ḥanaton by Rabbi Haviva Ner-David (License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

We are grateful to Rabbi Haviva Ner-David for graciously sharing her kavvanah for immersion in the mikveh on Erev Shabbat with a CC-BY-SA 3.0 Unported license.

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