At every step of my life these days, I am interrogated, and I feel like I’m putting the entire world at risk.
Seeing signs on the highway reminding people to limit travel and being tested for fever before entering my infant’s pediatrician’s office—which I had to drive for thirty minutes to get to instead of the usual five—is all surreal.
And now, I had to figure out how to manage going to the mikvah in this pandemic. For a married woman, going to the mikvah is already a vulnerable experience. I have finally learned to appreciate the beauty that the mikvah experience has to offer. However, with the upcoming summer months of late night dunking, along with navigating through this pandemic, I am, yet again, facing new challenges with this holy mitzvah. And the ironic thing is that, right now, mikvah is the only spiritual/religious experience outside the home! It’s a wild thing if you think about it.
With every answer, I get more and more tormented, thinking, what if I pass something on without even knowing it? What if my allergies get triggered and my few sneezes cause a death?
It’s dark, cold and late. I arrive at the mikvah and am immediately sent back to sit in my car. I am instructed to call the mikvah attendant from my car, then to answer about twenty five tedious questions about exposure, travel history, health status and the people in my household. With every answer, I get more and more tormented, thinking, what if I pass something on without even knowing it? What if my allergies get triggered and my few sneezes cause a death?
Phew, finally the questioning is over, and I am let into the mikvah facility. One dunker at a time is allowed into the building. Every attendant is wearing a mask and gloves.
I did not bring a robe from home. I feel bad that I forgot. But I did all my preparations already.
I am escorted to a private, sterile room. I am told to keep all my belongings on my clothing once I remove them and to minimize contact with all surfaces. I am not “checked” before I dunk—something which, previously, I had always appreciated having the option to decide not to do. I am not allowed to use or enjoy the beautiful mikvah amenities nor the serene and peaceful half hour that comes with it. Now, more than ever, I could use some peace and quiet for a little bit. Instead, I feel like a terrorist who might be carrying a bio-weapon.
Instead of obsessing and being super strict about the immersion preparation, the attendants are very careful and stern about where to stand, what to touch, where to be, how to breathe. After my few moments in the water, praying to G-d that I stay healthy and that He grants babies to my friends who are longing for a child, marriage prospects for those in search, health to my family and friends, financial stability and prosperity for my loved ones and for this pandemic to END, I come out to dress, trying to limit contact with any surface around me, and I rush off. I am masked and gloved, covered fully and actually do look like a terrorist. The only words I can murmur on my way out is: “Tizki l’mitzvot”, implying a thank you for risking it all to be here and allowing us to engage in the spiritual transition of returning back to a physical relationship with our spouses. Gratitude! That’s it.
The streets are empty, and I feel like a criminal…but now I am home, I am happy, relieved and overjoyed to be reunited. It is 10 pm, the newborn is crying, and I’m running on empty.
Now, more than ever, I could use some peace and quiet for a little bit. Instead, I feel like a terrorist who might be carrying a bio-weapon.
I just hope I didn’t catch nor transmit anything during my latest risky outing, and I am grateful for a healthy family at home who are all happy to receive me.
Emails, messages and notifications are piling up. An evening of work lost to carry out this important mitzvah. A night of baby’s feeds await, followed by an infinite amount of no-daycare days, complete with the lack of sleep, exercise, self-care, ability to work and time for any creative outlets to uplift my energy.