It’s only a few steps down into the mikvah, but it’s taking me days to really emerge.
Around midday Monday, my children and I were each converted. My husband completed his second gerus l’chumrah right after and we began our first day as a whole, Jewish family…by searching for our car. My husband walked, puzzled, as we retraced our steps to where we had parked in downtown Brooklyn. It just wasn’t there. Finally, we returned to the Synagogue where we had converted and began making phone calls as my son put on tefillin for the very first time. Our truck was safe, but had been towed. I was struck by the mix of the highly spiritual with the highly mundane…so Jewish.
The Beis Din (Rabbinical Court) was fair, but thorough. We were each questioned so that they could make sure that our learning was at a level that we’d be ready to live as Jews. In the mikvah, naked and vulnerable, we were each asked in multiple ways if we agreed to live by Jewish law and if we agreed with the 13 principles of Jewish faith. Each of us prepared for the mikvah and were probably (particularly in the case of my teenaged son) as clean as we’d ever been. Emerging from the mikvah, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Should I feel different? Before, if you would have asked me, I would have said, “Probably not. I mean, we’ve been doing this SO long…”
And yet, I did. I felt completely different.
A peace settled within me, a feeling of completeness that I don’t think I’ve ever felt. I’ve always felt the need to be the one to answer the question. As a child, my hand would shoot up in the air the moment a teacher asked a question. I wanted to be called on. I wanted to be right. I wanted approval. I don’t think that ever really changed. I wanted good grades and I wanted good job performance reviews. I always felt like I had to prove my worth and earn my place.
And always…I felt out of place in a way I could never quite explain. In my family, it was as if a strange bird had snuck my egg into their nest. I was always so different in spirit than the rest of my family even though I looked just like them. I spent my life searching for where I would feel at home, all the while feeling like I had something missing that I needed to make up for.
As I sat, still smelling the soap I’d used for the mikvah, and my husband figured out where our truck had been towed to, I felt at peace. After our truck was found and we recovered it and ate dinner with a Rabbi who had mentored us, we drove out of New York and into the setting sun. I felt complete and without any missing pieces, maybe for the first time of my life. I also felt a peace knowing that whatever the next chapter in our lives will bring, Hashem has already seen us through so much.
Our long exile is over. We are Jewish.