© 2016 by Goldie Simpson

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Our Mikvah in the News

For years, Feige Hazdan dreamed of building a mikveh at the Great Park synagogue in Johannesburg where her husband serves as rabbi. But the idea was met with opposition. The costs were astronomical. “Why do we need a mikveh?” she was asked. “For two or three religious women? Let them make use of other existing mikvehs elsewhere.”

But she and her husband were determined, and with the support of a committed, enthusiastic team, a luxurious mikveh was built on the prestigious shul’s property five years ago.

Today, more than 100 women use the Great Park Mikvah each month. They come from all over the city, representing every religious variant and age range.

Michelle A. recently immersed in this mikveh for the first time. She is trying to conceive after six years of marriage, and felt that this would be propitious. “I was very anti-mikveh before,” she admits. “I had all these preconceptions; you can’t have this, you can’t do that. But it was better than I expected. And I would certainly recommend a friend and go back again. It was a really fulfilling experience.”

The Great Park Mikvah is not only a pool of sanctifying water, it is also a wellspring of education. “Some believe that mikveh is a mitzvah that should be discussed with a woman only after she is already involved in other religious practices. What we have found, however,” says Hazdan’s daughter, Goldie Simpson, who runs educational programs at the mikveh, “is that mikveh can be someone’s entry point to Judaism. Many women come to us knowing little about their heritage, but through the process of learning about mikveh and observing this mitzvah, they begin their spiritual journey towards a life of meaning and purpose.”

Education, Hazdan and Simpson believe, is the key to the understanding and acceptance of this mitzvah. In this vein, the mikveh produces e-newsletters with reflections on various topics relating to women, and hosts spa-days giving women the opportunity to learn about it in context. The mikveh has also published materials which have assisted community leaders worldwide in communicating the practice.

And it doesn’t start when the woman gets the ring around her finger. Simpson takes groups of bat-mitzvah age girls and their mothers on tours of the mikveh. “We talk about the strength of women as leaders and reflect on introspective questions regarding personal growth. And we hope that when they encounter mikveh later in life, they will recall its beauty and value.” Simpson leads tours targeting diverse audiences, including high school and university students and anyone interested in Judaism’s approach to intimacy.

  • Jane was not expecting to talk about mikvah when she arrived at our door one morning for a coffee-date. She wanted to discuss her daughter’s wedding, and had no idea that mikvah could possibly be relevant to her own life too.  But now that she was here, she wanted to hear what mikvah could mean for someone her age who had been married for 25 years. She was intrigued to discover the depth and details of mikvah, and was delighted that an unexpected, casual conversation had given her the opportunity to choose to do this mitzvah.

  • Betty lives in Angola. Every month she travels for many hours to Johannesburg to immerse in a mikvah. It’s a long journey and a big commitment, but she is proud and so grateful that she has the opportunity to observe the mitzvah of Family-Sanctity.

  •  “I definitely am not the Jewish-observant type!” Joanne says of herself. She is not involved in regular Jewish community life and considers herself ‘secular’. Yet every month she comes to the mikvah. “I love this space! I love my time her!” she says each time.

 

WHY?

Why do modern women observe mikvah? Why are more and more women who consider themselves irreligious and who do not observe many other Jewish practices choosing to go to the mikvah?

Perhaps in an age of disposable, superficial relationships and instant gratification, people are looking for something ‘higher’, for deeper connections with meaningful, lasting values. Many women are expressing that learning about the spirituality of mikvah and experiencing this mitzvah at the right time has given them an opportunity to reflect on the important things in life and to deeper their relationship with Hashem, with their spouse and family and with themselves.

In addition, many men and women find that mikvah offers ‘fringe-benefits’ - psychological and health advantages which enhance their lives. For example:  The laws of Family-Sanctity involve a discipline wherein there are specific times of abstaining from sexual intimacy followed by the wife’s immersion in the mikvah which ushers in a time period when sexual intimacy is permitted and very much encouraged. “Absence makes the heart fonder and the rhythm for sexual intimacy that Torah law requires makes us feel like we have a honey-moon every month,” explains the husband of a woman who regularly attends our mikvah. Women have also found that the detailed laws of Family Sanctity make them very in tune with their bodies. Early signs of cervical cancer have been detected by women who, if not for their observance of the details of Family-Sanctity, may have only been able to treat their condition at a later fatal stage. Studies conducted in England and the US have found that couples who observe the laws of Family-Sanctity often have a more active, positive sexual-life, and have fewer chances of certain health difficulties.

As with every sport discipline, and in fact every life discipline, embracing mikvah requires a commitment to training, getting the right ‘trainer’ and adhering to the specific details involved. This, however, does not mean that mikvah is an ‘all-or-nothing’ opportunity, and many women choose to learn about mikvah and immerse in the mikvah without a long-term commitment. They may want to do this in honour of a special event in their lives, in memory of a loved one, or in gratitude for a life-changing experience. Most are searching for meaning and depth in their lives and are finding that the private observance of mikvah is bringing depth into their lives. Often it leads to other observances of holiness that provide for a wholesome life.

 No matter the reason for why they come, we at Great Park Mikvah Ma’ayan Ganim are delighted to be welcoming women of all walks of life into our mikvah. When we first suggested the idea of building a mikvah, the idea was met with opposition. The costs were astronomical. “Why do we need a mikveh?” we were asked. “For two or three religious women? Let them make use of other existing mikvehs elsewhere.” Now 80 – 120 women immerse in the mikvah monthly.  In addition, the mikvah serves as an education-center inviting people from all walks of life to learn about the Jewish perspective on intimacy, Jewish femininity and structures in Judaism. As part of their bat-mitzvah learning and preparation, many mothers and daughters choose to share an emotional, spiritual morning of inspiration at the mikvah discussing the power of women and spirituality.  Many of these visitors have expressed that they have found that mikvah has been the porthole into a stronger connection to their Jewish heritage and the beginning of a journey to a deeper, more meaningful life.

Mikvah Ma'yan Ganim launches Teaching Manual

By Own Correspondent - Feb 19, 2015

“Great Park Synagogue community has seen first-hand how the mitzvah of mikvah and family purity has been a catalyst for growth and spiritual development for many individuals and families.”

The shul says that after the initial opening of the mikvah, creative ways had to be found to continue to engage the community in learning about this mitzvah. A website - www.greatmikvah.com - was set up and a newsletter was launched to share inspirational thoughts.

“The annual women’s spa-day features prominent speakers, including women in the community who have recently embraced mikvah and many other mitzvoth.

“Many women who previously did not know about mikvah or did not know how it could become a part of their lives, appreciated a short session or two, outlining the basic process required to visit the mikvah. A short PowerPoint presentation was created for this purpose.”

Many women have asked to learn one-on-one. The visual presentation has been a useful tool guiding the discussion about mikvah.

“Thus was born “A Guide to Teaching Mikvah: a Visual Presentation & Teachers Manual” authored by Goldie Simpson and published by Mikvah Maayan Ganim, Great Park. The launch took place last Sunday at the International Conference of Women Leaders and Teachers at Lubavitch Headquarters in New York.

“This publication is endorsed by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and rabbis and rebbetzens worldwide.”

* For more information, e-mail greatmikvah@gmail.com

Hundreds of guests took part in the inauguration of Mikvah Ma'ayan Ganim in Johannesburg located at South Africa's Great Park Synagogue on Sunday.

The synagogue's Rabbi Dovid Hazdan drew attention to the fact that the Mikvah is being opened in the Centennial Year of the congregation and in the Bar Mitzvah year of its magnificent new campus. 

He emphasised that while we stand at the end of 100 years of history, we more importantly stand at the threshold of 100 years of tomorrow. The tone and course ahead must be infused with our connection to Hashem and to holiness that is achieved by a Mikvah.

The name Ma'ayan Ganim – “Wellspring of the Gardens” is taken from Shir Hashirim. It alludes to our ability to bring water to the parched and desolate field and to infuse it with vitality and life. Rashi comments that it is an analogy for righteous women who embrace the holy Mitzvah of family purity.

Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein brought greetings and spoke about the centrality of the Mikvah to Jewish continuity and then a video including interviews highlighting the importance of Mikvah was dedicated to the Rebbe.

The Mikvah project was driven by young dynamic women and has already inspired tens of women to embrace the Mitzvah. Shiurim on Taharas Hamishpocho have been arranged.

The Mikvah includes a huge vestibule which will be used to introduce the beauty of the Mikvah to groups of women and to high school students.

The Mikvah has been dedicated to the memory of the Rebbe’s Shluchim, Gavi and Rivky Holtzberg, who committed their lives to bring the vitality and joy of Torah and Mitzvos to Mumbai. 

"They gave their lives al Kiddush Hashem on Rosh Chodesh Kislev almost 4 years ago. Their Mesirus Nefesh reverberates in hundreds of thousands of hearts throughout the world," Rabbi Hazdan said.

Little booklets of Tefillos and Tehillim were printed as gifts for all who visit the Mikvah.

For more information visit their website at www.greatpark.co.za

A young woman recently came to the mikvah as a bride. Her mother and sister accompanied her, and after her immersion they shared a lechaim and some personal heart-to-heart thoughts. Her mom mentioned that she had not been afforded the opportunity to go to the mikvah as a bride as her Rabbi only told her the concept of mikvah a few days before her wedding day. She had never before been to the mikvah!

Inspired by her daughter’s excitement and deep appreciation of this mitzvah, she agreed to get together for a one-on-one outline of the laws of Taharat Hamishpacha. She prepared for her mikvah appointment with dedication and applied herself to all the details as she knew it would be the first and last time she could fulfill this mitzvah. With her tevilah, her two daughters recommitted themselves to continuing to frequent the mikvah and there was a general energy in the family that surrounded a mother and her two daughters embracing the mitzvah.

The husband and father of these women one day expressed that he, too, wanted to be attached to something spiritual. That’s when he made a decision to begin to put on Tefillin.

Two years ago Great Park Mikvah Maayan Ganim - built in memory of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg A”H - opened its doors in Johannesburg, South Africa. Opponents to the project argued that a maximum of 2-3 women might use the Mikvah and that it wasn't, in their opinion, worth the cost. At present over 100 women are, in fact, using the Mikvah. The Rebbe’s Mivtzah Taharas Hamishpocho has inspired creativity and excitement in presenting Taharat Hamishpacha to every Jewish woman, and the Great Park Synagogue community has seen firsthand how this mitzvah continues to be a powerful opportunity to engage families and foster growth in all areas of their Yiddishkeit.

After the initial opening of the mikvah, creative ways had to be found to continue to engage the community in learning about this mitzvah. A website - www.greatmikvah.com - was set up and a newsletter was launched to share inspirational thoughts. The annual women’s spa-day features prominent speakers including women in the community who have recently embraced mikvah and many other mitzvos. Part of the spa-day morning includes pampering sessions (massage, make-up, nails etc.) which take place in the mikvah building, ensuring that more and more women see the mikvah.

Many women who previously did not know about mikvah or did not know how it could become a part of their lives have come to learn. It became apparent that women who had not revisited the mikvah in many years or older women who had never been to the mikvah at all, appreciated a short session or two outlining the basic process required for a kosher tevillah. A short PowerPoint Presentation was created for this purpose. Women have been encouraged to invite small groups of women into their home for a mikvah review presentation. Many individuals have asked to learn one-on-one. The visual presentation has been a useful tool guiding the discussion about mikvah.

Thus was born “A GUIDE TO TEACHING MIKVAH: A VISUAL PRESENTATION & TEACHERS MANUAL” which will be available to Shluchos at the Kinus resource fair. This publication is endorsed by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Rabbonim and Shluchos worldwide.

To view sample slides, please visit http://www.greatmikvah.com/#!teaching-tools/c1p00

For more information, please email greatmikvah@gmail.com.