Author’s note: The Jewish practice of tevilah, ceremonial washing, is widely regarded as a precursor to Christian baptism. The mikvah is a pool of water used for full immersion, particularly for converts and women who are cleansing from the monthly impurity. Bracha simply means “blessing.”
Nava stepped into the deep pool and thankfully allowed the cleansing water of the mikvah to surround her naked body. Perhaps here in the solitude of the waters, she could finally escape the chaos. The last few months had been tumultuous ones for her little corner of the world. Normally life in Kfar-Nahum progressed at a steady hum, consistent like the natural rhythm of her own body. It was dependable, orderly, predictable.
But lately that little world had turned upside down.
Nava closed her eyes, and immersed her body deep into the moving water. She tried to focus her thoughts on the significance of tevilah. Once each month she came to purify her body of its uncleanness just as the Law commanded. Alone in the mikvah, she could meet G-d, come face to face with her impurities, and know that the waters would wash away the filth. She would leave feeling justified and renewed.
As Nava rose from the water for the first time, she spoke the bracha as generations of mothers and sisters before her had. “Blessed are You, King of the world, Who has made us holy with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.”
But even as she spoke the words, her heart was unsettled. The commandments could only make her holy if she kept all of them. Hadn’t the young rabbi once said that she had to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees if she hoped to meet God? Nava knew in her heart that she was not.
Quickly she pushed the anxious thoughts away. Maybe that new rabbi was just a troublemaker like the leaders said he was. His teaching caused so much confusion. Before he had come, everything was orderly and clear; the traditions anchored their community and gave life meaning. Now nothing seemed certain.
Yet somehow, she knew that the peace that she longed for was still waiting for her in the silence of the sacred waters. So for a second time, Nava submerged her body making sure that the waters covered even the hairs of her head. But instead of silence, Nava heard only the words of the controversial rabbi ringing in her ears: “Out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts; all evil things come from within.”
Again, she came up out of the water and began to recite the bracha. “Blessed art You, King of the world, Who has made us holy…” She stumbled over the words and could not finish. Nava knew she was not holy. There were impurities deep in her heart where the cleansing water did not reach.
Suddenly the weight of her guilt overwhelmed her, and tears began streaming down her face. If even the waters of the mikvah could not cleanse her, what was left? What hope did she have? Once more the words of the rabbi from Nazareth came to her. “Come unto me all you who are burdened and I will give you rest for your souls.”
Rest. Peace. Was it true? Dare she believe what he had said? Could there be cleansing for her heart as well as her body? The tears continued to pour down her face and flow into the waters of the sacred pool. Lifting her eyes toward heaven and barely daring to breathe, Nava whispered, “Yeshua, I come to you. Wash me clean on the inside.”
One last time, Nava plunged her weary body deep into the cleansing fountain. Finally, there in the presence of the Living Water, her soul found peace.
This fictional account is based on Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, particularly Capernaum. Scripture quotations are taken from Mark 7: 21-23 (NKJV) and Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) respectively.
For more information on the Jewish practice of tevilah and the mikvah blessing, see www.mikvah.org.
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