People asked me, a day after the mikveh, “How do you feel?”
To most people I did not tell the truth. I felt miserable. I felt horrible.
I went into the mikveh with the balanit, the mikveh lady, and I took my first dunk, thanking G-d for the warm water. After this, the balanit gave me a tznius robe to wear and went to fetch the rabbis. I hurried into the robe, pushing aside all the emotions that were threatening to burst out of me. The rabbis came, and for some reason I mainly paid attention to one of them. This charedi man dressed in black and white started asking me questions, all in Hebrew, of course. “You will keep all the mitzvot, not do this, not do that…”
He ended up with a speech of how I should marry a Torah-observant man who learns regularly and fears Hashem, because otherwise there is no point in this, right? I had nodded and said “ken” to every point. He looked at me expectantly. I’m not sure I wish to know what facial expression I was making, because in my head I was thinking, “Is this guy for real?!”
The next question would have surprised me immensely, if not for the mazal tovs I had heard being said outside of the mikveh before my own turn. The rav asked me, “Are you getting married tonight?” Maybe he confused me for someone else, but for someone who had largely declined and pushed off shidduchim for years due to the conversion process, it was somewhat of an ironic question to ask me.
I had to recite the acceptance of the yoke of heaven upon myself again and then I took another dunk.
How did I feel? The truth is, I’m not even sure. There was one moment when I was highly emotional and felt complete, then I was just exhausted. On our way home, I fell asleep in the car. One of my good friends had driven me to the mikveh.
Once I came home, I was completely exhausted, and I felt a terrible migraine on its way. I took medicines and then I slept. And slept. And slept.
This continued for almost two days. I also got a fever. I was utterly exhausted. My body needed time to adjust. The same friend of mine who took me to the mikveh had told me that she thought I might have needed time after the mikveh to adjust — maybe even a month. Before the mikveh, we’d had extremely heated discussions over this topic. I did not believe much would change after my mikveh. She believed that many things would.
I am an extremely grounded and practical person. I never denied the fact that I have a spiritual side to me. I love Chassidus and I understand spirituality on a deep personal level, but at the same time I am highly grounded and practical.
I’m the girl who knows halacha inside out, not the spiritual girl.
So it is ironic that I was proven wrong, and it wasn’t until my first Shabbos as a Jew that I fully understood how wrong I had been.
The time for me to light Shabbos candles had come. I was dreading it — would I feel any different? What if I did not? I took a deep breath, I lit the match and brought it to the candle, putting the match carefully aside without extinguishing it, covered my eyes and said the blessing that our ancestors have said for generations. And I prayed, like I have had the customs to do for years, but this time for the first time as a Jew.
A silent tear rolled down my cheek that I hadn’t even noticed.
That extra soul they say you receive on Shabbos? Me, the most grounded, practical, no-nonsense person, I felt it. The moment I lit the candles and said the bracha, I could feel a tiny shift in myself that had not once happened the past four years but happened now.
The rest of Shabbos was good. After lunch, my friend and I went to a lovely lady of most unique character. I am talkative and opinionated, arguing with my rabbis and people in a friendly manner is something I highly enjoy. But this lady, her mere presence demands tremendous respect and she captivates me. For once, I sat quiet and only listened.
We spent several hours in her company. When it was time to make havdalah, I went outside to look for the starts that inevitably were there to prove that Shabbat was truly over. I took a deep breath and said, “Baruch bein hamavdil bein kodesh le’chol”, 3 times, just to be on the safe side. Not that it was needed — the first time I said it, I felt it. The emptiness, the hollow feeling in my chest. And I cried.
That Shabbos, my first Shabbos as a Jew, Hashem gave me one of the biggest gifts of all. I had been able to actually feel that extra soul, there is not one fibre in my body that could deny the existence of Hashem or the Torah. It is real, it is powerful and beyond beautiful. At times it gives pleasure, at times it is hard and can hurt. But most of all it is real and I feel a huge privilege and honour to finally have arrived home, to Am Israel, and to be part of the beautiful gift Hashem gave us, the Torah and everything it entails.