Mikvah Is Not My Mitzvah

For a moment that is my eternity, I am blind.  The veil thickly clings to my face, and I can only catch side-view glances at the crowd that awaits me before the chuppah.  I clumsily walk the path, escorted by my family, and then am dragged by the arm for 7 circles around my chosson. Nobody warned me I would be blinded for my ceremony. There was no rehearsal, no practice with the pure white veil.

It was then I realized my wedding night would be the same.

No one ever talks about the wedding night.  The mikvah preparations.  The 180 degree turn from nothing to everything all at once.  The pressure to do it “on that night,” because… are you really married without it?

And I couldn’t talk about it. Still don’t talk about it.  Because it’s so private, so crass to ask “can you really put that kind of love and trust on a deadline?”  Can you go from the beauty of sharing hopes to having your bodies swarmed with sensations, to be expected to know how to do it all at once and do it with simcha in your countenance? 

Well, I couldn’t. And I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s ever looked in terror at the man I was supposed to do the holiest mitzvah with on my wedding night, and instead just longed to go to sleep.  And not because I didn’t love or trust him or even because I feared the pain (life is full of pains we take on willingly).

Just because I needed more time.  Because I couldn’t be timed.  Because holiness cannot be put on a deadline.  “Be one with your husband before tomorrow’s sundown” is no mitzvah in my eyes, nor “be one with him on your mikvah night” nor anything else that pertains to tell me when and where I should love my husband.

And I remember the pressure, the enormous churning crushing pressure I felt that night and the subtleties and shades of hints of what I could vs. what I should and be so willing to do.  The multicolored turns of phrases telling me my body was not mine but that of G-d and I should want to do His will.  And I don’t know if I’m the only who felt like my body was supposed to be given away without my consent, not because of my husband but because G-d himself willed it in the nature of this mitzvah.  And I don’t know if I’m the only who felt the guilt and the shame of not wanting to part with it.

But in case there’s anyone out there who feels the same, here I am.  Anonymous but still, a woman’s voice in the silence. 

 

PS – And if you are looking for the spark of light in the darkness, the rainbow that comes out after the storm, let me give it to you point-blank: I love my husband more than anything for that night he let me rest.  For the many nights.  For knowing that despite the advice of rabbis and rebbetzins and marriage books and the will of G-d himself, our love was between just the two of us. And we waited for our spark of holiness to light up. Baruch Hashem, for a man who waits for me, not just the mikvah.