After my last failed attempt at a relationship and during the time I decided to spend being “in the pain” versus trying to distract myself from it, I began to examine the common denominator in all these relationships. Me!!
The men had one thing in common and I had chosen to be with each of them.
The answer for me was that I wasn’t truly ready for “the one” because according to my faith, and perhaps the eyes of G-d, I was not truly available.
I realized that although my civil divorce had been final for more than a year and half, I never had the religious one. I had been married in a religious ceremony, by a rabbi in a synagogue and had signed both a marriage license issued by the state and a Jewish marriage license called a Ketubah.
Since the ceremony had been conducted by a rabbi, so too the divorce should be. There is a Jewish divorce ceremony called a “Get”. All I really knew about it was that there were some rabbis who would not marry two Jews who’d been through divorce unless they both had “gets”. I didn’t have any marital prospects so I hadn’t thought much more about it.
Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be a religious Jew, I do consider myself to be spiritual. I have a personal relationship with G-d that has strengthened in the years since my separation.
Since I never got the Get I started to wonder if this was G-d’s way of letting me know I wasn’t released from my marriage since in the eyes of some Jews (and perhaps G-d), I am still considered married.
I met with the Rabbi of my congregation, a newly divorce single mom herself for counsel. She explained the intention of the Get was for the husband to sign a decree granting the wife her freedom from the marriage and his permission for her to marry another man.
She asked if I wanted to be “released”. There were many reasons this was not the answer for me but I knew I needed to do something spiritually to unbind me from my marriage and make peace with G-d (and myself).
Because our very new congregation is unaffiliated with any sect of Judaism, we are evolving as we go. This means there are no “definitive rules” which for a religion with 613 mitzvot (or commandments) leaves a lot of room for interpretation. She suggested I could design my own way to mark my spiritual divorce.
After several ideas, I decided on going into the mikvah. A mikvah is a ritual bath that is used for many things including conversion, life transitions and in order to purify a woman after she’s menstruated so she can be “clean” for procreation with her husband. I was not raised in an orthodox manner, so I’d never gone. My friend Audrey, also a divorced woman, suggested the mikvah and agreed to accompany me.
I searched the internet and picked some prayers that would be meaningful to me. Along the way, eyes filled with tears, I read through many prayers. Ultimately, I decided on mixing two different ones.
When it was time for my mikvah, I followed a lit and landscaped path adjacent to the synagogue and rang the bell to meet the attendant. She was a very kind, orthodox South African woman. While I waited for her to bring me in, I read the first prayer. I forgave my ex-husband for any of his wrongs during our marriage and leading to it’s end and asked G-d’s forgiveness for him as well.
Because mikvah is an orthodox ritual, I felt very nervous about not doing it “right”. I was honest with the attendant and explained it was both my first mikvah and I had come there due to my divorce.
She took me into a bathroom and instructed me to clean myself throughly. This included removing any nail polish, flossing and brushing my teeth, showering and combing my hair, removing all jewelry and removing my makeup.
After cleaning and preparing my body, I put on a white robe like one you’d find in a spa and stepped into the room with the mikvah. The room reminded me of a spa with a deep hot tub.
It was a tile room with steps leading down to a warm pool of water which while standing, reached up to my neck.
While Audrey and the attendant observed, I was to take three dunks completely submerging myself in the water while lifting my feet off the bottom. Typically you dunk three times but I went four because I held my nose the first time I went under. Completely submerged meant that my nostrils would need to be exposed to the water and not blocked by my fingers.
The second set of prayers I chose accompanied my three “good” dunks. The first asked G-d's forgiveness for breaking my vows.
The second was giving thanks for my marriage and what it produced. Also asking G-d to bless me with another chance at love with a new partner.
The third was asking G-d to remove my pain and help me to heal.
One of my favorite psalms is Ecclesiastes reminding us that to every thing there is a season. We can not experience joy unless we’ve experienced pain. I have faith this time is temporary and I will come out of it stronger and better.
After the official “mikvah”, I was left alone for a short time. Being alone in the water, I was overcome with emotion. The reality of my divorce set in and I wept.
Audrey described the mikvah experience so beautifully when she said it was the only ritual of Judaism that truly was a whole body experience. There I was completely naked and vulnerable experiencing a custom that had been around for thousands of years.
I came out of the mikvah feeling renewed like I had created a space or a delineation from my old life into my new one.
I hope to marry again in a small ceremony at sunset on the beach under a a chuppah. If the officiating rabbi requires a Get, I suppose I’ll need to “get” one.