Tags: Berel Levertov, brides, cleansing, Garden of Eden, Genesis, Jewish, Joshua Kalkstein, mikveh, rabbi, ritual immersion, ritual purity, Santa Fe, spiritual, stone-mosaic artist, travel, travel writer, Waters of Eden, wedding
Santa Fe mikveh: A New Mexican dip
A new kind of pool in Santa Fe offers a dip in paradise. It is a mikveh, a ritual immersion pool to be used by Jewish women. Housed in a new adobe structure, it is on the property of Rabbi Berel Levertov.
Jewish women use a mikveh mainly to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth. Brides immerse themselves on the eve of their wedding. And immersion in a mikveh is part of the procedure of conversion to Judaism. In some Jewish communities, women use the mikveh to cleanse themselves spiritually, often at the beginning of a Jewish month.
But this mikveh is more than just a pool. The domed brick ceiling has a skylight that fills the room with natural light. And the design on the walls, by local stone-mosaic artist Joshua Kalkstein and titled “Waters of Eden,” consists of 1,400 stones of various natural colors. They depict the four rivers that, according to Genesis, flowed from the Garden of Eden. Symbolically, they flow into the mikveh.
Kalkstein also incorporated the names of important women in the Bible, including Sarah, Rebecca and Esther. The letters of the names have mystical significance, Levertov said, and through them “women bring the divine energy into the world.”
Rain water flows from the domed roof into a cistern where it is mixed with a certain proportion of tap water to meet the ritual requirements. During last week’s heavy rain the cistern filled up, the rabbi said.
The mikveh is not a bath. Before immersing herself, a woman must cleanse herself thoroughly, and for this there is a separate room with what the rabbi calls a New Mexico shower (squirting water from several directions) and a large tub into which water flows as from a waterfall.
Women in search of the cleansing waters of the mikveh will now find that the waters of Eden await them.
Photo and text copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. Neither the photo nor the text may be used by anyone without the express permission of Esther Hecht.