Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Mikveh is a bath. A mitzvah is not.

So here I sit, in Ohio.  No!  I am not sitting in that room.    My room is more like this one:

Now, before you go all gaga, it's a hotel in Central Ohio, not a suite on a river cruise.   And this building is FULL of millennials.  I feel so old. 

And I am not here for fun - I am here for the funeral. 

Yes, I decided to make the journey.  

So here I am, eating what I want.  Watching what I want.   Wearing what I want.  Not closing the door.   I am enjoying this way, way, way too much. 

So, why did I decide to go to the funeral?

Well, it's the proper thing to do. 

One of my Ohio friends, Max, who doesn't know yiddish as well as he thinks he does, proclaimed over the phone that my coming was a ceremonial jewish cleansing ritual. 

"That you are doing this is a real mikveh!"


"A MIK-veh, a mikveh." 

For the uninitiated, a mikveh is a cleansing ritual that conservative and Orthodox Jewish women take after their menstrual cycles so they can sleep with the husbands.  Reform Jewish women simply go to lunch with their friends, or bridge club. 

In Shaker Heights, in my youth, the Stone Family - that owned American Greetings had a large modern house west of Warrensville Center Road.  The house, built in the late fifties, had a swimming pool in the living room, which was used for the combined mikveh and bridge club, one day a month, and by invitation only. 

Max's problem is that he confused "mitzvah" - a good deed done without want of recognition - with stanky Hoo Haa. 

I had to ask the nagging question.  "As in a 'bar mikveh'?"  I wanted to see how far this would go. 

"NO!  Silly.  It's a bar mitz-VAH.  I'm talking Mik-VAH - you know, a good deed and a celebration."

I then explained that he meant MITZ-VAH.  "A bar mikveh would be a bunch of 13 year olds gathering for a ceremonial bathing - like at the country club pool in summer."


"And no, this isn't a mitzvah." said I.  This is doing the right thing for my late co-worker.  A Mitzvah would have been driving back here when she was alive and holding her hand while she was in hospice.  

So coming back is about her.  But it's also about me.  I need to do this for me. 

Funerals honor the dead, but as the last six months have taught me, they are really about helping the living to carry on.  

And I need to do that, for me. 

So, here I sit.  In a motel full of millennials, a Diet Rite Mandarin Orange Diet Soda and living large for the moment.  For on Saturday, we grieve.


  1. I am sorry about your friend and your need lately to go on too many of these sad journeys. I think that attending her funeral in Ohio is definitely a mitzvah, especially considering her friends and family, and with respect to your friend's memory.

    Incidentally, you must know about the mikvah built as part of the Green Road Temple complex. Every year when I visit Ohio and drive through Beachwood, another building has been added. If must be a first-class religious facility, but it has vastly changed the character of the neighborhood.

    1. You know, I remember when they built the first Green Road temple in the late 70s, but had completely forgotten about it until I drove that stretch of Green Road for the first time in decades and it surprised me how big that complex has gotten.

  2. You're right. They really are about helping the living to carry on.

    I attended a funeral on Friday and part of the ritual is simply being there for each other.

  3. The Mistress is right. Hope the visit works for you Cookie.