Mark the Moment

Rebecca L. Brown

In 2006 Steve and I toured Israel with the AJC. Sitting at a cramped cafeteria table on a kibbutz where the tour had stopped for lunch my law school classmate and fellow traveler told me that she was a convert. Really? It was like learning for the first time that a friend had delivered a baby without an epidural. Or got Botox. Of course I knew it could be done, I just had never known anyone in my own circle who had actually, well, done it. She went on to tell me that she had even visited a mikvah to, in her words, to “mark the moment.” Having just spent several days traveling across Israel I was more than a little familiar with the mikvah — the sacred bath — though many I had recently witnessed were little more than deep holes in the ground of ancient ruins. I’m sure my mouth dropped wide open when she told me, as I tried to imagine this blond haired, green-eyed girl, dressed in designer jeans in the middle of the desert slipping into something so mysterious.

That stuck with me. Not just the visual, but her reason. The idea of marking the moment of a significant decision. I vowed that if I ever converted, which was far from my mind at the time, I would visit the mikvah too.


Having been to the mikvah, I am still of the opinion that it is pretty darn mysterious and a wee bit intimidating, but well worth the effort. I’m not so convinced however that dipping into the mikvah somehow made me a better or more “real” Jew. Just like my wedding — the vows, the chuppah, the breaking of the glass — didn’t magically make me a better wife. In both cases, my faith in my religion and my marriage came from within.

What those moments did do — the mikvah and the wedding — was create a very real and tangible reminder of what I had committed to do.

I’ve never been one to make a hasty decision. It’s as much of a curse as a blessing. Left to my on vices, I would happily stand in the canned soup aisle for a good 15 minutes carefully studying the price, calorie and sodium content of each offering before carefully placing my selection into my basket and pushing on.

Likewise, it was not without serious thought, contemplation, risk assessment and more than a little soul searching that I chose to get married and later convert. And even with all of that consternation I still have moments of doubt, disconnection and, well, buyers remorse. Who doesn’t? Should I have gotten the tomato and basil instead of the creamy tomato? Then I settle myself by recalling all of the thought that went into my decision and reminding myself that I am anything but hasty. I think back to those moments … the one’s I marked … when my choice was made and have faith in myself that it was the right one.

Each New Year’s Eve I am always more than a little ready to move on to what’s next. This year more than ever. Sure, I’d made my resolutions. I’m one of those. A list maker. But I needed something more. Something to mark the moment.

On that same trip to Israel in 2005, Steve and I purchased a mezuzah our last day in Jerusalem. We brought it home and Steve dutifully hung it on our door, carefully following the directions for blessing the tiny little scroll that I got from the rabbi at our local judaica shop.

This tiny metal box would be my solution for marking our moment — renewal for 2011.

I checked with my favorite source for hints on Jewish living — Anita Diamant — and then, sadly, wikipedia. Was I responsible for some yearly care and feeding of our mezuzah that I could somehow use to mark the moment? Like rotating the tires on my car or vacuuming the coils of the refrigerator — neither of which I did on any sort of regular basis? Anita was not much help. Wiki told me it should be examined by a “reliable scribe” twice every seven years. So left to my own vices I came up with my own way to mark the moment. Maybe something that will become a tradition at our house.

Before dinner we gathered the kids, lifting each to see the mezuzah nailed to the front door. Something they had passed by thousands of times in their young lives, yet probably never noticed. And something I had never pointed out. I told them the story of where it came from and what it meant.  Then I gave them each a soft rag to carefully dust the metal box.  Steve blessed the mezuzah repeating the words he had said six years ago. We passed our challah and then we each touched the mezuzah and repeated together:

May our house be a place of holiness, by welcoming guests, in the bonds of family, with deeds of loving kindness, gifts of tzedakah, and words of Torah.

Sure. The flaking paint did not magically disappear and tulips did not sprout from the frozen ground, but we marked a moment of renewal. Renewed commitment that our home will always be a place of peace and gratitude no matter what 2011 serves up.