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By: Mrs. Bassy Pekar

For me, mikvah always meant running out before the excitement of bedtime and getting a break from the chaos that’s sure to follow. Instead of wrangling a baby into pajamas and bed, I had a couple hours to wallow in luxury at our newly renovated modern mikvah in Pennsylvania, where we lived before my husband crossed over from the Reserves into Active Duty Military. Mikvah night symbolized an evening of selfcare, of pampering and relaxation. And then my husband received orders to Okinawa, Japan, and it all changed.

There is no mikvah on the small island of Okinawa, so one of the first things we did when we moved was speak with a rav regarding the details and nuances of using the ocean as a mikvah. The steps involved were plenty and the complications lengthy, yet before long, the smooth tiles and warm water of the mikvah that I was accustomed to were replaced with the sharp, rocky floor and frigid waters of the East China Sea. Instead of indulgent luxury, mikvah preparation meant closing my door in a futile attempt to block out the hectic bedtime routine and convincing my children that a nighttime visit to the beach will be a fun adventure when childcare could not be arranged. And instead of eagerly awaiting mikvah each month, I began to stress about the uncomfortable and difficult challenge that going to mikvah became.

Using the beach as a mikvah meant not having a reliable body of water. At times the sea and weather conditions were too dangerous and mikvah had to be pushed off. The rainy seasons brought months of rainstorms with no dry weather in sight, leaving me with little choice but to go to mikvah in the cold torrential downpour. And, of course, there was always the company of sharks, jellyfish, and other sea life to contend with. Yet each month brought new adventures, new challenges, and new opportunities for introspection. Accepting the sacrifice of going to mikvah in the rough and unpredictable waters and learning to appreciate the beauty of the mitzvah was an incredible journey I was able to experience during our time in Okinawa. I learned to appreciate the mitzvah without all the trimmings and distractions of a modern-day mikvah. The mitzvah of mikvah began to represent more than an evening of relaxation but a chance to reconnect with G-d. It became a time for me to focus on what truly matters and reconnect with the spiritual meaning of family.

Three short years after our move to Okinawa, my husband received orders to his next duty station in Germany. Like before, one of the first things I did was look for the nearest mikvah and was relieved to find one only a few hours away. My last mikvah experience in Okinawa was a bittersweet one; it was the culmination of a long and personal journey, of a tremendous period of introspection and growth. While I eagerly awaited the opportunity to use a warm, indoor mikvah, I will always appreciate the years that my mikvah was the East China Sea.

Originally published in the Purim 2023 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.