The Holy Locker Room
I used to do a few sports back in my high school days and that meant spending a lot of time before and after practice/meets in a beautiful little hangout known as the men's locker room. Now for those of you who are wondering, a men's locker room in a Minnesota public high school isn't exactly the most holy place on earth. In fact in the kedusha rankings it probably sits square between an outhouse and Tijuana. Through the time I've spent there I've probably racked up hours of being exposed to (and unfortunately participating in) conversations that were at best mundane small talk and at worst vulgar as vulgar can be.
I'm personally a huge fan of going to the mikvah. Now don't get me wrong, being surrounded by big fat hairy naked chassidic men doesn't top out the list of things I'd like to be doing with my time, nor getting all clean in the shower just so I can step into a pool of murky water you can't see to the bottom of- which I know happened to be crystal clear just a few hours ago before a hundred people passed through it. But few things can compare to the feeling of walking up out of the water feeling spiritually cleansed.
I dream that someday I'll be able to be on the level of the tzaddikim that immerse themselves every morning before they start their day, but for now I just try and manage to go every Friday afternoon in honor of Shabbat. Due to the jam packed schedule of holidays we're currently going through I've been able visit the mikvah a lot more times that usual and it's been making me feel really great but aside from the normal spiritual enjoyment of it I couldn't really figure out why. Recently I was able to put my finger on it. It was erev Yom Kippur and a friend of mine from Yeshiva was taking me to dip in the natural spring in Lifta (which for the record is a beautiful area and a quick walk from the Central Bus Station) for the first time. There were many men coming in and out but probably at least 20 or 30 people were hanging around at any given time and many were conversing and shooting the breeze with each other before and after immersing. Finally it hit me, most standard indoor men's mikvahs have a locker room and shower area just like a gym or high school. I realized that on the surface they may appear very similar but fundamentally they are worlds apart. While people go to the locker room in order to work out and improve upon their physical bodies, those at the mivah are improving on themselves in a wholly spiritual manner. Plus any conversating that tends to happen in the mikvah, unlike the locker room, centers around Torah, Israel, and the Jewish people. Even if not, I can guarantee you people aren't chuckling with each other over dirty jokes.
For anyone who like me has spent a fair amount of time in a locker room setting and is not so proud of the company they kept in such a place I highly recommend doing a tikkun on it and going to check out your local mikvah this Friday afternoon. Start doing locker room time right!