In Hassidic and mystical thought, a river can be a symbol of the Shefa שֶפַע the abundance or flow from God to humanity. There is a sense that if we can serve properly and pray with true intention, we will open the faucet, as it were, to receive the divine flow into the world. Another way to see it is that the flow is always there, but through prayer and meditation we will become more conscious and appreciative of it.

Rabbi Avraham WeinbBear Hole, Basalt Pool in Upper Bidwell Park, Chico, California, JHDerg of Slonim wrote about this spiritual flow in his book Birkat Avraham. Inspired by a passage in the book of Numbers that describes the “Nachalim” the Wadis or creek beds that the Israelites came across in their desert wanderings, the Rebbe explained that there is an “upper stream” from God that is aroused by the “lower stream” of our prayers to flow with love, joy, blessing, and goodness into our lives and consciousness. The word for stream, Nachal נַחַל, he explained, stands for the Hebrew phrase, Notser chesed la-alaphim, meaning God creates kindness for thousands (of generations) (Exodus 34:7). (I studied Birkat Avraham with Rabbi Jonathan Slater through an online program of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.)

 

 

 

 

Practice: We keep ourselves in the flow through regular spiritual practice, which may include meditation, prayer, chanting, gardening, time in nature, or artwork. During this spiritual practice, you can reflect on the flow of blessings into your life, blessings which number in the thousands. You can keep a small notebook or journal by your bed or on your desk to record your observations and things for which you are grateful. Sometimes as you pray, sense your prayer not as mere words or even a beautiful song, but as a yearning and drawing of the divine flow from above, a flow that has really been there all the time.

 

 

The Sod (mystical) level of Rivers can be explored in the book:The River of Light: Spirituality, Judaism, Consciousness, by Lawrence Kushner (Jewish Lights). In this marvelous and deep  The River of Light by Lawrence Kushner, book coverextended meditation, Rabbi Kushner explores the nature of consciousness–the river of light that pervades the cosmos–as perceived in Midrashic myth, theology, and scientific inquiry.

“In Jewish mysticism, the river is a metaphor for the Holy Oneness that unifies all creation. Just imagine it: a sacred stream, luminous and ubiquitous, a river of light.”

-Rabbi Lawrence Kushner

 

Featured Image: Swimmers at Bear Hole in Upper Bidwell Park, Chico, California, JHD

Learn a Midrash about water wearing down stone, or return to the Gateway of Flowing Water.

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