Water From Underground

Maya'anot • מעיינות

Soaking in water is a welcome activity at many retreats. I remember the day before my rabbinic ordination at Elat Chayyim Retreat Center (now part of Isabella Freedman Retreat Center), doing a mikveh (ritual immersion) in a chilly spring-fed creek at a secluded spot in the woods, then moving on to warm up in the the retreat center’s wooden hot tub. It was a spiritual immersion–water symbolic of Torah and life–while simultaneously a very physical, healing experience.

Underground water can also represent our hidden imagination, dreams, and the unconscious mind underneath the surface of life. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi has described Aggadah, the lore/legends/symbols of our people, in terms of a vast “aquifer,” an underground source of living waters that enlivens our civilization. Without drawing on these sources, we feel spiritually dehydrated. “Filling our own well” has become a metaphor for the kind of nourishment that we need in order to live our fullest lives and to serve others with a full heart.

For the Eternal Your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills. (Deuteronomy 8:7)

Immerse in this Gateway of Water Under Ground to explore the symbolism of wells and springs in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

The Blue Hole, San Antonio, Catherine Manos

Wellsprings and Visions

The Hebrew word for “well,” Be’er, באר can be read, “to elucidate, make clear.”

The Hebrew word for “spring,” Ma’ayan, is related to the words for “eye” and “looking” (ayin, ayen, עין).

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Torah Study: Well as Meeting Place

Wells play an important role in the Torah. Abraham and his son Isaac measure wealth in terms of the many wells they have dug (Genesis 26:12-22). The Torah has a number of stories about matches being made at a village well. That makes sense since the job of drawing water often went to the young women of the house, and the well was a place where men and women might mingle with propriety (the original “watering hole”).   read more…

Miriam’s Well

Many women of the bible make their entrances by a well, and many commentators have noted the well as a feminine, womb-like symbol, a hidden source of life. The most famous well in Jewish lore is the Well of Miriam, the sister of Moses.

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The Cup of Miriam

To symbolize Miriam’s Well, many modern families add a cup of water to their Passover Seder table, much like the cup of Elijah. You could use any beautiful goblet or make your own, as simple as painting glass or in other media. Here is are some ideas for ceremonies that may accompany the use of Miriam’s cup at your Seder. Some people also use it on Shabbat.

Learn about Mikveh, the ritual pool, or return to the Gateway of Water from Underground.

Mayim Chayim: Virtual Mikveh Meditation

Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, author, psychotherapist. and rabbi, has prepared this Virtual Mikvah Meditation to help listeners purify and renew ourselves by letting go of old patterns. After you experience it in meditation form, you might want to bring some of the same kavannot(intentions) when you have the opportunity to immerse in either a traditional indoor mikveh or a natural gathering of water.

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Tzedakah: Clean Water

It has been estimated that a billion people in the world lack consistent access to clean, safe water for drinking and sanitation. We are truly blessed to enjoy indoor plumbing with fresh, clean water that flows hot and cold from our taps, while in many parts of the world, young children haul heavy buckets of water for their families, several times a day. Consider these Tzedakah organizations that help people in developing nations gain access to clean water: read more…

Water at Sycamore Pool Dam

Gazing into water can foster a meditative state. If you can’t get out to see some right now, here is a view from the small dam that makes a swimming pool in the creek at Bidwell Park, Chico California.

Sharing Circle: Water From Underground

Filling Your Well

Some of the ways I fill my well are: Torah study, prayer, meditation, time in nature, exercise, talking to loved ones, going on retreats. For some people it may be gardening, art (doing or appreciating), poetry, literature.

Right now, are you overflowing, or feeling dried up? What are your sources of inspiration? How do you refill your inner wellspring? Do you dip in regularly? read more…

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