Water From UndergroundMaya'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 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).
Almost everyone has spiritual experiences, but often they fade with time unless we have a vessel to contain them. A journal can be one such vessel.
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…
The Midrash takes the biblical story of Jacob meeting Rachel at the well, and “runs with it,” insisting that the scene, with its evocative well, three (mystical number) flocks, and stone (gateway to the well) holds many symbolic allusions to future Jewish history. In particular, the water of the well is a symbol of the Holy Spirit,Ruach Ha-Kodesh, Divine Inspiration:
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.
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.
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.
The waters emerge from deep within the earth, from the southern end of the Edwards Aquifer. read more…
Another Mikveh meditation Rabbi Haviva Ner-David and Shira Gura (read and recorded by Rabbi Julie Danan) to help you prepare for Shabbat.
A Mikveh is an in-ground ritual pool which can be a natural gathering of water (such as a spring, spring-fed river or the ocean),or an indoor mikveh constructed according to Jewish law. Immersing in the Mikveh is associated with rebirth and purification,and today is used for many traditional and innovative rituals. read more…
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…
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.
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…