Water From Underground

Water From Underground

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.

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Wellsprings and Visions

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). Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, speaks to an angel at Ein Hamayim (spring or "eye"...

Keeping a Spiritual Journal

Keeping a Spiritual Journal

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. I think that the hands-on experience of journaling in one's own handwriting can itself be a spiritual practice. If you...

Torah Study: Well as Meeting Place

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...

A Midrash: Wellsprings as Source of Divine Inspiration

A Midrash: Wellsprings as Source of Divine Inspiration

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...

Wings of Peace: Draw Water in Joy

Wings of Peace: Draw Water in Joy

Wings of Peace,  Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield  <http://rebaryeh.com/> This beautiful song in Hebrew and English by the late and much beloved Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield is about "drawing water in joy" (Isaiah 12:3) from the living well of God's spirit. After I listen to...

Flowing Water

Flowing Water

Flowing Water (Mayim Zormim)

מים זורמים

Going With the Flow

From the Sabinal River at my childhood ranch in the Texas Hill Country, to the creek at the former Elat Chayyim Retreat Center in Upstate New York, to Big Chico Creek two blocks from my house in California, flowing water has always been integral to my spiritual and emotional life.

And so it has to much of humanity. Rivers are the arteries of the world, providing vital water and habitat for fish, birds, animals, and humans.

Great rivers have shaped civilizations and are considered sacred to many cultures. Our earliest ancestors, Abraham and Sarah hailed from the Fertile Crescent land of the Tigris and Euphrates.

Israelite consciousness was forged by Egypt’s Nile, whose annual flooding brought food to the masses along the Nile Delta, where baby Moses was saved in a basket hidden among the bulrushes.

Crossing the modest Jordan River (Joshua 3), our ancestors arrived in the Land of Israel, known primarily as a land of creeks and wadis that flow in the rainy season, a “land of brooks of water,” (Deuteronomy 8:7). The biblical word for a continually flowing, large river is Nahar נָהָר, while a seasonal brook/wadi or just a small stream is called a Nachal נַחַל. Rabbi Herbert Weiner suggested that the yearning for rain to fill the rivers of Israel drew our ancestors’ gaze heavenward and influenced our spiritual people’s development.

Rivers and creeks are often seen as symbols of time and life, always flowing and ever changing. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “No one ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same person.”

Psychologists, artists, and athletes speak of being in a state of “flow,” or heightened creativity and focus achieved through mindfulness.

Float down this Gateway of Flowing Water to explore the symbolism of rivers, streams, and creeks in Jewish tradition and in your own life.

Background Photo: Nile River and Nile Delta from Space (NASA), via Wikimedia Commons

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Torah Study: Named by the Rivers

Torah Study: Named by the Rivers

Flowing water can be considered as a metaphor for change as it runs continually down the riverbed. It can also be considered as a metaphor for change in terms of making a crossing. In fact, the Jewish people gained two of our names from crossing rivers. Our first...

Flowing Water in the Psalms

Flowing Water in the Psalms

The Psalms (Tehillim) of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) are replete with imagery from nature, including beautiful and poignant references to flowing water, both calm and stormy. Here are a few: A Psalm of David: YHWH is my shepherd; I shall not lack. He makes me lie down...

Flowing Song

Flowing Song

This song by Rabbi David Shneyer is from his album "Psalm Songs from Rock Creek," a title which evokes both Psalms and flowing water. This lively melody reminds me of a rapid, rushing brook. The lyrics, from the Jewish liturgy, ask God to answer our prayers and to "Do...

Water wears down stone

Water wears down stone

How did Rabbi Akiva get started? They said at age 40 he had not even begun to study. Once he was standing at the mouth of the well and said, "Who carved this stone?" They said, "The water that drips constantly every day," and they also said to him, "Akiva, haven't you...

Darkness

Darkness

Darkness (Hoshech)

חושך

We tend to equate light with good and darkness with bad. But darkness is the inseparable partner of light; indeed, we cannot see one without the other. Our modern world is lit up 24 hours a day; even when we turn off the lights at bedtime, our homes glow with blinking lights from our various electronic devices. We need dark nights as much as sunny days, to maintain our circadian rhythms, allow us rest and promote our health. 

On a spiritual level, we may fear darkness because it symbolizes times of struggle or even despair. Yet we know from life experience that it is often those dark times of life that forge our greatest growth.

Conversely, darkness may be a gift, inviting us to restfulness, inwardness, intimacy. Natural beauty, art, and aesthetics require a balance of light and shadow. Modern theologians of many faiths are recognizing that darkness is just as necessary to our growth as light.

God “forms light and creates darkness” (Isaiah 45:7, quoted in the traditional Jewish morning prayers). Indeed, according to the Torah’s account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, darkness exists before light is created. There is evening before there is morning, and so all Jewish holy days begin with sunset and not with sunrise.

So head out into the night and explore this Gateway of Darkness to explore the symbolism of darkness and night in Jewish Tradition and in your own life.

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Ambiance: Forest at Night

Ambiance: Forest at Night

Featured photo: "Sunset" by Laurence Louis, via Flickr   Learn about "Dark Nights of the Soul" in the Torah, or teturn to the Gateway of Darkness

Dark Nights of the Soul

Dark Nights of the Soul

Many pivotal biblical encounters with the Divine take place during the darkness of night, when dreams, blessings and visions are imparted. and one of the most important is when our forefather Jacob wrestles with a mysterious stranger. Jacob (Ya'akov) was left alone....

You Want it Darker, by Leonard Cohen

Enter the darkness of the human experience in the powerful music of Leonard Cohen, of blessed memory, from his last album, interspersed with the Hebrew word, "Hineni," here I am, and words from the Kaddish, "Magnified and Sanctified." Continue to learn about facing...

Enter the Darkness to Greet the Dawn

Enter the Darkness to Greet the Dawn

Can we face the darkness of our own depths? Individuals and societies who can't face their own shadow side will often project it on others. A fairly literal translation of Genesis 1:2 would be: The earth was unformed and void -- and darkness on the face of the...

Song: Evening the Evenings

Song: Evening the Evenings

"Evening the Evenings" by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael Based on the traditional Evening Prayer   Featured Image: Sunset in Chobe National Park, Botswana, Elisheva Danan Explore the Darkness Before Creation with Rabbi Fern Feldman, or return to the Gateway of...

The Darkness Before Creation

The Darkness Before Creation

When I explore my own nature, or experience the sacred, most often I feel a deepening into darkness.  Although dominating theologies create binaries, in which light is good and darkness is evil, when we recognize the multivalent nature of all that is, we see wave upon...

The Sea

The Sea

Basking in the sun and gazing at the waves, swimming and floating in the salt water: a seaside retreat is a timeless way to promote calm and healing. On a spiritual level, the depth, power, and mystery of the ocean evoke our awe and open us to a state of wonder more readily than almost anywhere else on earth. Diving near a coral reef or visiting an aquarium, we see that beneath the surface of the sea are worlds upon worlds of eco-systems filled with myriads of amazing creatures.

Earth might be called the sea planet, since over 70% of our globe is covered with great oceans, which can really be described as one World Ocean. Seas are technically just parts of those oceans that are partly enclosed by land. Oceans and seas are vital to life on our planet: containing 97% of our water, half of our oxygen and absorbing much of the carbon dioxide from our atmosphere to slow down global warming. Over half the world’s people live in the coastal zone, and over 140 million tons of food from the ocean are part of the global diets. But pollution, over-fishing, and destruction of fragile habitats continue to threaten this cradle of our global life.

The Sea is an important part of Jewish tradition. According to the Torah, the formative experience of our nation was escape from slavery through the parting of the Red (or Reed) Sea, and seafaring made its way into biblical stories from Noah to Jonah.  In Israel, the big salt sea to the west is the Mediterranean, but Israel’s lakes are also called “seas,” from the freshwater “Sea” of Galilee (in Hebrew, Ha-Kineret, the harp-shaped lake), down the Jordan River to what we call in English the Dead Sea (known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melach the Salt Sea). Our Sages borrowed the Greek word “Okeanus” for Ocean. Spiritually, the Sea can be a symbol of birth or destruction, a place of depth, mystery, and power.

 

Dive into this Gateway of The Sea to explore the symbolism of oceans, seas, and lakes in our tradition and in our lives.

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Gallery of the Seashore in Israel

Gallery of the Seashore in Israel

Cellist and humanitarian Yo-Yo Ma speaks about the “edge,” the natural or cultural place where environments intersect, as one that always has more life forms and new life forms. Bach taught him to balance going to his center and to the edge. In cultural...

Winter at the Beach

Gazing at the waves is meditative and calming, especially when you have the beach to yourself on a crisp winter morning. Beach at Cape May South Meadows, New Jersey (The Nature Conservancy), Video by JHD, January, 2017  

The Sea in the Bible

The Sea in the Bible

The great German Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig said that we relate to and experience God in three ways: Creation, Revelation, and Redemption. The Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)'s depictions of the Sea encompass all three themes, and add one that he left out: destruction....

As the Sands on the Shore

As the Sands on the Shore

כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand upon the seashore. --Genesis 22:17 The...

Voices of Many Waters by Nava Tehila Ensemble, Jerusalem

Voices of Many Waters by Nava Tehila Ensemble, Jerusalem

מִקֹּל֨וֹת ׀ מַ֤יִם רַבִּ֗ים אַדִּירִ֣ים מִשְׁבְּרֵי־יָ֑ם אַדִּ֖יר בַּמָּר֣וֹם יְהוָֽה׃ Above the thunder of the mighty waters, more majestic than the breakers of the sea,  majestic on high is YHWH. -Psalms 93:4 From Nava Tehila, Jerusalem community for Jewish Renewal...

Gallery: Mediterranean Sea in Israel in Spring

The Mediterranean Sea in Spring, Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael and Habonim-Dor Nature Reserve, by Daphna Rosenberg. Learn a blessing on seeing the sea, or return to the Gateway of The Sea.

Rainbows

Rainbows

Rainbows (Keshet)

קשת

Seeing a rainbow creates a sense of enchantment and rainbow colors in the heavens have long stirred the human imagination. A rainbow is not a physical object, but an “optical and meteorological phenomena” that shows us the spectrum of visible light, often dramatically set in the clouds or against a waterfall. The most beautiful natural settings are often the most fertile grounds for rainbows, but their magic can surprise us anywhere, causing us to pause and connect with our surroundings.

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The First Rainbow in the Torah

The First Rainbow in the Torah

At the end of the story of the Great Flood (which begins in Genesis 6:9), God declares that the rainbow is a sign of the covenant between God and the entire earth, that God will never again destroy the earth with a cataclysmic flood. God said, "This is the sign of the...

Rainbows in Jewish Mysticism

Rainbows in Jewish Mysticism

The rainbow is also a mystical symbol. The prophet Ezekiel, in exile in Babylonia (6th Century BCE), had an ecstatic vision of God and compared the brightness of this vision to the appearance of a rainbow. Ezekiel's vision lead to the association of the rainbow with...

A Blessing for Rainbows

A Blessing for Rainbows

The Sages of the Talmud composed many berachot (blessings) to be recited for nature's wonders and pleasures, including one for seeing a rainbow (a full arc in the sky): Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha-olam, zokher ha-brit, ve-ne-eman be-vrito ve-kayem at...

Ot: A Sign

Ot: A Sign

by Nessa Rapoport A Friday afternoon in midsummer, the huge sky smudged by mist yet oddly bright. I was on holiday, alone in a cafe overlooking the harbor. My excellent husband had taken the children to swim, lending me that rare gift in a working mother’s life, a...

A Rainbow of Hope

A Rainbow of Hope

I was off from my own congregation the week after the Holidays and prayed at a lovely Reform temple in the Berkshires. Despite enjoying my break, I felt burdened by a loss of hope around the violent situation in Israel. As I prayed the Amidah, the standing prayer, my...

Rainbow Tallit

Rainbow Tallit

Wrapping oneself in a tallit (prayer shawl) for prayer and meditation is a beautiful way to create a sacred space, to feel the embrace of the divine. Not too long ago, all tallitot (Jewish prayer shawls) were white with black, or maybe blue stripes. Rabbi Zalman...

Seasons

Seasons

Seasons (Onot)

עונות

The blossoms and buds of spring, the hot sun and cool water of summer, the colors of autumn and the chill of winter: each season has its treasures to offer.

The seasons and cycles of the year point to larger seasons and cycles in our lives. The Bible (Tanach) and the wisdom of our Sages emphasize timeliness, “a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Learning to live with wisdom is also learning to value and honor the seasons of our lives, the seasons of our relationships.

Seasons have a new and urgent significance today. The Bible describes unseasonable weather, such as rain or drought out of season, as a sign of divine displeasure with human sin. For modern people such notions once seemed naive. Now, in this age of Climate Change, they have new relevance, as we yearn to preserve the natural seasonal rhythms of God’s earth.

עֹ֖ד כָּל־יְמֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ זֶ֡רַע וְ֠קָצִיר וְקֹ֨ר וָחֹ֜ם וְקַ֧יִץ וָחֹ֛רֶף וְי֥וֹם וָלַ֖יְלָה לֹ֥א יִשְׁבֹּֽתוּ׃

So long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

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Springtime: Song of Songs in Nature

I made this slide show of my original photos for the launch of "Love at the Center" by Rabbi Shefa Gold. Click here to receive a weekly chant from the Biblical Song of Songs, and put Love at the center of your heart. The program took place after the Jewish New Year...

Autumn Gallery

Click on this image to activate a gallery of beautiful scenes from Autumn at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. They document the season from its early pastels and oranges to the golden peak, though an early snowfall and into bare branches.All photos by...

A Time to Every Purpose

A Time to Every Purpose

אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים יְהִ֤י מְאֹרֹת֙ בִּרְקִ֣יעַ הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם לְהַבְדִּ֕יל בֵּ֥ין הַיּ֖וֹם וּבֵ֣ין הַלָּ֑יְלָה וְהָי֤וּ לְאֹתֹת֙ וּלְמ֣וֹעֲדִ֔ים וּלְיָמִ֖ים וְשָׁנִֽים׃ God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate between day and night; and they will...

Seasonal Scenes at Rockefeller State Park Preserve

I've entered the world of Four Seasons with my move to Westchester County, New York. Here are some photos I took at one of my favorite places, Rockefeller State Park Preserve. Return to the Gateway of Seasons.

Turn, Turn, Turn

What better way to hear "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)" then this clip from 1966 featuring the composer Pete Seeger playing with Judy Collins (even as she gets stuck on the lyrics at one point, it only makes it more charming and nostalgic). The...

Living in the Season

Living in the Season

Seasons are very different in each of the places I have lived. In South Texas, a short spring quickly stretches into a long, hot, heavy summer, followed by a pleasant fall and mild winter. In both Israel and Northern California I experienced Mediterranean Climates...

Light

Light

Light (Ohr)

אור

Need a moment of retreat, a micro-Shabbat? Stop and look at some natural light (or at night, go out and look at the night sky).  I have always been transfixed by light. Gazing at the dappled sunlight and shadow in a creek near my house, watching the sunlight dance and sparkle on a pool of water, or contemplating the changing hues of a sunset or sunrise, all of these rays of light seem to connect immediately to my soul.  We experience light both physically and spiritually. On a physical level, sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, growth, and for life on earth to exist. Light sets our body clocks and regulates our circadian rhythms. On a symbolic level, light has a universal meaning of goodness, awakening, and hope, associated with warmth and healing.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols by Ellen Frankel and Betsy Platkin Teutsch, describes light as a pervasive symbol in Jewish theology and tradition, where it is “the primary link between divine and human worlds.” Since God’s first act of creation is to create light, light is associated with creative power. In mystical thought, divinity is pictured as a source of endless light: Ohr Ein Sof. Light is a symbol of Torah, “For a commandment is a lamp, and Torah is light.” (Proverbs 6:23). Light also has a moral association; the people of Israel are called upon to be an ethical example, “a light unto the nations” (Isaiah 24:6).

 

Meander down the path in this Gateway of Light to explore the symbol of light in Jewish tradition and in your life.

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Or Zarua: Let the Light In

Or Zarua: Let the Light In

Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright in heart.  --Psalm 97:11 Original song by Shir Yaakov “Light itself cannot be seen. We become aware of its presence when it enables us to see other things. In that way it reminds us of God."...

The Creation of Light in the Torah

The Creation of Light in the Torah

The book of Genesis shows the creation of light in two phases, first Light itself, then luminaries. . . Genesis 1:1-5 God creates Light: As God began creating the heavens and the earth—and the earth was unformed and void, with darkness on the face of the deep, and a...

Where to find the hidden light

Where to find the hidden light

The Hidden Light: It seems an oxymoron. Light shines and reveals what is hidden. How can a light be hidden, and where might we find it again? According to the Torah, light was created on Day One of Creation, but the sun and other heavenly luminaries were not created...

The Miracle of Light: Hidden in Plain Sight

The Miracle of Light: Hidden in Plain Sight

I heard the following Midrash repeatedly from my teacher, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi: Rabbi Simeon ben Yehozadak asked Rabbi Samuel bar Nahman, saying: "Since I hear that you are a master of Aggadah [sacred lore], tell me how light was created." Rabbi Samuel bar...

Light in Jewish Mysticism

Light in Jewish Mysticism

There are many Jewish mystical concepts and doctrines that center on the metaphor of light. Classic Kabbalistic works often have names that focus on light, such as Sefer Ha-Bahir (the Book of Brightness) or the Zohar (the Brilliance). Ohr Ein Sof (Infinite,...

The Moon

The Moon

The Moon (Ha’yrah)

הירח

Gazing skyward at night and spotting the moon, I feel greeted by a friend who shows up in many different outfits and moods. Sometimes she appears as a thin crescent in the dark night, sometimes a fully glowing round beacon with a halo. Sometimes she floats above the horizon, a giant orange orb lit by the setting sun. Other nights she peeks demurely from behind a veil of shifting clouds. Most wonderfully, sometimes I gaze up in the morning or at dusk and find her winking at me then, too.

The Moon is important to life on earth, including regulation of tides, influence on nocturnal animal behavior, and even stabilization of the earth’s rotation on its axis. The Moon is also an important symbol in Jewish tradition. We base our calendar and holidays primarily on the moon and its cycles. In Rabbinic tradition, the Moon and its cycle of restoration became a symbol of the Jewish people. In Jewish mysticism. the Moon is associated with the Shechinah, the feminine Divine Presence, and with the role of women in general. Celebrating the new moon (Rosh Hodesh) and blessing the waxing moon (Kiddush Levanah) are ancient traditions that have become important expressions of contemporary Jewish spirituality.

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Moonrise in Oregon

Moonrise in Oregon

Enjoy a beautiful full moon in nature anytime with this serene and meditative video that starts with verses from Genesis. The video continues with calming views of the Oregon lake and mountains.   Explore the Moon's relationship to time and renewal, or return to...

The Moon, Jewish Time, and Renewal

The Moon, Jewish Time, and Renewal

הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃ This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you. Exodus 12:1  :החדש הזה. הֶרְאָהוּ לְבָנָה בְּחִדּוּשָׁהּ וְאָמַר לוֹ...

Rosh Hodesh: Celebration of the New Moon

Rosh Hodesh: Celebration of the New Moon

Rosh Hodesh, also spelled Rosh Chodesh ("Ch" as in "Bach"), is the celebration of the new Hebrew month, an ancient festival finding renewal among contemporary Jews. Rosh Hodesh means the "head" or first day of the lunar month (just as "Rosh Hashanah" means the "head...

Rosh Hodesh Moon, song by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael

Rosh Hodesh Moon, song by Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael

Its a moon song Bubbling up and over me Darkness, sets my spirit free. Rosh Hodesh, enchanted time to hallow the month Rosh Hodesh (also spelled Chodesh) the new moon, is traditionally a special day of rest and celebration for women. Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael wrote...

Midrash: How the Moon Shrank

Midrash: How the Moon Shrank

וַיַּ֣עַשׂ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־שְׁנֵ֥י הַמְּאֹרֹ֖ת הַגְּדֹלִ֑ים אֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַגָּדֹל֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַיּ֔וֹם וְאֶת־הַמָּא֤וֹר הַקָּטֹן֙ לְמֶמְשֶׁ֣לֶת הַלַּ֔יְלָה וְאֵ֖ת הַכּוֹכָבִֽים׃ God made the two great lights, the greater light to rule by day and the lesser light to...

The Myth of Moon, Reinvented Over the Ages

The Myth of Moon, Reinvented Over the Ages

The midrash about the Moon's diminishment in the previous post did not remain static over the centuries, but was reinvented to reveal new meanings. Explore the changing face of this ancient legend in depth, through this fascinating article by Melila Hellner-Eshed, the...

Gardens

Gardens

Gardens

גנים

At the heart of a retreat center there is often a garden.

When I think of Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord New York (now incorporated into the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut), I picture the large organic garden. Earthy scents, warm soil, the buzzing bees lulled me into a state of peace each time I stepped inside its gate. The garden produced much of the food for the retreat center’s scrumptious vegetarian meals, and it also provided a spot for meditation, whether at work pulling weeds or sitting in stillness.

For some people, a garden is a place to grow food or flowers and connect with the soil. It’s a place to be most human because Adam, the first human being, was shaped from Adamah, earth. A garden may be a large and lavish backyard mini-farm like that of many of my friends in Northern California, a plot in a bustling community garden, a container garden on a city balcony, or a even a houseplant jungle.

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Soundtrack: Summer Meadow

Soundtrack: Summer Meadow

Continue to the next path: read some reflections by gardeners or return to the Gateway of Gardens Featured image: meadow and stream at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Pleasantville, New York, JHD

Gardeners Reflect

Gardeners Reflect

Gardener friends share their thoughts on the spiritual meaning of gardening... Oneness in the Garden Carla Resnick The garden is a versatile place. It can be highly tended, or let to run amok. In either instance, or in between, it is a place of infinite beauty. In...

Gallery: Growing Up in the Garden

Gallery: Growing Up in the Garden

We call my friend's enormous Northern California garden, "The Kibbutz." What a paradise for children! Getting hands dirty in the garden is healthy fun for young and old Click on the picture to activate the gallery. Return to the Gateway of Gardens.  

Eden: The Once and Future Garden

Eden: The Once and Future Garden

Eden represents the idealized human past...and future. The paradigm of all gardens is Eden. The opening chapters of the Torah, Genesis, present the concept of earth as a primal paradise, the Garden of Eden, in Hebrew,Gan Eden, גן עדן. There the first person, Adam, is...

Torah Study: Two Versions of the Creation Story

Torah Study: Two Versions of the Creation Story

The Torah contains two competing or complementary accounts of how God created human beings:   Version I: Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their...

A Short Midrash: Don’t Mess Up the Earth

A Short Midrash: Don’t Mess Up the Earth

In this selection from the Midrash, God shows Adam all around the Garden of Eden and then gives him a warning not to mess it up: "To me, the sight of our Earth from outer space is not only  scientific triumph but today's most potent religious icon as well." --Rabbi...

Water From Underground

Water From Underground

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.

Start On Your Journey

 

The first option below is the suggested next step on your journey.  Feel free to browse the following paths and explore in your own time at your own pace.

New Style for Wellsprings of Wisdom Gateways

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Reflections on Prayer and Action in Jewish Tradition

When violent and hateful acts roil  the world, many leaders share that the victims are in their “thoughts and prayers." The phrase has become an empty slogan for many, seen as just an excuse for inaction, or a passive wish that God will solve problems that we don’t...

Happy Earth Day and Happy Passover!

Happy Earth Day! 🌎 This year Earth Day coincides with the Seventh Day of Passover, a holy day to commemorate the splitting of the Red (Reed) Sea during the Exodus from Egypt. I remember the first Earth Day in 1970, which was started to work for environmental change...