Water

 

מים

According to the opening words of the Torah, the primordial element is water. Water, מים Mayim, is one of the most powerful and pervasive forces in Hebrew tradition. We all got our start in the waters of our mother’s womb, and water covers over 70 percent of the earth’s surface and comprises about 60 percent of our own bodies. It became a symbol of life, of Torah, even of the Divine.

Through this portal are Gateways that explore themes and symbols of water in its many forms and sources, above us, below us, and running through us. Dive in, immerse, and navigate the currents of life. Water is life, and conversely can also cause chaos and destruction, so we’ll explore how to stay afloat in life’s floods.

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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...

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...

Sharing Circle: Flowing Water

Join the Sharing Circle of Flowing Water to explore any of the themes in this Gateway. How do you achieve a sense of flow? Is it something you do consciously? What activity in your life gives you the greatest sense of being in the flow? I would also love to hear about...

Water Rocks: A Poem by a Pastor Friend

“Water rocks!” –for Standing Rock Sioux and all sacred life (Micah 6:8) Bucketing, barreling long-awaited runoff.  Delighted, barefoot, and cold I imagine myself a Rwandan girl except I have not missed school; I am not without choice. But water is essential too for...

Yield to the Moment and the Moment Yields to You

Rabbi Avin the Levite said: All who try to force the moment (literally, "the hour") the moment forces them, and all who yield to the moment, the moment yields to them.        כל הדוחק את השעה שעה דוחקתו וכל הנדחה מפני השעה שעה נדחת מפניו Talmud Berakhot 64a   I'm...

Tashlich: Can water carry away our mistakes?

Tashlich is a Jewish New Year's custom that originated in the Middle Ages and is traditionally done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (on the second day if the first day is on Shabbat). We to go to the banks of a stream or other natural body of water, and symbolically...

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  

Moroccan Jewish “Song at the Sea”

The Song at the Sea, Shirat Ha-Yam, Exodus 15, with a classic Moroccan-Jewish Melody. Performed by Rabbi Hillel Hayyim Lavery-Yisraeli. Learn more here. Learn about the Parting of the Red Sea, or return to the Gateway of the Sea.

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...

Gallery of Flowing Water

Flowing creeks in Northern California, photos by Julie Hilton Danan  

Flowing Water in Hassidic and Mystical Thought

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...

Sharing Circle: The Sea

What is the meaning of The Sea in your life? Do you live near a sea, ocean, or lake, or visit often? Which one(s)? Do you go there for healing, spirituality, adventure? Have you ever lived through a flood or other natural disaster (or helped to rebuild) and what was...

Reb Zalman Teaches About the Flow of Life

My teacher, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi taught that the concept of free will can be compared to a river. Life is seldom smooth as Lake Placid, and not usually like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but it is often more like shooting the rapids. We don't get to...

Video: Moments of Eternity in the Passing Flow of Life

  Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are...

A Guide’s Perspective: Life is But a Stream

    Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden Flowing water has always been a part of my...

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....

Tikkun Olam: River Activism

When it comes to water, air, and climate, there really are no national borders. Learn about some great Tikkun Olam organizations that focus on Rivers in the US, Mideast and Worldwide. Riparian Zones are the ecosystems on the banks of rivers, creeks, and streams. They...

Gallery: As Above, So Below

I am captivated by the reflections of sky in a lake,* especially when sky and water seem to merge. On a spiritual level, it reminds me that in each of our souls is a reflection of the divine, the tzelem Elohim. We can perceive the reflection of what is "above" most...

Ocean Breathing

I learned "Ocean Breath" from a wonderful yoga teacher, Marcia (Me-esha) Albert, at the original Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord New York (now incorporated into Isabella Freedman retreat center). Based on yogic foundations, this breathing technique takes a...

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...