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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You can browse the entire Water catalog here and jump in anywhere.

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...

A Poem

From TODAY IS FOREVER I stroll often in a nearby park — old trees wildly overgrown, bushes and flowers blooming all four seasons, a creek babbling childishly over pebbles, a small bridge with rough-hewn railings– this is my little park. It’s mild and gentle in the...

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...

Torah as Coral, Coral as Torah

We have heard the expression "Sea of Torah." But how about Torah as coral? Part One: Torah As Moses came down the mountain with the Ten Commandments carved on two stone tablets, he found the people worshiping a golden calf. As recounted in Exodus 32:19, Moses threw...

Being in the Flow

 Psychologists have explored the concept of being in a State of Flow, when we essentially become one with our actions. I sometimes feel that the Shefa, שֶפַע the divine abundance of life is flowing freely, while at other times I feel that I am swimming against the...

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...

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...

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...

A blessing on seeing the Sea

  It's a Jewish spiritual practice to say a berachah, a blessing, when experiencing an awesome, beautiful, or startling sight (or sound like thunder, or delicious scent) in nature. When I suddenly get to that first view of the ocean, I always catch my breath at...

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...

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...

Tikkun Olam: Saving Our Seas, Saving Us

Famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle explains that just a few decades ago, human beings imagined that the world's oceans were so vast, there was no way that humanity could harm them. The ocean was seen as bottomless basket of resources for humanity, providing us with...

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...

Splitting the Sea with Wind

Picture the splitting of the Reed (or Red) Sea. Based on the movie versions, we tend to visualize Moses raising his staff, so that the waters part instantly—supernatural special effects! But the Torah (Exodus 14:21), offers a more naturalistic depiction of the...

Gallery of Flowing Water

Flowing creeks in Northern California, photos by Julie Hilton Danan  

Tikkun HaYam / Repair the Sea

Tikkun Hayam, Repair the Sea is a Jewish organization that I support, whose mission is "to share the spiritual wonders of water and the Sea from a Jewish perspective, and to raise awareness and encourage action to address the many threats facing the aquatic...

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...

Personal Creative Ritual: Tashlich for Letting Go

My situation had no ritual, and that nearly sent me into despair. As a rabbi, I lead rituals to help people deal with change and loss. Joyful yet sometimes stressful occasions like weddings, brit ceremonies, b'nei mitzvah.  Sad passages like funerals, shivah and even...

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....