Every week, Chevre prepare Words of Wisdom to talk to the group over Shabbat. Here, Elaine Potter from Northern California discusses the subject of water. Re-posted from Elaine’s blog Elaine in Peace Corps.

Water (מים)

Water is a prevalent theme throughout the Torah. It is compared to life; Moses is taken from the waters of the river Nile and then named after water. In Deutoronomy 32:2 Moses proclaims “May my teaching drop like the rain.” Both rain and the Torah descend from heaven and provide thirst.

We at Livnot have spoken a lot about lack, and that lack can be a beautiful thing. Israel is a desert, and one thing Israel lacks is water. Although Israel lacks rain, our need for water is considered a positive in Jewish tradition.

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How can water shortage be a good thing?

First, with a shortage of water, we learn humility. Our lives are not in our hands, but in the power of G-d’s hands. We have to trust that he will allow us to prosper. Rain is a gift from the heavens, and we are required to ask for it. On speaking about the creation of the early, on the third day, G-d created vegetation, but the vegetation remained dormant until the sixth day. What happened on the sixth day? On the sixth day, G-d created man. Adam realized the plants and trees needed rain, so he prayed for rain.

But why did he have to ask for it?

G-d surely must have realized that the plants needed water, so why didn’t he just provide rain? Adam had to ask for the water because it created a dependence on G-d, and G-d wanted man to have an appreciation for his kindness. Only when Adam prayed and asked for water, did G-d provide.

Rain is a gift from the heavens from G-d. If rainfall is a divine decision, we can affect rainfall with our attitude. If we are good, G-d will provide us with rain, if not, drought. In Jewish tradition, our ethical behavior determines the influence if there will be plentiful rain. Another way in which water shortage can be considered good is we learn to appreciate water. When a resource is scarce, we value it more. In Egypt, there is plentiful water from the Nile. While the Jews were enslaved in Egypt, they experienced a land without the lack of water. Below is a passage from Deuteronomy 11:10.

For the land, into which thou goest to possess it, is not as the land of Mizrayim, from whence you came out, where thou didst sow they seed, and didst water it with thy foot, like a garden of vegetables: but the land, into which you go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy G-d cares for: the eyes of the Lord the God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.

The water is not a gift from G-d in Egypt, but something that comes from the ground. This abundance of water may have been a disadvantage for the Egyptians and caused them to worship products made by humans. The water in Israel – G-d cares for the land of Israel by himself, watering with rain from his own hands. We are privileged to live in a land that G-d personally looks after and provides us with the gift of the heavens.

Elaine Potter
Northern Exposure August 2014

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