Parshat Chukat: Water Consciousness
Regional, National or International
Focus of Work
Ready-made resources (blogs, curriculum, sermon materials)
By Yonatan Neril
How can we become aware of the true source of our water in practical ways? The spiritual training involving water was effective in the desert, but how can Jews in a more water abundant region come to such an appreciation? I want to suggest five things, from easy to more involved:
1) Easy: Connect to the physical source of the water you drink. Go to that source and sit by it, like Jacob and Moses did. Listen to the water. Think about how most of your body is comprised of it. Try this every year or every month and see what happens.
2) Still not demanding a lot: Contemplate your monthly water bill, remembering that each drop is given to you as a gift. If you use close to 230 gallons a day, like the average person in the United States does, think about key areas where you could reduce the amount you use.
3) More involved: Connect this physical substance to its spiritual source, which is the Creator of the Universe. Before and after you drink water or any liquid, say the blessing on it. The blessing begins with the word ‘baruch,’ which is related to ‘bereicha,’ pool, since G-d is like an infinite pool.
4) Still more involved: Another gateway to water awareness is the Jewish ritual netilat yadai’im, washing hands with water for purity. By using a vessel to pour water over our hands when arising in the morning and before eating bread, we can connect to the purifying potential of water.
5) For the truly committed: Take a few concrete steps toward water conservation. Install low-flow faucets and toilets. Hook up a grey water system to water your lawn with sink water. Click here for more information
Rashi on Bamidbar 20:2, Ta’anit 9a
As per Targum Onkeles (Israel, 2nd century) to 20:17
|4||As per Rashi (France, 11th century) to 20:17|
|5||Andrew Gumbel, “The wrath of 2007: America's great drought,” The In dependent (UK) June 11, 2007.|
|6||For example, such is the water-delivery method in parts of Essex County, New Jersey. Figures based on personal conversation with Verona Water Officer, July 2007.|
The story is told of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement in Europe, who was known as being meticulous about ritual hand washing. Once during his travels, his students noticed that he only used the minimum amount of water required to wash his hands. When asked about it, he said the water used for hand washing was carried on the back of a maid after being laboriously drawn from the well on the bottom of the hill. He taught his students, “One should not observe the most stringent level for a mitzvah upon someone else’s shoulders.” (see Compendium p. 46) I might apply this to water use today, where it may come on the shoulders of other people and future generations.
|8||“Vulnerability of New Jersey's Coastal Habitats to Sea Level Rise,” Dr. Richard G. Lathrop and Aaron Love of the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis of Rutgers University|
In Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau, Bantam Books: New York, 1981
|10||Abby Goodnough, “Florida is Slow to See the Need to Save Water,” The New York Times.|
|11||Translation from www.chabad.org/library|