Thursday, August 26, 2010

Group Bet Week 2: Get Outside

Gai feifen afenyam/Gai kakhen afenyam
(Go whistle in the ocean/Go jump in a lake)

Hi Everyone!

I hope this second week of the Shabbat Experiment finds you well. I am so excited about this week’s task, and I am looking forward to seeing the vast array of experiences we collectively have.

The theme of the week-‘Get Outside’ has triggered in me the realization of where we are in the calendar year. I became profoundly aware of the leaves changing colour around me, grabbing a sweater when I go out in the evening, and the reality that the seasons are shifting and the summer is turning into fall. I love the outdoor experience, and in my new home in Waterloo region I have been making an effort to get outside and engage with my new natural environment by hiking, swimming and exploring Waterloo region by foot.

With this in mind I have been thinking about water and it’s significance in Judaism. Ritual washing in intended to restore or maintain a state of ritual purity and its origins are found in the Torah. First mention of water in Judaism occurs in the Torah (Genesis1: 1-2):“In the beginning; G-d created the humans and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d was moving over the face of the waters.”

Water is relevant for its cleansing properties cross-culturally. When we read about Moses parting the Red Sea we are reminded of G-d’s control over nature and the world around us.

The Mik’veh (the ritual bath) plays a vital role in Jewish life. In ancient times people were required to be purified before entering the Temple area, and this was done in the Mik’veh. Only water that has been previously drawn into a container can be used. Tradition dictates that it must be filled with naturally occurring water, and the vessel may not have any leaks. In modern times Mik’veh is used for cleansing after contact with a dead body, after mensus for women, and is part of the initiation ceremony for conversion.

The ritual of Tashlich (meaning to cast away) is performed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. This custom originated in the middle ages. Tashlich is intended as a physical reminder of the human effort to cast away our sins. It involves symbolically casting off the sins of the previous year by tossing breadcrumbs (or any other organic matter) into a body of flowing water. Just as the water carries away the bits of bread, so too are our sins symbolically carried away. It is believed that Tashlich was inspired by a verse uttered by Micah (Micah7: 19):“ G-d will take us back in love; G-d will cover up our inequities, you [G-d] will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

In the effort to conceptualize a task for this week, I realized that this is the last weekend of August and my days of swimming in the local lakes are numbered. For me, going swimming is a restorative and relaxing experience that allows me to reconnect with my ‘self’ and my natural environment.

This week I urge you to indulge in these last days of summer and literally:
Gai feifen afenyam/Gai kakhen afenyam- Go jump in a lake!!

Please find a natural body of water-an ocean, lake, river or any naturally occurring body of water and jump in! I realize that this may be a challenge for some of us due to geographic factors, but any natural body of water is an option. I really hope you enjoy this week’s task as much as I will, and I can’t wait to hear about the details of our experiences.

Enjoy the water!

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