Water Fights on Shavuot?

Water fights to celebrate Shavuot? Yes, that’s what was done in some North African communities; true, summer has arrived and it was fun to cool off, but why then, davka on Shavuot? More serious commentators and historians explain that it was because the closest thing to Torah in this world is water, and what better holiday is there to be joyful with water, with the Torah. So say the Midrash (English continues below):
נמשלו דברי תורה במים
מה מים, מסוף העולם ועד סופו [=יש להם התחלה וסופם אינו נראה בעין]
כך תורה, מסוף העולם ועד סופו
מה מים חיים לעולם
כך תורה חיים לעולם
מה מים מן השמים
כך התורה מן השמים
ומה המים מטהרים הגוף
כך תורה מטהרת הגוף
ומה המים יורדין טיפין-טיפין ונעשים נחלים-נחלים
כך תורה: אדם לומד שתי הלכות היום ושתים למחר
עד שנעשה כנחל נובע
ומה מים אין אדם גדול מתבייש לומר לקטן: השקני מים
כך דברי תורה אין הגדול מתבייש לומר לקטן
למדני פרק אחד, דבר אחד, פסוק אחד, ואפילו אות אחת
ומה מים כשאין אדם יודע לשוט בהם, סוף שהוא מתבלע [=טובע
כך דברי תורה, אם אין אדם יודע לשוט בהן ולהורות בהן, סוף שהוא מתבלע
מדרש שיר השירים רבה א’, י”ט
The Torah is likened to water:
Just like water have a beginning but no end in sight,
So goes the Torah, from one end of the world to the other
Just like the water lives forever
So the Torah, lives forever
Just like the Torah comes down from heavens
So the Torah…
And just like the water purifies the body
So the torah…
And just like the Torah comes down bit by bit and joins to great rivers,
So the Torah: a person learns a couple of ideas today and a couple tomorrow
Until he becomes like a flowing stream
And just like with water, when one is thirsty, a greater / older person isn’t embarrassed to say to a younger / smaller one: please, give me some water
So it is with Torah words, and an older person is not too shy to say to a younger one:
Please teach me one chapter, one matter, one verse, and even just one letter
And just like a person doesn’t know how to navigate water, ends up drowning
So it is with Torah words, and a person who doesn’t know how to find his (her) way in them, can drown.

This quote is from the Midrash on the Song of Songs. There are others in the Talmud: Rabbi Akiva said that just like water softens and changes a rock through constant dripping and persistence, so does the Torah makes changes in one’s heart through repeated learning. The Talmud says elsewhere, that just like when it rains in the night, one can only see the effects when the sun comes out, so it is with the Torah that the effects can take time. And another Rabbi Akiva parable tells about the fox who tries to convince the fish to escape the dangerous fishermen’ leave the ater and climb to safety on land as a metaphor for how crazy it is for us to leave the Torah in order to expect gains elsewhere and be saved from all sorts of troubles.
When I garden I think of other metaphors. For example, if we go with the ‘just like the Torah gives life, so does water’, we can easily see that just like the water is not responsible for the weeds along its way; it just gives water to all, so does the Torah. Torah learning is not a guarantee for goodness or wisdom, long life, success or anything. In fact, in Pirkei Avot it says, “derech eretz kadma leTorah” – mannerism and how one behaves takes precedence to Torah learning, and literally – comes before Torah learning, exactly because of the above principle, because if one waters weeds, they’ll grow too.
In Isaiah we read, “oh, everyone who is thirsty! go to the water! (Isaiah 55:1)”. This too is true for the Torah. One must have a thirst for this in order for the learning to be interesting, inspiring and make sense. When we are not “thirsty”, Torah words fly over our head with no meaning. Some of it has to do with age or personal maturity and some – with developing an inquisitive learning style. And just like we know we should drink at least so and so many glasses per day, how about watching our Torah intake? Last but not least, clear, clean water is what’s attractive – and healthy – rather than dirty, “standing” water. On Shavuot we have an opportunity to drink the “real thing”. Enjoy & chag same’ach!


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1 Response to Water Fights on Shavuot?

  1. neskama says:

    mitzuyon chag same’ach…

    You know you’re a redneck if your home has wheels and your car doesnt….Jeff FoxworthyLife is not about finding yourself, it is about creating yourself…anon
    neska נסקה

    Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2014 20:39:29 +0000
    To: neskama@hotmail.com

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