Shmini Atzeret, the eighth day of the festival of Sukkot, marks the beginning of winter on the Jewish calendar. At this time of year, we pray for a compassionate allocation of water. Not too much, not too little. Traditional piyyutim (liturgical poems) recall the role of water in the lives of our male ancestors. This one focuses on our female ancestors.
Remember Sarah, who with Avraham crossed rivers of water
Mother of all, her milk flowed out like water
Teacher of all, her radiance rained like water
For Sarah’s sake, do not withhold water!
Remember Rivkah, who found her future by the water
With lovingkindness she nourished animals with water
Taught her sons to cook meat and soup with water
For Rivkah’s sake, grant the gift of water!
Remember Leah and Rachel, expert women of birthing waters
How Leah cried, expressing fears through water
How Rachel cries, as she pleads in heaven with tears of water
For Leah and Rachel’s sake, do not withhold water!
Remember Miriam, mistress of the waters
She saved her brother’s life while watching at the water
She brought her people hope, reviving them with water
For Miriam’s sake, grant the gift of water!
Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan works as Interim Director of the Iona Pacific Inter-religious Centre at the Vancouver School of Theology. Previously she served as Rabbi of Or Shalom Synagogue in Vancouver (2005-2014) and Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (1989-2004). She blogs at On Sophia Street.