Once there was a young girl named Shalvi who lived by a magic stream. These waters could mend a broken heart, repair a shattered limb, and even heal grave illnesses. The individual need only immerse completely in the waters in order to unlock their magic.
And yet, many visitors left with their ailments intact, as they found the task too difficult to achieve.
Shalvi noticed that usually the individual needed to return on several occasions in order to experience a complete healing.
Shalvi would often watch those from near and far approach the stream, seeking relief from their suffering. As she grew older, she came to learn the ways of the waters. With a deep understanding of their healing powers, she began to advise the visitors on their immersion technique. There was a slight bend in the water that flowed over a hidden area deep enough for a full immersion. It soon became clear that whenever Shalvi was present, the ailing person would be sure to leave with a complete healing.
After some time, the point of immersion in the magic river came to be known as “Shalvi’s Rock.” Townspeople and travelers called upon her and she would emerge from her small stone house to instruct them.
A teary-eyed gentleman arrived one day when Shalvi was nowhere to be found. For weeks and months, the visitors could no longer access the magic of the waters by Shalvi’s Rock. Years later, as the river continued to flow strong and the vines grew up the side of her house, the location of Shalvi’s Rock was forgotten.
The text of this week’s Torah portion describes the ancient Yom Kippur ritual of the high priest atoning for the sins of the entire people. However, in modern times, we are each personally responsible for taking ourselves through the steps of transformation.
Where in your life are you putting energy into relying on others where you could be relying on yourself? Where might you be blaming others and holding resentment when you could be taking personal responsibility for your needs and feelings?
When you give yourself the gift of time and space for a ritual immersion, you may collaborate with attendants or community members. However, at the moment of immersion, you are completely on your own. Only you can take those steps, only you can spread your fingers and toes, only you can open your heart in that moment.
Shalvi’s Rock reminds us that increased reliance on outside forces takes us out of our body, causing us to gradually rely more and more on outside resources, experts and gurus. As we recall the priestly rituals once performed on our behalf, let us also recall that we are a mamlechet kohanim, a kingdom of priests – each with the power to take ourselves through the transformation that we need. May we each find direction from many sources, bringing inside those that nourish and sustain us.
Sarah Chandler, the Associate Director of Adamah Farm at Isabella Freedman, is a Jewish experiential educator, community activist, spiritual leader, and blogger. From 2005-2009, Sarah served as the Director of Jewish Family Life & Learning (JoyFuLL) at West End Synagogue: A Reconstructionist Congregation. She has her M.A. in Jewish Communal and Experiential Education and Hebrew Bible from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and serves as educator with the Teva Learning Center and the Kohenet Institute. She is currently participating in the second cohort of Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. Visit isabellafreedman.org for upcoming farmstays, meditation retreats, and other opportunities.