What’s with the Water?

CBTapestryby Carrie Bornstein

As I type, I’m in the midst of participating in a conference on Transformative Jewish Education, hosted by the Mandel Center at Brandeis University. Much of the conversation so far has centered around best practices in long-term immersive experiences, with an exploration of the elements these programs have in common. I’ll be speaking on a panel about Mayyim Hayyim as a different sort of immersive experience (yes, pun intended there), particularly from the perspective of using the mikveh as a short-term transformational educational experience itself.

The facilitators have presented a number of different “texts” at this conference, including traditional sources, participant quotes, art, photographs, and recordings. But the very first text that Jon Levisohn, director of the Mandel Center, opened with was one of my favorites.

He described a scene where Rabbi Akiva realized that steady drops of water had carved a hole right through the center of a rock, drop by drop. Because of this, he drew a conclusion about himself: if something as soft as water could chisel its way through something as hard as a rock, then surely the words of Torah could penetrate his (then uneducated) heart. Immediately, the story goes, he turned to study.

In Jon’s discussion of this story, he noted that Rabbi Akiva understood from the water that at his essence, he was different than he thought he was. Questioning everything he thought he knew, Rabbi Akiva realized his own potential for change.

I’m a sucker for any text about water, but mostly because they so often contain interesting insight around change and transformation.

So I’ll leave you with a question, which I hope you’ll answer in the comments below, or on our Facebook page or elsewhere: When has water played a role as a change agent in your life? Tell a story, share an image, paint a picture for us. Channel your inner Rabbi Akiva and be open to the change.

Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director. 

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