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    A drink of water

    According to the Mishnah (Rosh HaShanah 1:2) there are four new years, not one. They include Sukkot, when the world is judged in relation to water.

    Most people would say that this reference to water means the same as rain. The Tiferet Yisra’el, a great commentator on the Mishnah, says it means the water we drink.

    The two are obviously connected. If there is rain, there is water to drink. If there is no rain – or insufficient – we need to find other sources of water, and Israel’s desalination projects are a leading example to the world of what can be done.

    (Isn’t it ironic and insulting that so much of the world belittles and besmirches Israel but still willingly utilises our expertise and experience?)

    Water, however, has a wider significance. It is connected with birth; if God blesses the breaking of the mother’s waters, then there will be children and the world will have the sounds of joy and the assurance of a future.

    It is involved at the other end of life too, in the preparation of the deceased for sacred burial, symbolising our recognition that those whose earthly career is over deserve to be treated reverently and remembered for their contribution to history, its macrocosm or its microcosm.

    According to the mystics, water also represents redemption, the overflowing of God’s blessing: “You shall draw water in joy from the wellsprings of salvation”, says the Prophet (Isa. 12:2-3) in words which we echo in the Sabbath night havdalah.

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