by Susan Morrel, Jewish Educator for Mayyim Hayyim’s “Water Wonders”
I am often astounded by the questions early elementary school children ask. They are so full of wonder and curiosity, seeing the world through a lens of awe, fascination, and joy. Not surprisingly, they love to learn about the natural world, particularly water, a mysterious and awe-inspiring source of life.
I remember reading a book to a group of second graders during Passover last year. The story was about a man named Nachshon. After being freed from slavery in Egypt, Nachshon and all of his fellow Israelites found themselves standing at the shore of the Sea of Reeds. The sea was in front of them and the Egyptian army behind them, danger around every corner. The Israelites were afraid. They didn’t know what to do. Then Nachshon decided to take the first step. He put his foot into the water, even though he was afraid to swim. One foot after another, Nachshon bravely entered the water. Suddenly, the sea opened up and the people were able to walk through on dry land to the other side, to freedom. It is a story of faith and courage, of change and transition.
After the story, the students wiggled and squirmed, eagerly awaiting a chance to express themselves and ask their many questions. I remember some of their words so vividly: “Was the water cold?” “Did their clothes get wet?” “Did Nachshon know the sea was going to open?” “What is faith?”
Their wonder and curiosity struck me: “I wonder what it felt like to walk in the path through the water.” “I wonder if there were still waves in the walls of water.” “I wonder if this is a true story.”
Their personal reflections: “I’m afraid to swim too.” “I passed my swimming test last week.” “I’m going to camp this summer and there is a lake there.” “I walked way out into the water on a sandbar with my brother.” “I love the water.”
Water plays an important role in Jewish tradition. It is found in Judaism’s most profound teachings, as a symbol of change and of spiritual transformation. Just as the Israelites transitioned through the parted waters of the Sea of Reeds, leaving behind slavery and captivity, moving toward a new life of freedom, our children also enter in and out of many transitions. They begin their secular and religious education; they learn how to read and swim; they go on a plane for the first time; they finish their first Jewish summer camp experience; they move to a new school; they lose their beloved pet, they recover from a traumatic experience, and so much more.
Water is a source of life that promotes growth, both physically and spiritually. Water moves us from literal to metaphysical, from knowledge to wisdom, from ordinary to extraordinary. Stories of water and Judaism not only build Jewish knowledge, but also inspire a profound sense of wonder that provokes children to explore their Jewish identity.
With that in mind, I invite you to join me, Mayyim Hayyim, PJ Library, and families with children in grades K-2 in Waltham and Sharon for two fun, interactive programs that explore the connection between water and Judaism. Each location offers parents and children two different programs that will bring Jewish stories of water to life through hands-on projects in art and science, all while connecting with other families in the area. You won’t want to miss it! Learn more and register here.
Susan Morrel has over 25 years of experience in the field of Jewish Education, currently working as a Jewish Education Consultant in Greater Boston, previously serving as the Director of Education at Beth El Temple Center in Belmont, MA. Susan is a Jewish educator at heart, whose passion is developing curriculum that addresses both social-emotional needs and strengthens the Jewish identities of children and teens. Susan’s greatest experience in Jewish education comes from raising her four children, Alicia, Stephanie, David, and Shaina.