Sunday, May 22, 2011

Libyan and Moroccan Jews Spray Each Other with Water on Shavuot

A water fight on Shavuot? That's what Jewish children and adults alike did in Libya and Morocco. The Talmud says water symbolizes the Torah. Both are lifelines, both quench a thirst. In the case of the Torah, it quenches our thirst for the spiritual. Libyan and Moroccan Jews took the comparison of water and Torah literally by spraying or pouring water over each other. They believed that anyone who has water poured over him/her during Shavuot would not be sick for an entire year. No wonder parents helped their children out with the water fun, pouring buckets over passers-by, or simply spraying them with water guns. Libyan Jews, on the other hand, timed the water fun with the reading of the Book of Ruth, followed by piyutim – Jewish liturgical poems. Once the reader chanted the verse dealing with good luck – “B'simana tava u'b'mazalayah” – a full water pitcher would be turned upside down over his head, soaking him from head to toe, assuring him he would have a successful year.

So, what do you think? A water fight as a way to introduce Shavuot? Quit treading water. Take the plunge.

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