Hamptons Soul: The Blessing of Water

A 5 years old boy and his dad on the beach

Father Constantine Lazarakis

Among the myriad blessings of visiting or living on the East End, is our extraordinary access to some of the world’s most beautiful water. From Westhampton to Montauk, the beaches, the surfing, the fishing; it’s the stuff of legend. Lackadaisical summer days of sun and sand give way to clam bakes and bond fires with picturesque pink and purple skies as the sun dips below the Atlantic horizon. Agawam Lake is the centerpiece of Southampton Village, and our lush greenery, fertile land, and incredible farming culture with its superb local produce are the result our nutrient rich soil, and abundant fresh water.

I am reminded of King David’s 104th Psalm, “How many are your works O Lord! In Wisdom You have made them all,” and, “You make springs gush forth … giving drink to every animal.” He goes on to talk about how the water God gives makes the grass grow, gives grain for bread, makes a home in the sea for “innumerable creatures.” King David was wonderstruck at the marvels of the natural environment.

Of course, we live in an age when, while we love our days at the beach, our fishing trips, and hikes through the preserves, we also have insatiable appetites electric and gas-powered expansion. Fish kills and algae blooms, sadly, have become routine. If we don’t act, individually and collectively, we will lose the already degraded natural resources with which we so blessed.

Rabbi Josh Franklin

I grew up mere blocks from the Hudson River in Yonkers. On a near daily basis, I would look out at the water, transfixed by the beauty of tides flowing in and out. Despite my proximity, not once did I ever go into the water. Between my childhood house and the river was a sewage plant and a Domino’s Sugar factory, two of the many industrial complexes along the coastline of the river towns north of Manhattan. During the 20th century, these factories dumped massive amounts of sewage and chemicals into the Hudson that damaged the water quality and aquatic life. Cleanups of this 200-mile superfund site are still ongoing today.

The Hamptons are home to some of the most serene and picturesque waters of the world. Yet as the man-made rust tides wash in, the blooms of blue-green algae become more common, and as our waters are continually polluted with nitrogen leeching from aging septic systems, I fear that the waters of the Hamptons will, like the Hudson River, become nothing more than eye-candy. Water is meant to be more than just looked it. In the Jewish tradition we call our natural bodies of water “mayim chaim,” living waters. Water is God’s gift to us; it nourishes cleanses, and most importantly, it gives us life. This isn’t a blessing that we can afford to squander.

During the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites constantly complain about not having enough water to drink.

“So it was that the people grumbled against Moses saying, what shall we drink (Exodus 15:24).” There is water at the Israelite encampment, but they can’t drink it “because it is bitter.” In other words, the water is polluted. Commentators on this verse note that what the people really lack, is spirituality. Pure water is the ultimate influence of spirituality. “God speaks to us by the pure waters,” note the ancient rabbis (Mekhilta of Rabbi Ishmael 12:4).

The real estate market knows well that people will pay exponentially more to live on the water, because water calms and restores the soul. But the value of water depends on us keeping it pure and clean. Our responsibility isn’t just to pollute less, it’s to actively invest in infrastructure and support legislation that will restore the waters that nourish the Hamptons.

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