Abstaining from Well-Water and Jephthah’s Daughter

Russell-Coates Gallery and Museum
There is a medieval Jewish tradition that calls for the abstaining of water from wells four times a year.1Judges 11:39-40 Like many traditions, it comes with its own superstitions and such, while it also varies from place to place in timing, Spain to Germany. Some would abstain because they thought the wells were poisoned or haunted on those days. And there is variance as to whether the days are consecutive or not,2four days in a row, compared to four days (usually on the solstice/equinoxes) throughout the year. but it obviously is inspired by the four days the girls who would be Seila’s3Seila is the traditional named used for Bat-Jephthah instead of saying “Jephthah’s daughter” over and over again. Pseudo-Philo was one of the first to use it and it has been picked up ever since. bridesmaids went to celebrate her.


The text does not tell us if these are seasonal or consecutive, so some who adhered to these customs did it at four different days of the year, around the solstice and equinoxes, while others kept this practice up for four consecutive days in the month of Nisan (an important month in the Jewish calendar).

They would pair it around four events:

  • The four events—the sacrifice of Isaac,
  • water turning to blood in Egypt,
  • blood coming out of the rock Moses struck,
  • and finally the death of Jephthah’s daughter

Now, the abstaining from water from wells in this case was considered ‘mourning’ of sorts, or remembering of mourning. It has a negative notions paired with it, the disobedience of the people at Mara when Moses struck the water and interprets Jephthah’s story negatively.

But, the other way of doing it, seasonally, has an interesting spin.

Some didn’t drink water from wells not out of superstition that the water is bad, or in remembrance that the water was bad in those instances, but because you were supposed to be drinking sweeter things at the beginning of each season (wine, orange juice, etc.), to start each season off remembering the good things of life.

This week’s Bible reading: the Gospel of Matthew (28 Chapters)

Psalms for the week: Psalms 1-7

Canticle for the week: Exodus 15 (Miriam’s Song)4Exodus 15:1-21

Book of Diverse Devotion: Thread 1, Reading 1 (One)

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