When parents raises a child from childhood to adulthood they must do many things to get them there. The Talmud spells out three things very clearly:
- Teach your child to learn Torah
- Teach your child a trade
- Teach your child to swim (Talmud Kiddushin 29a – להשיטו במים)
The first two seem fairly logical, but the third seems out of place. Sure, it’s important to teach a kid to swim but is it really up there with teaching him Torah and teaching him how to make a living? It sure is. We have to know how to survive in this world and sending a kid into the world not able to swim is dangerous and, not to mention, irresponsible. We know that as creations of God we have an obligation to preserve ourselves and our well-being. So learning how to swim is crucial.
But, as you should have known by now, there is a deeper level to learning how to swim. We are told “אין מים אלא תורה – whenever we mention water, we really mean Torah” (Bava Kama 17a), so applying this principle to our obligation to learn how to swim, we can understand it to mean that one must learn how to stay afloat when drowning in Torah. What? Drowning in Torah? Yes, drowning in Torah. As we grow and change in life, as we learn more and complete ourselves often times we can try to do too much too fast and we start to drown. Often times we thing we are doing something good when in reality it is counter-productive. Sometimes we can drown ourselves in Torah if we don’t know how to properly approach growth and change. The key is learning how to swim. We need to learn how to deal when it seems too much and we feel like we can’t breathe under the pressure.
So we have to learn how to swim…in Torah.
Now, learning to swim can be a lifelong process but I will give you a crash course, just enough to survive. But, you need to keep learning.
First lesson of swimming: Keep your head above water. You have to learn to prioritize, while it would be nice to have your foot or hand above the water, that isn’t always feasible and you need to make sure that the most important things are taken care of first – if you follow the metaphor.
Second lesson of swimming: Never stop moving. If you stop moving, you die. You always need to be move forward and striving toward new things, but most importantly you can’t just be sitting still. After all, “wind without movement is just air.” -Solly Hess
Third lesson of swimming: Don’t tire yourself too early on. You need to learn to pace yourself and make sure you don’t exhaust yourself to early. You need to plan ahead and make sure that your maintain your energy levels.
Fourth lesson of swimming: Try to be in sync. You need to coordinate the movement of your arms with that of your legs. You need to make sure that all the parts of your life are at least trying to be on the same path. Sometimes this is impossible, and that’s OK, but it is something to strive for.
Fifth lesson of swimming: Have will. You need to want to survive and want to stay afloat. If you don’t want it, take a moment to think things through and get back your will, it is your best asset.
Sixth lesson of swimming: Have fun! You are swimming for God’s sake, who doesn’t have fun at the beach or in the pool. Enjoy yourself and don’t constantly think about drowning, that will kill you faster than drowning will.
Now that you know the basics, today’s Jewish mission is to learn how to swim, both physically and spiritually. Keep your head above the water…