Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Drowning Man in the Sea


Imagine the scene for a moment…

A man begins his refreshing swim in the sea. He walks steadily into the sea from the beach area. As he does so, the water begins to move upwards, starting from his feet, until his knees… to his body. As the man walks deeper into the sea, the water covers his body even further. Suddenly, he finds his feet lifting off the ocean bed as he realises that he is no longer able to walk any further without drowning. He lifts himself up, and begins to swim.

Things seem okay, but not everybody is a strong swimmer. Some may be able to swim for longer times than others, but ultimately everyone reaches a point when they simply cannot continue any longer. Before the man knows it, he realises that with his feet now totally off the ground he has only his arms to keep him afloat. He begins to swim to keep himself afloat. Suddenly, his calm swimming motions turn into something different. His arms begin waving about violently as he hopes to attract the attention of others – that somebody should be able to save him. But they don't see this. Instead they see a man swimming. A strong man they say! Someone who is far stronger than the sea itself – they say! Anyhow, he looks afloat and he seems to be doing just fine. He is breathing. He is moving – in fact with tremendous strength! Surely he is healthy!

Then, without notice, the man, unable to keep afloat, begins to feel the first moments of his life ebbing away. Before he knows it, his head drops below the water. Unable to swim much longer, he sinks – for but a moment. But with amazing strength, he pulls himself up again. Again, he waves his hands, in the hope that he will attract the attention of others – who are enjoying their bathing experience as they soak up the sun. They look at him – and again, everybody turns to each other expressing how amazed they are at the man in the sea who is able to keep himself going. He's a strong man – they say to each other, and then proceed once again to enjoy the warm rays of the sun.

Meanwhile, with strength ebbing, the man's head falls below the water again, this time, unable to breathe properly, he swallows some water – and "breathes" some of it into his lungs. He pulls himself up, yet again, his arms now totally out of control as they wave about trying to attract attention yet again… Still those watching admire the strong swimmer. He is surely doing just fine – they say.

Then… suddenly, without notice, the man loses all strength. Finding himself now in the middle of the ocean with nobody taking an interest in him, he swiftly sinks under the clear blue waters. The "spectators" having now soaked up a good amount of warm sunshine – look on, as they whisper amongst themselves of the event just seen. Each expressing their own illogical logic! "He'll come up soon," says one. "He's just doing some under-water swimming now," says another. And yet another says, "He must learn some time soon how to swim on his own. You'll see, he'll be thankful we let him work it out on his own…" Minutes pass, turning into hours. He has gone, disappeared from sight.

Sirens are heard, screaming on the beach – as everyone begins to realise what has happened. The man his gone. His family may suddenly realise this moment, suddenly awaken to the reality – a reality – which of course could be seen minutes earlier. The reality of thinking that the man was just swimming – his arms waving about – just swimming strokes to help him enjoy the water. Yet the truth is unlike any of these people. The man's violent gestures in the water, were indeed nothing less than a call for help. Not a call for attention – but a real call for help. When one finds oneself at the moment before drowning, there simply is no other clear way of telling others, than by yelling (and embarrassing oneself), and moving one's arms about fiercely!

The Torah speaks about helping a fellow Jew before it's too late. "Balancing the load of a donkey, as it begins to fall off, can be achieved by one man… but once the load falls off, even five men will have a hard time getting it all back on again." The Baal Shem Tov compares the body to the donkey as they both share the same root in Hebrew – ChMR. When the "donkey" is filled to capacity, and the load begins to wobble, it takes just one friend to come along and set it back right again. But once the load has fallen, even five friends will be unable to load it up again.

What of someone whose load is not upon him, but rather is actively pushing down upon him from the top – and pulling him down from the bottom too – just like the swimmer?! What will be if the friends take no notice then?! There is only one way to go, and it is not the way of safety. Its way brings one into the world of the water itself, turning the person into the life of water itself, as the drowning man struggles with the ferocious waters, until he, like the waters, rests calmly… floating… a donkey… without a soul.

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they walked miraculously through the sea of waters, as it split for them. And from there, it was on to receiving the Torah itself – the festival of Shavuot.

As the Torah itself testifies, if there is no flour, there is no Torah. If the body is not taken care of (to be able to live!) then no Torah in the world will be absorbed into the person. Instead, the powerful raging waters of Torah will simply engulf the person, bringing him into their own world. For a body without a life in it can rest tranquilly in the sea of Torah without a struggle.

As the Jews made their journey to receiving the Torah, the waters split for them. To have attempted to deal with the power of those waters fighting against the Egyptian army would have been completely futile! There would have been only one direction for them – down!

So too, as we approach this Shavuot, let us remember these ideas. For there are many who wish to live. Who wish to bring the values of Torah into the world. Yet the Egyptians are still around them, forcing them into these waters – waters that do not split too easily. Waters that split only when there is someone else out there who helps the swimmer in the middle of the sea. He may "jump in" – so to speak so that the sea splits for the other.

The "swimmer" calls out as he gesticulates madly that he is drowning… but who is listening?! Do we see the swimmer as playing? As someone not trying?! Or do we see him as asking for help – and come to the rescue… before it's too late?!

There is only one soul in a body. Once the soul leaves it, there is no bringing it back – not until Moshiach and Techiyat HaMeitim. Then of course, we can cry as much as we want thinking of what could have been with the life of this person. Or we can take the call of help seriously enough to realise that our help is not just a little – but it saves a soul. As the Torah teaches – one who saves another person, saves an entire world. His reward has no limit!

How ironic to watch messages as they are displayed each day on some of the many Jewish newsgroups. One person lets others know of his special opportunity – this week only – of a luxurious 7 day stay in a beautiful place, filled with those things fit for a king – for only thousands upon thousands of dollars. While the very next post speaks of a family destitute unable to pay their rent… their taxes… let alone to be able to eat.

How far have we moved from the path of life – the path of seeing the pain of a swimmer – drowning – but instead seeing him as playing?!

With Shavuot upon us, let us re-examine what is truly important, and the necessity to help those in desperate help to simply be able to live – for without this, without being able to pay those most basic expenses, life is simply not worth living – for anybody.

Our duty is to answer the call of help when the swimmer – the one drowning – calls out for help. We can ask thousands of questions if we wish – who he is, what his name is, how much he really earns, does he really need help or is he bluffing etc. but sadly by the time we may finish with our enquiries – it may simply be too late. When another is drowning… when another is chocking, there is nothing else left to do than to save immediately!

We have a number of projects on the go for saving a number of people from the tremendous economic difficulties many are going through today. These people are still not yet able to pay their most basic bills – though they work hard each day. Salaries just do not cover the amounts due – and the large taxes we must regularly pay.

If you are in *any* position to help, please do not delay. These people are drowning and calling – screaming for help, their hands violently waving about hoping and praying that those "watching" will recognise that their moving about is not a game, but life itself. Let us help them to live, so that they – just like we – can continue to observe the Torah and it's Mitzvos bringing further light and goodness into the world – this Shavuot and beyond!

There are two special projects (amongst the others) in high alert need.

1. A newly married couple struggling to keep their head above waters just to begin life together – to start their life and make something of it together. (More info available by request for those truly interested in helping.)
2. A divorced woman battling with day to day expenses (though she works every day for a monthly salary) who must also support family struggling with various medical problems.
3. A widowed woman battling with day to day expenses

These are both priorities.

Thank you for your help. May you all merit "Kabbalas HaTorah BeSimcha U'Bepenimyus" – receiving the Torah (this Shavuot and beyond) in happiness and absorption inside you.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails