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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Stabilizing your life

Daf Yomi Nedarim 30

Alexander the Great once asked the Sages of Israel, “Is it better to live at sea or upon dry land?”
They responded, “It is better to dwell upon dry land, for seafarers’ minds are unsettled until they disembark upon dry land.”

If one vowed abstinence from seafarers, he is permitted to derive benefit from land-dwellers.  If, however, he vowed to abstain from land-dwellers, he is nonetheless prohibited from deriving benefit from seafarers, for they are included among land-dwellers.

Every day, first thing in the morning, we make the blessing, “Blessed are You, Hashem . . . Who places the dry land over the water.”  What are we thanking G-d for?  If the water would be on top, we would live in houseboats, so what?  In Venice, they get around on gondolas, is that a problem?

The meaning of the blessing is that we are expressing our gratitude to the Almighty for bestowing stability in our lives.   As the Sages told Alexander: every seafarer looks forward to the day he will disembark from his vessel and rest his foot on dry land.   You may be experiencing stormy weather in your life right now, but know that one day soon the storm will subside and the Almighty will bring calm and tranquility into your life as you step back onto dry land.

If you examine the wording of the blessing carefully, you’ll notice that we don’t actually thank G-d for ‘placing’ the dry land over the water.  The word is roka which is a verb related to the word from the creation story rokia, meaning ‘firmament.’  The Torah tells us that Hashem called the rokia ‘heaven.’   In other words, the morning blessing reads, “Blessed are You, Hashem . . . Who heavenizes the dry land over the water.”

What do we mean when we thank G-d for ‘heavenizing the dry land over the water’?  Once again, water represents instability in contrast to the stability of the dry land.  Life is full of trials and tribulations.  From health issues to parnassah (financial) woes to nachas (childrearing) stresses, life can be extremely challenging.   How do you weather the storm?  By heavenizing your life.

When you place your complete faith in the One Above, you know that He is carrying you through the storm of life.  And so even when, to everyone else, you appear to be out on the ocean, inside you know that you are on dry land.  When Hashem created the firmament, He separated the earthly waters from the heavenly waters, meaning that He gave us the opportunity to rise above the storm of life and live a tranquil, heavenly existence.  And so when you bless Him for placing the dry land over the sea, you are acknowledging His presence, providence, and master plan, despite the appearance of rough seas all around.

In life, you get to choose whether to dwell on dry land or at sea.  Even in the stormiest of waters, G-d has given you the ability to heavenize stability into your life by placing your trust in Him.  May you merit a life of stability, faith and Heaven on Earth!

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