Today’s Jewel of Elul from Craig and Co. is by Jerome Groopman, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a best-selling author.
On the wall of the pool at my Jewish community center is a line from the Talmud, “A father should teach his child three things: Torah, a trade, and to swim.” For years, I read this as inspiration to improve my stroke. But then I wondered if the Talmud was also imparting a profound message about hope and healing.
It is no surprise that the Rabbis would encourage learning Torah to bring us closer to God and mastering a trade to obtain material
sustenance. But why learn to swim?
The Talmud does not say, “be taught to walk” because the ground is our natural habitat. Water is not. In water, there is nothing to hold on to. There is the risk of drowning, so we must learn how to adapt to new, dangerous, and uncertain surroundings.
When we become ill, it is like being thrown into water. Hope and healing are like swimming. To pass through illness, we must change our usual way of functioning and take control of an unnatural environment. At first, we may thrash around, but God has given us the ability to move forward and prevail. This can be taught to our children after we learn it ourselves.
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