Southern & Jewish
Southern & Jewish celebrates the stories, people, and experiences – past and present – of Jewish life in the American South. Hosted by the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, posts come from educators, students, rabbis, parents, artists, and many other “visitors-to and daily-livers-of” the Southern Jewish experience. From road trips to recipes to reflections, we’ll explore a little bit of everything – well, at least all things Southern and/or Jewish. Shalom, y’all!
There’s one trip that really changed my perspective. I woke up on a crisp Monday morning at 5 a.m. with my mom to do something I’ve always wanted to do—go whale watching. Little did I know my encounters with these creatures would change my perspective on not only the ocean, but also on my Judaism.
The whole morning was amazing. We were so close to these huge, huge whales. Humpbacks and grey whales were everywhere. But I really wanted to see a blue whale, and towards the end of the morning, the hopes to see one were diminishing. And then, as we were on our way back in to shore, there it was. A blue whale, in all its glory.
Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth. In fact, they are larger than some dinosaurs, and they’re currently living in our oceans. How crazy is that? Their hearts are the size of Volkswagen beetles and their blood veins are large enough that you could swim through them. But with all of these mind-blowing facts, there’s still one that constantly sticks out to me. Blue whales survive only eating krill.
How is it possible that the largest mammal to ever live can survive by eating one of the smallest crustaceans on the planet?
That little fact is just crazy to me; it says so much about this wonderful, weird world that God created for us. We don’t always notice these amazing things. This was one of those moments that I was in awe at what God created. Seeing this whale represented something much deeper than just “seeing a large mammal.” That blue whale helped to put me in touch with my spirituality, and genuinely enhanced my relationship with God.
Truly, when I’m in a moment of doubt or questioning, I go back to this moment on the boat with my mom. I think about seeing that whale come up for a breath, and go back down with its tail hitting the water ever so gracefully. I think about how this whale, the largest mammal on Earth, is completely sustained by one of the smallest living creatures on earth. And that final fact, the fact that these whales are sustained by krill, is imbued with spirituality for me.
It’s not logical, it doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to wrap your brain around. And that’s why it was this profound moment in my life. Because no matter how much life doesn’t make sense, I can think about this whale. How God created this massive mammal to live on the smallest creature. Maybe I’m not exactly sure how this whale relates to me, but thinking about it makes me feel comforted to know that I’m part of something bigger than just myself.
This is even more relevant in the coming weeks. On Yom Kippur, we read about Jonah and the whale (or “big fish”). In that story, the big sea creature is used to inspire fear. But it’s also a vital part of Jonah’s journey. It changed his perspective, just like “my” whale played an important part in my journey to finding my spirituality.
Because of this moment, I try to find the wondrous and awe-some things in life because truly, they are everywhere. So, whether you connect to your spirituality through prayer, or through learning, or a massive blue whale, observe the incredible and you’ll find that your spirituality can breach the surface, too.