Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Swimming In The Workplace

The Talmud (Kiddushin 29a) teaches that a father has numerous obligations towards his son to prepare him for life: "A father must … teach his son Torah … and teach him a trade or profession; other opinions say that a father must teach his son how to swim in the water."

Why is swimming singled out as the one physical fitness pursuit which a father must teach his son? If the purpose of learning how to swim is for safety purposes then the Rabbis could have chosen many other examples; i.e. self-defense, first aid, or survival techniques. Rather the Rabbis were teaching a very special lesson by juxtaposing swimming with the obligation to teach one's son a trade, for the techniques of swimming can be applied to earning a livelihood.

The swimmer must place his entire body in the water and churn vigorously with his hands and feet in order to propel himself. At the same time, he must constantly lift his head above the water so as not to drown. Similarly, the man who works at his livelihood must strain every fiber of his body in order to do the job right, yet at the same time he must limit the scope of the labor to his hands, and not allow his heart and soul to "drown" in the mundane pursuits. Like the swimmer, he must keep his head above the waters. One of the fundamental and perilous errors of life is to think that what we do is who we are.

(Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feur)