My youngest son, Noah, went back to Boston after a wonderful few days visiting. Early Monday morning we went deep sea fishing on a charter from Ft. Lauderdale. It was windy, a bit rainy, and quite cool for South Florida. But something inside us was optimistic that we would catch some fish and have a great time. (Turns out we were meshugah!) It was really cold when we got out into the ocean, the water was very choppy, and the skies were gray and rainy. On the edge of real sea sickness, I went up and stood at the front of the boat and felt the cold air in my face. It seemed to calm my stomach and my spirit.
Over the course of hours, the sky began to change dramatically. The sun rose and there were incredibly diverse cloud formations. The sky went from dark blue to a true sky blue. The winds shifted and the sea began to calm. There was this beautiful change in the colors of the sea. After a while, we began to see birds and even a sail fish jump from the water. The guide was optimistic and really knew the waters and the nature which surrounded us. I came to a place in this experience, sharing quiet time with my son and experiencing the power of natural beauty, where I thought: “You know, this is worth the price – even if we don’t catch anything!”
As we started to return to shore, Noah and I, as well as the older Midwestern couple we shared the boat with, realized it simply wasn’t going to be our day to catch fish. The woman in the couple, Josephine, said: “I guess this is why they call it fishing and not catching!” Although it was a simple adage, I thought about it in terms of the lives we live. We will never have everything we aspire for. There may be moments or things that we think are in our grasp that get away. But we should never stop trying and aspiring for that which we consider important – the “catch.” The experience.
We are constantly surrounded by opportunities from which we can find meaning, beauty, knowledge and deepened relationships. But I think we need to remain open to that, and often open to the unexpected.
This week’s portion is called Vaera and it means “And He appeared.” It refers to the nature of God’s appearance to Moses in Egypt. God identifies himself and His name and his manifestation. Moses has these incredible, awesome moments. And they come to him because he is present and open and searching for more. In another place when Moses asks God to identify Himself He says: ”Ehiyeh asher Ehiyeh, I will be that which I will be.” And in that we realize great opportunity for understanding and experience. We might even say, it is limitless.
I hope to see you in shul.
Rabbi David Steinhardt