The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.
(Isak Dinesen 1885-1962)
The Cure For Anything
There’s something about the sea that captivates my soul. I don’t need to go into the water to be drawn into its embrace. Just sitting on the beach in the shade, hearing the crash of the waves, smelling the salty air and feeling the sand between my fingers. No matter how much pressure I’m under at the moment, a tranquil hour near the water rejuvenates my soul and empties my mind of all the junk that’s frantically spinning around inside.
I just returned from a short trip to the beach of Netania. What make the spot special is that there’s separate bathing times for men and woman. There were dozens of men and boys, many with long Payis and beards, enjoying a few hours of relaxation with Halakhic approval. Enjoyable, healthy and Kosher too.
I sat there for an hour on the sand engaged in my favorite pastime of reading another book on my Kindle.
Without side tracking too much by singing praises of the Kindle e-book reader, as an avid life-long reader, it makes me wonder how people enjoyed reading before the Kindle was invented. 🙂
Living By The Sea
There are studies showing that going to the sea is not only pleasurable, it’s also good for your health.
The age-old wisdom that being near the seaside is good for your health may be true, studies suggest. People often focus on the threats the ocean poses to human health, whether it’s storms and floods, harmful algal blooms or pollution. But research shows that spending time by the ocean has many positive effects on health and well-being.
In one experiment, study participants were shown photographs of ocean views, green fields or cities, and asked how much they were willing to pay for a hotel room with each of those views. People were willing to pay more for the room with an ocean view, the results showed.
When you put a person in a beach environment, “It’s not going to be any great surprise to you that people relax,” said study researcher Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at Exeter. The question, he said, is how many people experience such health effects, and how much they impact people’s health.
The researchers also looked at the effect of moving near a coast. Moving closer to the sea “much improves people’s well-being,” White said — by about a tenth as much as finding a new job. The seaside environment may reduce stress and encourage physical activity, he added.
How does the Jewish Tradition relate to visiting the ocean?
Blessing On Seeing The Ocean
A person should recite a blessing over every sea or lake, provided it contains a lot of water all year round, and is not artificial. In the Land of Israel, therefore, a blessing is recited over four seas: the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), and the Dead Sea.
However, if the lake was created by a man-made dam, even if it is extremely large such as the Aswan Dam, a blessing is not recited, because the blessing was enacted as praise over the work of the Creator, and not over the work of man.
On oceans surrounding continents, the following blessing is recited: “Boruch Atah A-d-o-n-o-I, E-l-o-h-e-i-n-u Melech ha’olam, sh’asah et hayam hagadol” (Blessed are You, G-d, our Lord, King of the Universe, Who created the great Sea).
Some authorities, however, think that the great sea is the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, in the opinion of many Poskim (Jewish law arbiters), the blessing “sh’asah et hayam hagadol” should be recited only over oceans, while the blessing for the Mediterranean is “oseh ma’aseh bereshit”, and this is the generally accepted custom.
Tashlikh is a Jewish tradition, performed on the afternoon usually of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in which the participants symbolically cast off their sins by gathering along the banks of a river, stream, or the like and reciting prayers of repentance.
Tzitzit & Tkhelet
We are commanded to place a thread of blue on our Tzitzit. There are many reasons for the commandment (beyond the mere fact that it’s biblical). It was taught in the Talmud in the name of Rabbi Meir – why is Tekhelet singled out from all the colors? Because Tekhelet is similar to the sea, and the sea is similar to the firmament, and the firmament is similar to the Throne of Glory etc.
Here we have three different spiritual perspectives on oceans and seas.
- As a place to express our appreciation and awe of God’s creation.
- As a place to symbolically get rid of our spiritual errors.
- As a reminder that everything comes from above.
I guess that the cure for many things really is salt water, both for body and soul.