middot calmness besorah don't rock the boat

don't rock the boat

Written by  rabbi paul saal

art-canoeI find that one of the most enigmatic stories in the Besorot for the modern reader is that of Yeshua quieting a storm. The account is found in Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8. Though there are some small differences, the accounts are largely the same.

Yeshua and his disciples decide rather spontaneously to cross a body of water by boat to get away from the disquieting demands of the large crowds that have been following them. While crossing, a sudden and enormous storm comes. The disciples perceive the storm as life threatening and begin to scream for help to Yeshua, to which Yeshua responds by calming the sea. What is so surprising is the response of Yeshua’s companions who are astounded at what has transpired. Hadn’t they seen him heal the sick and raise the dead, and feed the hungry with little provision? Hadn’t they called out to him for salvation from the impending danger of the storm? So are they suddenly so amazed that he commands the wind and water and that they in fact obey him?

First, let us consider what the storms represent. Torah presents wind and water as the primordial chaos, which the Holy One sets in order to create the present world.  Remember out of the Tehom (primordial chaos), often translated abyss, Hashem separates the waters above from the waters beneath, and also the dry land from the water. When humankind breaks faith with Hashem, the fragile harmony is disrupted and the Great Flood ensues. Therefore, the harsh effect of wind and water become a living picture of humanity’s rift with Creator and creation. As a nation of Kohanim, Israel is charged with the responsibility of repairing that rift. Whenever Israel fails in this vocation though, chaos ensues. This is why both psalmist and prophet usually picture this disruption of human and cosmic harmony in terms of storms as witnessed in Isaiah 17:12-13:

Oh, the raging of many nations

they rage like the raging sea!

Oh, the uproar of the peoples

they roar like the roaring of great waters!

Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters,

when he rebukes them they flee far away.

Notice it is the Holy One only who is able to rebuke the raging storm; and as witnessed by the talmidim, Yeshua also had power over primeval chaos. In desperation they cry out to Yeshua, yet are astounded that he both can and does respond to their cries. Unfortunately, Yeshua is less than astounded at their lack of trust in his provision of safety and well being. So what lessons can we take away from this eventful boat ride?

First, recognize that in the midst of life’s storms there is no safer place than in a boat with Yeshua. We may get a little wet but that boat is not going to tip unless we tip it. So sit down and enjoy the ride.

Secondly, the danger is often embellished in our own minds. Our lack of faith in Hashem’s provision and justice often causes us countless hours, days, months and even years of anguish. Most storms pass and would leave us unscathed if we did not maim ourselves and trample others in our harried efforts to rush from the safest place we could be.

Third, cleave to Hashem.  He is in the boat with us by His own choice! Don’t wait until the storm comes to speak to Him. His slumber is only an illusion. The truth is that we often ignore Him and He is probably bored with our shallow pursuits. So do something interesting, cleave to Him before the storms of life come. This is a real confidence builder.

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