Although in most of the world, the summer is coming to an end, it is still in full swing in Israel, and we will be enjoying several warm months to come! Unfortunately, this summer, as with summers past, we have heard too many stories of accidents involved with water such as swimming pools, oceans, lakes and rivers.
The Jewish people have several commandments about protecting ourselves from danger. You may remember an earlier newsletter we wrote about putting a rail up on your roof(link to article) to prevent people from falling off. As it says in Deuteronomy, “When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a parapet for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thy house, if any man fall from thence.” (Deuteronomy 22:8). This commandment is a general statement to remind us how precious human life is, and how important it is to protect it. This verse teaches us to take proper safety precautions with bodies of water in general, including putting fences around your swimming pool to prevent accidents, but many rabbis say this verse goes as far as to teach us that we must teach our children how to swim, so that they can protect their own lives.
According to the Talmud, “A [parent] is obligated to do the following for [their child]: to circumcise him, to redeem him if he is a first born, to teach him/her Torah [wisdom], to find him/her a partner, and to teach him/her a trade. Others say: teaching him/her how to swim as well” (Kiddushin 29a). This commandment is to both mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. The sages teach us that these things are essential for setting up your child for a successful life. They added to teach your child to swim, as it is an essential survival skill for all adults to have.
Some very obvious things are missing from this list. Things like providing your child with food and shelter, which are physical things. This list is referring to spiritual things that we must provide our children with. One of those spiritual things is teaching your child to swim. This shows you and your child how important human life is, and how important it is to protect. As a parent, God has given you a precious gift, and it is up to you to prepare him/her with proper physical and spiritual necessities, and to teach them the value of their own life as well as the lives of those around them.
At The Heart of Israel, we wish you a fun and safe summer, and a happy Jewish New Year.