Of the Book


LChaim Magazine san diego surfBy Rabbi Daniel Bortz

Summertime is finally here, full of beach days and good waves. I never learned how to surf well growing up, a subject of embarrassment for a Cape Town and California native such as myself. But I accused the water of being cold, and when you’re bad at surfing it isn’t very fun. Since so many of my friends are in love with surfing though, I knew there had to be something special about it. What is it about the ocean that pulls so many people to it like a magnet?

One day, I decided to ask an especially “stoked” friend about the secret magic of wave riding. What I gained was a great insight into the ocean’s spiritual force, and I took some life lessons from surfing. As the great Hassidic master, The Baal Shem Tov, said: “Every single thing that a person sees or hears, is an instruction to him in his service of G‑d.” We can gain a deeper insight into life from examining the world around us.

As a surfer sits on his or her board, drifting, waiting to catch a wave, there is only the present. Nothing else in the world exists now. None of the material distractions that usually hold sway on our lives matters at this time. There is only this endless, perfect, beautiful ocean.
I liken this to a time of prayer and connection to G-d, as we try to form a bond with the Infinite Being. None of the usual daily distractions matter at that moment in time. It’s just you and Him.

The ocean feels like it’s being pulled and moved by an inexplicable hidden force that can’t be seen, but can be felt

Like the events of our lives, where we think we’re the only ones in control, deep down we sense there’s a higher plan, dictating the events and direction our lives are taking.

As the wave raises you, you know this: either you’re heading for the ride of your life, or you’re wiping out, sometimes lightly and sometimes viciously. Each wave experience improves you.
Life is full of “wipeouts” and “smooth waves.” Yet whether it’s revealed or hidden, we are taught that every “wave” that occurs to us is for the best, coming with good intention.

At the end of the day, after you’ve given it your all in the water, and you attempted to surf and experience something greater than yourself, you leave the ocean a new person: relaxed, on a spiritual high, ready to live your day on a bit of a higher plane.

After a spiritual experience that you’ve worked for, whether in learning a Torah insight, praying or performing a Mitzvah/good deed, we too enter the rest of our day feeling elevated.

A tenet of Jewish living is to see the Divine in all that we do. Wherever we find ourselves this summer, may we experience the beauty of the world around us and the experiences we are offered, all the while learning and elevating ourselves through them. Surf’s up!


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