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Saved From the Sea

Menachem Ladaev and Guy Kantor have been friends for years. Together they had shared many experiences, but one adventure remains seared in their memories forever.

Four years ago, the two friends decided to spend an afternoon on the beach in Bat Yam, Israel. That day happened to be the yahrtzeit of the father of a friend of theirs, who had died in a tragic drowning accident. The friend was holding a gathering in his father’s memory, asked Guy to share some teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that he would give over at the gathering.

The day was the 19th of Av, and Guy chose a talk of the Rebbe that had been delivered on the 20th of Av, 50 years before. It was an explanation of the phrase, "knowing the illness is half the cure." The Rebbe explained that the negative effects of exile were due to a spiritual illness. Once we understand the nature of this illness, it is already half a victory, and we are halfway to the complete victory with the true and complete Redemption.

When Guy and Menachem arrived at the water, it was already late afternoon. Shortly after they got into the water, the lifeguards announced that they were leaving for the day and that swimmers were now responsible for their own safety. Guy and Menachem did not pay much attention; they thought it was a routine warning to swimmers.

The sun was already beginning to set, and the two friends decided to go for one last swim. They were quite a distance from the shore when they noticed that they were the last two swimmers left in the water. "This is it, time to turn around," Guy called to Menachem.

The two turned around and headed back to the beach. But after a few long minutes they realized that they were still far from land and safety. The sea waters had become dangerously turbulent and prevented them from reaching the shore. After several attempts they realized that they had a problem. The sea was stronger than they were -- and there was no soul around who could save them.

Guy still did not panic. He believed that they could successfully overcome the currents and return to shore. However, when he noticed that Menachem was starting to swallow water, he realized that they were in serious trouble.

Holding on to Guy, Menachem would lift himself up and spit out the water he had swallowed, which in turn caused Guy to sink  under the waves. And so the two went up and down in turn, holding on to each other, and with each wave that washed over them they felt their strength ebb away.

From the depths of their hearts they cried out to G-d, pleading for their lives.

After a few minutes, which seemed like forever, Guy and Menachem noticed two surfers on the beach, about to get into the water. "Help! Help! We are drowning,"  they screamed with their last energy.

At first the surfers thought the two were playing a prank. From where they stood the waters appeared calm, and gave no hint to the treacherous currents under the surface. But they soon realized that the swimmers were in serious distress. They surfed towards them, and Guy and Menachem climbed up onto the surfboards. Finally they could rest their weary muscles. Now the surfers had the daunting task of surfing back to the beach, with their two weakened passengers in tow -- and this they could not manage to do.

The four of them were rescued by a man who appeared suddenly on the beach, apparently accustomed to such sights. He swam out towards them, picked up one of them and dragged him back to the beach, and then did the same with the next three swimmers until all four of them were on firm ground. "Thank G-d that I had the merit to save lives," the anonymous rescuer said simply, and disappeared from the scene.

Later Guy and Menachem learned that at the very moment they were being rescued, their friend was repeating the talk of the Rebbe that Guy had taught him. When he got home Guy re-read that talk of the Rebbe, and was shocked to read this paragraph, which he had not read previously:

"In response to the argument that during their prayers, chassidim shake and make various movements with their hands and other limbs, when during prayer we are supposed to stand with humility before G-d... The Baal Shem Tov responded with an analogy to a person who is drowning and makes various movements to save himself. Someone who is standing on shore might think that he should make other movements to be rescued... but nevertheless, nobody would question the movements of the drowning person, since it is obvious that in that state he is unable to think exactly which movements he should make..."


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