Like a Fish Out of Water

The Fellowship  |  January 13, 2020

Fish swimming in the sea with coral behind them.
Photo Friday: The Fish in the Sea Inform You

You have made people like the fish in the sea,
    like the sea creatures that have no ruler. — Habakkuk 1:14

As we begin a new year and a new decade, let the pursuit of wisdom be one of your top goals. Enjoy this collection of devotions on wisdom throughout the month from Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s timeless teachings.

As we honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, download our complimentary booklet on the historic and spiritual bond between the Jewish and African-American communities.

The prophet Habakkuk says that God created people like “fish in the sea.” How so?

Akiva, a prominent 1st-century rabbi, made the same comparison. During Akiva’s lifetime, the Roman Empire issued a decree that the Jews were forbidden to study the Torah. But that didn’t stop Akiva. One day, while Akiva was gathering a congregation so that he could publicly teach God’s Word, a man asked, “Akiva! Are you not scared of the government?”

Rabbi Akiva replied, “I will give you a parable. Our situation is like a fox near a riverbed who sees fish darting from place to place. He asks the fish, ‘Why are you fleeing?’ The fish reply, ‘Because of the fisherman’s nets!’ The fox says, ‘Come up here onto dry land and we can live happily together.’ The fish ask, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be clever? You are a fool! If we are afraid here, where we live, how much more so would we be in a place where we are sure to die!’”

“So it is with us who sit and study Torah,” concluded Rabbi Akiva, “and so would we be if we were ever to get up and leave it.” As Rabbi Akiva beautifully demonstrates, people need God’s Word like fish need water. We cannot live without it.

But is that really true? Plenty of people seem just fine living without God in their lives. They don’t seem to be suffering at all.

Have you ever caught a fish? When fish are brought out of water, they are very much alive. They move all over the place doing all kinds of fancy moves and gymnastics. In comparison, the fish in the water, who hardly move at all, look dead! But you and I know what’s coming. The movements of the fish on land are not the dance of life; they are the throes of death. They may look like they are thriving, but they are dying on the inside.

People are the same. Can one exist without God’s Word? Sure. But can they truly live and thrive? Can they grow and blossom? Not really. As it says in Proverbs, “She [God’s wisdom] is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed” (3:18). Scripture is a tree of life. One who wants to truly be alive must cling to it with all of their might.

Download your complimentary copy of our booklet, On the Frontlines of Faith, which explores the historic and spiritual bond between the African-American and Jewish communities during the civil rights movement.

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