Reflections from the Sea of Galilee

Yael Eckstein  |  July 14, 2020

The sun rising over the Sea of Galilee as a single boat is in the water.
(Photo: IFCJ)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took our family on a much-needed vacation to the Sea of Galilee. Resting and playing on this ancient body of water is always special, but this year it had added meaning.

After years of dangerously low water levels, the Sea of Galilee has finally become full again! Fully grown trees are half submerged in the water, when just last year they were on dry land. This year, more than ever, it was such a blessing to behold a vision that proves God can turn around any situation.

A Spiritual Journey in Times of Crisis

At the end of our vacation, my son asked me if I was sad that it was over. I answered that I was not upset the vacation was over – not because I didn’t have a good time, and not because it wouldn’t be nice to stay anther few days, but because I made up my mind not to spend time feeling bad about things that I cannot control. Sure, I could stew in feelings of frustration and disappointment, but nothing good would come out of that. Instead, I made a conscious choice to feel gratitude for the time that we had, and then move on to what God has in store for me next.

Learning to focus my attention and energy on the things that I can control and letting go of the things that I cannot has been part of my spiritual journey. And right now, it is these qualities of focus and faith that are helping me cope as Israel enters a second wave of coronavirus and the world at large struggles with the crisis.

One of the most difficult aspects of this current crisis is that so much about it is unknown and beyond our control. People are struggling with the fear of getting sick, with the impact on our economy, and with the emotional effects of isolation. Whatever our struggles, we are all in this together, even if we experience it differently.

The Three Weeks

Right now, we are in the middle of a time on the Jewish calendar known as “The Three Weeks,” a time that will end later this month with the holiday of Tisha B’Av. This solemn day marks the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and many other tragedies that befell the Jewish people on this date throughout millennia. Thus, The Three Weeks is also a solemn time, as we recall the many difficulties Jews have faced as well as our current challenges. Yet, it is also a time to draw strength and hope, knowing that just as we survived so many other trials, we will also overcome our current conditions.

The Jewish approach to difficult times has always been the same. We take meaningful action to protect ourselves to the best of our abilities and then let go and trust God. We do not sit back and do nothing at all. And we don’t become overly caught up in trying to control situations beyond our ability. It is a balance – a dance with God – in which we and God each take different steps, but take them together.

Restoration, Renewal, and Blessings

In Deuteronomy 4:15, the Bible instructs us, “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully.” This phrase teaches us that we must do our part in taking care of our wellbeing. But then, once we have done all we can, we let go and let God. As we read in Isaiah 12:2, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

As we continue on this journey, I pray that we all learn the art of this dance and remember that we never dance alone. If we stay focused on our steps, and trust God to do His part, we will pass through this difficult season with grace and, with God’s help, enter into a season of everlasting joy. Like the Sea of Galilee, may God restore us, renew us, and grant us even more blessings!

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael Eckstein's Signature