I can’t believe it’s already a week since I swam in the all women Swim4Sadna swimathon. I’m still on a high. I had always wanted to participate, swimming across Lake Kinneret to raise awareness and funds for Sadnat Shiluv, an“integrative workshop” that gives people with special needs the right tools to be part of society. But somehow it never worked out before. I always found an excuse, why I couldn’t do it. (One excuse being that I don’t like asking people for money so how would I ever be able to raise the funds one commits to raising for Sadnat Shiluv in order to participate in the swim. I still haven’t managed to raise everything that I promised to yet, and am still working on that. This years funds are directed towards building an educational complex Yuvalim, the new elementary school of Sadnat Shiluv.
This year I decided to join no matter what. Once I made the decision to try, I didn’t let anything get in the way. I was so focused on my training for the swim. Every day I managed to find a pool that offered women’s only swim time, in which to do my ever increasing number of laps.
Besides the feeling of accomplishment I had when I swam up to the finish line after swimming two kilometers in the Kinneret, there were a few things about the event that were especially significant especially at this time of year leading up to Shavuot :
1) Firstly, the swimathon came to be because of Vivienne Glaser. She always wanted to participate in a cross Kinneret swim, but these were always held on Shabbat. As an observant Jew, Vivienne’s dream was to organize a swim across the Kinneret on any other day of the week – just not on Shabbat. She also is very involved in Sadnat Shiluv. She decided to combine both passions. For the first swim she was able to find 80 interested women. With her determination this year was the 10th year of the swimathon that had over 400 women participating. Women began swimming as early as 6:15 on Friday morning, with plenty of time for all participants to get home befor Shabbat. This sporting event is based around the Jewish value of keeping Shabbat. There should be more such events.
2) Secondly, was the unique atmosphere at the Thursday evening pre-swim event for the women of the swimmathon, held outside right next to the kinneret. One woman stepped up to the microphone and recited the blessing on sefirat ha ‘omer, and all the women answered amen together. Not just a Jewish sporting event, but one to raise the spirit, to constantly move upwards, counting accomplishments, raising funds so people with disabilities could maximize their potential in a Jewish environment.
3) Thirdly, when the Beit Hamikdash stood in Jerusalem, Shavuot, was a time for ALIYA L’REGEL, when people brought bikurim from the seven species the land of Israel is blessed with. One of these fruits is dates- and dates were being given out during the swim to women who needed a boost of energy in order to go on. The fruits of the land of Israel are a boost for our soul.
4) Fourthly, swimming is great fun. On hot days it’s a pleasure to be in the water. Thinking of the water in the Kinneret reminded me that water is a metaphor for Torah. Torah is as important to Jews as water is to fish – both are indispensable sources of life. That is why Rabbi Akiva taught Torah even though the Roman’s forbade it. He felt Jews would perish like fish out of water if they didn’t continue learning Torah. On Shavuot we spend a lot of time learning Torah.
5) Fifthly, was the inspiration of seeing all the other 400 women, with their pink bathing caps on their heads, advancing through the water. Some women chose to do the crawl, others the back stroke, and some even the side stroke. Each woman did the stroke of her choice, pushing forward to reach her own goal. This was no race with people competing against each other. It was truly a cooperative adventure with all the women working together, encouraging each other watching out for the safety of one another, trying to reach the mutual goal. Truly an experience!
It made me think, just days before the holiday of Shavuot, when we celebrate receiving the Torah, what it must have been like standing at Har Sinai -” K’ISH ECHAD, BLEV ECHAD – As one man, with one heart”. Everyone together to receive the Torah from God. TORAH means both ” teach – HORA’AH” and “light – ORAH”. The Torah teaches us and gives us direction in every aspect of our lives; basic daily life, interactions with others, business and family life. It offers the ethical and moral guidance we need to navigate throughout time and space.
May we make this Shavuot a time to increase our achdut, as well as our dedication to the Torah and following it’s moral and ethical rules.
For all those who say Yizkor, where we say ” Bli neder Eten zedaka bado – I will bli neder give charity in the honor of the deceased” if you are looking for a worthy cause you can donate to Sadnat Shiluv to help children reach their potential and help me reach my fundraising goal. Its not to late.
All donations are tax deductible. Just click on the link:
( Written by Rakel Berenbaum, swimmer, scribe and supporter}