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June 02, 1989 - Image 138

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-06-02

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sh A Fish Out Of Water: A Fable

During the time of Rabbi Akiba,
the Romans persecuted the Jews.
One of the things that they made
punishable by death was studying
the Torah. Rabbi Akiba refused to
obey the Romans and continued
studying anyway. Many people
thought that he was very foolish to
take chances this way, and were
unhappy with him for convincing his
students to join him in his
disobedience. Finally, someone
asked him:
"Akiba, aren't you afraid of the
Akiba answered:
"I will tell you a story," and
Akiba related his tale.
Once, on a hot summer day, a
hungry fox found himself near a
river bank. He had been very
unsuccessful all morning in catching
a meal for himself, and the more
tired he got the more he decided to
rely on his own cleverness — of
which he was very vain — to get his
lunch. So he lay down on his
stomach, with his head leaning over
the bank. He watched the water
Soon, he saw a school of tiny
fish rushing downstream, all
huddled together. He called out to
them to stop, but they yelled back
to him that they were running away
from the fishermen's nets and didn't


,,..• ■•■ -•-•••• ■ •


quick for him and, hardly pausing in
their quarrel, darted away
Suddenly, the fox heard a deep,
low voice. He looked down into the
water. Directly under him, hugging
the edge of the bank, was a big, old
"Foolish youngsters, aren't
they?" the old fish said, nodding
his head in the direction of the
fighting fish. He didn't seem to have
noticed that the fox had been trying
to catch them.
The fox thought he saw his
e nc es
"I couldn't agree with you
dare slow down. On, out of sight,
more, sir," he said very politely, and
they went.
shook his head in vehement
Next, the fox's attention was
agreement. "In fact, I've been
drawn to two fish that were fighting
resting here for a while — terribly
with one another. Back and forth,
hot day, you know. Or perhaps you
round and round, they swam,
don't." This wasn't at all a good
churning up the water, alternately
start, and wasn't leading where he
attacking and running away from
wanted to take the conversation.
each other. They paid no attention
"At any rate," he continued,
to the shadow of the fox above the
"I've been lying here just watching
water, not even when his paw
moved out above them. All at once, life go by down in the water. And I
he swooped down and tried to grab must tell you that I am very
depressed. I never realized what a
one of them. But they were too



FRIDAY, JUNE 2, 1989

hard life you fish had."
The old fish sighed. "it is true,"
he agreed. "We fish do not live in
harmony with one another. And,
much worse, we are constantly in
need of guarding against human's
nets and fish hooks. They're always
about to trap us. Not that the land
animals are any better, for that
matter." He glanced quickly at the
fox, who pretended that he hadn't
heard the last remark.
The fox continued: "I have a
suggestion to make. Why don't you
come up on dry land? We can live
together the way our first ancestors
did. It is much more peaceful on
land. Come, let me help you."
The fox leaned over as far as
he safely could, digging his hind
paws into the bank. He eagerlly
reached to help the old fish up onto
the bank. His tongue was hanging
out from the effort and, without
even realizing it, he licked his lips.
He could practically taste that fish
already. Sure it was old. But it was
With a flick of his tail, the fish

darted out of the fox's range.
"I always thought that foxes
were supposed to be smart," the
fish said. "Aren't you the one that
they call clever? You aren't clever at
all, you know. I would say that you
are very foolish."
The fox drew back, in anger,
frustration and embarrassment.
The fish went on: "If we are
afraid here in the water, where we
live, what chance is there for us on
dry land? Here at least we can
breathe. If we can swim, we can
escape. Here we are at home. What
good is a fish out of water?
Particularly," he added, as he slowly
began to swim away, "when smooth
talking foxes sit waiting to devour
Rabbi Akiba finished his story,
and smiled at his visitor. "We are
like the fish, of course," he said.
"The fish cannot live without water.
A Jew cannot live without Torah. If
we are in danger now, while we are
studying the Torah, imagine how
much worse it would be if we
stopped studying!"

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