The kayak is a small, human-powered boat, steered by a double-sided paddle. It is lightweight and flexible, making it ideal for a variety of purposes. Kayak racing is a popular sport. However, the speed of a kayak is limited by the drag of the water on the boat. The faster the kayak is paddled, the more water is churned up, which drags the kayak backwards. A conventional kayak is limited to a maximum speed of ten kilometers per hour.
However, two Norwegian inventors, Einar Rasmussen and Peter Ribe, have designed a new twist on the traditional kayak. They have fitted a kayak with hydrofoils, T-shaped extensions applied to the bottom of the kayak. The hydrofoils raise the hull of the boat above the water, reducing the drag and allowing the kayak (named Flyak) to reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
This clever invention is not the first attempt by mankind to rise above the churning waters. In Chassidic teachings, the physical world with its many challenges is often symbolized by a stormy sea. The waves constantly threaten to throw us off course and overwhelm us, in our quest to reach our goals and fulfill our mission in this world. In fact, the harder we strive, the greater are the obstacles that seem to rise up and engulf us.
Is there a way to glide peacefully above the obstacles that threaten from below? The Hebrew word for boat is “Teiva.” Teiva also means “word.” The Baal Shem Tov taught that when G-d brought a flood to the world, He commanded Noah to enter the Teiva. Through entering the "Teiva" - the words of Torah and prayer - we are protected from all the storms and floodwaters of this world.
Study of Torah, especially the teachings of Chassidus, provides us with spiritual sustenance and stability. Through following these teachings, we learn how to overcome the vicissitudes of this world. Through Torah study, we experience peace of mind. Rather than being dragged along by whatever life throws in our path, we learn how to rise above the challenges, and even serve as a source of strength for others.
However, the key is not to stop paddling, even for a moment. Don't get discouraged, even when the waves seem to be piling one on top of the other. The moment you are not moving forward, you will begin to slide back. When faced with obstacles, simply resolve to redouble your efforts, and you will be rewarded by an even greater increase in progress.
In our generation, we have an added motivation to increase in Torah study. The Lubavitcher Rebbe has informed us as a prophecy that the coming of Moshiach is imminent. The best way to prepare for his coming is through studying the Torah sources on the topic of Redemption. This will help us visualize the days of Moshiach, and act in a way that will hasten his arrival.
Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.