Underwater Light

"If I ... dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Psalm 139:9.10).

Editor’s introduction: I met Mr. Gitomer on a plane trip recently when I ‘happened’ to be sitting in the same row as he. He was working on this manuscript for the children at Yom Kippur services in his synagogue. He kindly sent us a copy at my request. His experience he relates here is so in keeping with this month’s theme of "light" and we are grateful for his permission to print it. The Scripture and the title above as well as the format are editor’s choice.

This is the time in the service where we read a Bible story about a Jewish man who lived a long time ago who thought he could run away from God. The story of Jonah is also about a big fish, a whale, who swallows Jonah when he is trying to run away from God. A question I would like for you to think about is one Jonah was in the belly of he whale, deep under the Mediterranean Sea, how did God find him? Or should the question be, did Jonah, in the body of the whale, deep under the sea, find God?

Before we get back to this question, a little background information. I am here today following a tradition that my father who died 7 years ago started when I was a little boy about the same age as some of you. He read the story of Jonah at Yom Kippur services for many years. In his memory, I have continued this reading since he died.

In years past, I have told a fish story about my grandson Jesse who was named after his great-grandfather. In that story Jesse caught a big fish and decided to release it because he wanted it to live and grow bigger. This was an act of compassion just as was the decision by God, in the story of Jonah, to allow the people of Ninevah to live because they had repented, and act of compassion. This year I have:

No Fish Story But A God story.

This past summer I spent some time at the ocean along the Jersey shore. It was a special place and a special time because it was where my fiancée, Cynthia and I chose to get married. Now a wedding is a very holy experience as it is a new beginning, a renewal of life for its participants. Preparation for this event in Jewish tradition sometimes includes a visit to the Mikvah, a ceremonial bath for a spiritual preparation. Now the largest Mikvah in the whole wide world is the Atlantic Ocean! Since it was literally a hop, skip and jump from our house, this was the place I chose for:

My "Spiritual Preparation"

Several days before my wedding, I walked down to the ocean and dove into the water. Totally submerged with my eyes closed, I saw an amazing vision. It was a long circular tunnel with the most brilliant light shining at the end. I recognized this vision as one I have read described by people having near death experience when suddenly a light appears to signal their ability to start life anew, a rebirth.

A second dive revealed the same vision. Wow! Where were these visions coming from?

Then the morning of my wedding, I wanted to see this vision again so I did another submersion. This time what I saw, totally submersed with eyes shut, was two vertical streaks of light as though they were candles standing aside one another, and above two intertwined streaks of light appearing as a single flame.

Another amazing vision.

I couldn’t resist another dive to observe this vision and what I saw this time was even more amazing. The two vertical lights had become one as if they were magically united. Where was this coming from?

I truly believe that this series of visions with eyes closed, under the water, were God’s messages. I truly believe that as Jonah found out it is not possible to hide from God because God’s presence goes with you where ever you are. All you have to do is recognize God’s presence and divinely inspired messages are available to us all.

So to go back to my original question, did God really find Jonah in the belly of the whale deep under the sea, or did Jonah find God? My vote goes for Jonah finding God.