Sagittarius Surprises

Before dawn, Jerry Westfield and his two excited boys boarded their runabout at Ala Wai Harbor.  Stowing the fishing gear along with their lunch, Jerry yanked the cord and started the Evinrude outboard while his sons tossed the mooring lines onto the dock.

The black sky turned to cloudless cobalt as they slipped out to sea, past the enormous gray hulls of the battleships lying quietly at anchor. It was going to be a glorious day of fishing and their spirits rose along with the sun. The fish were already biting, and the glinting windows of distant Waikiki Beach hotels seemed to be applauding their prowess.  All was well until eight o’clock that morning, December 7, 1941.

To remind oneself of how quickly circumstances can deteriorate, one doesn’t need to reflect back seventy years.  A little over sixteen years ago, on a sunny Tuesday morning in September, the lives of every American changed for the worse.  Most of us can easily identify a moment in our own lives that dashed our dreams.

Whenever pain intrudes into our lives, our first reaction is usually gloom and despair.  However, we also enjoy moments that light up our lives, catapulting our souls from despondency to joy.  Not everything in my life has to be perfect for me still to be very happy.  Because we were created to be happy humans, small things can trigger delight, even in the midst of pain.

Few things banish my personal storm clouds as effectively as a rainbow.  When that miraculous interplay of light and water arcs its colorful way across the heavens, I break into a grin regardless of any melancholy I might be feeling.  This verse always resonates with me: 

I have placed my rainbow in the cloud and it shall be a sign of the covenant
me and the earth.
(Genesis 9:13)

 Actually, every interplay of light and water cheers me.  The silvery sheen of a lazy river; a waterfall on a bright day, and sunshine sparkling off the ocean’s whitecaps all work wonders for me.

I don’t think I’m alone in finding my spirits lifted by water and light.  This might be one reason people flock to beaches, lakes, and rivers for their vacations; also why the fabled Strip in Vegas is kept so bright at night that it can be seen from space.

 Why is this spiritual uplift caused by water and light rather than, say, peanut butter and pickles?  Water and light are the 21st and 25th Hebrew words in Genesis respectively.  Until they appear all we read about are heaven and earth, chaos and darkness. Then God’s spirit appears on the water and God creates light.

 Scripture uses the same Hebrew word for “light” as it does for one form of water, a river.  That Hebrew word is NaHaR.

 Then you shall see and be filled with light {NaHaRt}…
(Isaiah 60:5)

 They looked at him and were lit up {NaHaRu}
(Psalms 34:6)

 A river {NaHaR} flowed out of Eden…
(Genesis 2:10)

 By the rivers {NaHaRot} of Babylon, there we sat and cried…
(Psalms 137:1)

 Water and light are linked both by Creation and by the Lord’s language.  This parallelism reflects the reality that in both water and light we see particles and waves. Both water and light also carry energy. In ancient Jewish wisdom, both water and light represent God’s word. When dark times drag us down, water and light revive us.

 It is thus no surprise that this month in the Jewish calendar, Kislev, is symbolized by the rainbow, a phenomenon caused by the interaction of water and light.  Now that days are short and nights are long, as well as in our own personal dark times, we draw on God’s gift to us, Creation’s primeval energy. Where Greek mythology sees the archer, Sagittarius shooting arrows, ancient Jewish wisdom sees a rainbow of protection.

 Boosting our spirits banishes paralysis and procrastination and unleashes our creative energies. This is a major theme of the holiday of Chanuka which encourages partnering with God to overcome human limitations such as age, economic, and material scarcity.

14 thoughts on “Sagittarius Surprises”

  1. Right before reading this post I saw the below definition on It seems fitting for your thoughts about water and light.

    Moonglade and Moonwake

    You might see moonglade in the lines of poems such as this one by Edgar Rice Burroughs, “Heaven was full of silent stars, and there was a moonglade on the water that stretched almost from him to Rose.” While a moonglade is a flash of moonlight reflecting on water, its synonym moonwake is a great word to describe how the moon’s reflection on the water seems to follow you as you walk along the shore.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you Carolyn–
      Funnily enough I just this week became aware of Grammarly dot com. Although I didn’t think it was useful for me, the quote you found is lovely

  2. Always love this about water and light! Love the rainbow being the very essence of water and light. What a wonderful promise He Gave us! Happy Chanuka! To your wonderful family😊

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thank you dear Susan–
      and a joyous and uplifting Christmas right back at you.
      We appreciate your friendship

  3. Rabbi, thanks for a rainbow in place of a bunch of arrows. Reframes are wonderful, but they are not always easy when one is in the midst of those arrows. People comment that Hanukkah is a minor feast blown up to provide an equivalent of Christmas for Jewish children, but it is still a wonderful, inspirational story, and it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Surely Jesus would rejoice to see your mapping across from one religious tradition to another, especially when they are in a direct line of descent. Peace, love, and joy to you and yours.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Deb–
      Thanks for your good wishes which we appreciate. We utterly reject the ignorant suggestions about Chanukah being a minor or ‘rabbinic’ holyday ‘blown up’ for the children. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a whole lot more than a story. You might want to read about our audio CD program entitled Festival of Light. Look for it by pressing the STORE button up there to the right!

  4. Dear Rabbi,
    Your comments have once again reminded me of how blessed I have been. I am 77 and was stricken with arthritis in 1975, and haven had a completely pain free day since. Still, I wouldn’t have missed a minute of the last thirty years. A wonderfull wife of 50 years. Two great children, a bevy of grand and great grand children, and a satisfying carrier and a home in the beautiful mountains of south central Pennsylvania .are just a sample of of how many blessings that God has sent toward me. Thanks again for the reminder.


    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Brian–
      As I have frequently said and written, gratitude is the portal to optimism and optimism leads to happiness. Your gratitude flow out from your writing and I pray the good Lord continues to bless you with immeasurable happiness and improved health.

  5. Rabbi Lapin,
    Your thoughts and inspiration come at exactly the right time for my family. My son, Scott, who is my business partner, lost his house to a fire on Friday last week. Although everyone is safe, even the pet dog Scooter, there is much sadness for all of us. We need a rainbow in our lives now .
    Some would say that God is testing our faith. That this is happening at this time of year, just before the Soltis and the days we Christians celebrate the birth of our savion, just makes it that much harder.
    But it isn’t a test of faith or resilience or anything else. It is something that happens and something we will get through, by the direction and the love of God.
    Our rainbow will shine through once we get through the minisua of insurance, and lists of lost possessions and the contracting for the new house.
    I do not know if you read a book that was a sensation several years ago, A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT.
    It speaks to the rivers that form and shape our lives, and superficially, fly fishing in Montana. More importantly it shows that you can not save even your brother, no matter how brilliant and charismatic he is if it is not to be. The story could have been the story of my life and that of my brother who died too soon from drugs and alcohol. He was brilliant but as all of us, flawed.
    I find my solace on the water, I used to sail and love your references to trips you have made with Miss Susan. My Susan is the rock I cling to, even if she does not sail after a capsize and a close encounter of the larger power boat kind.
    I am old now and my pond is much smaller, more the size of a canoe and a paddle.
    Rabbi Lapin and Miss Susan thank you for being there and for the inspiration I need from time to time.
    I hope this Holiday season finds you and your family safe from the storms and other invisitudes of life, especially indunations and confligrations .
    I know this is WAY too long for a reply to your essay, and feel free to delete it or crop it. I had to spill a little and since I do not have another Rabbi I know and respect since Rabbi Miller left Temple Emanuel here in Birmingham I unload on you.
    Kiss Miss Susan for me and Shalom
    Bill Brower

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Bill-
      I read every word of your inspiring note. Twice!
      Wishing you many rainbows

  6. You said on one of your TV programs that “everyone needs a Rabbi”. In addition you said that if we didn’t have a Rabbi you would be our Rabbi. Well, even though I’m Baptist, I accept your offer and will claim you as my Rabbi. Thank you.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Mike–
      I always say that everyone needs a rabbi. But you left out the first part of what I always say: “Regardless of your faith, everyone needs a rabbi–and those with no faith at all REALLY need a rabbi!!!”
      Honored to serve,

Comments are closed.

Shopping Cart