As many of you know, we brought our daughter, Abigail, to college last week. Leaving her on campus as she prepared to begin her freshman year was an extremely emotional experience. Cheryl and I both left a big part of our hearts on campus as we began the long drive home. I am happy to report that Abigail has made it through her first week and is doing well! Mom and dad are, well, we are pushing through as we adapt to this major change in our family. It is a good change, an expected change – but, wow, it is really a change. 

I didn’t sleep much after we made it home from dropping Abigail off at school. Right before I went to bed, Abigail called to tell us that she and some friends were going to a remote area to fish the next day. My kid fishing!? We had gone fishing once or twice as she grew up, but we never caught a thing. I am no fisherman and she is no fisherwoman. I couldn’t help but think of the old expression: “Give a person a fish and you’ve given her food for a day; teach her to fish and you’ve given her food for a lifetime.” And this got me thinking that I had not taught my kid how to fish! Maybe I failed to teach her other important skills that will feed her mind, body and soul for a lifetime!? What else had I not taught her? As I got into bed, I tossed and turned questioning whether or not I had prepared Abigail for this moment in her life. Had I given her all the tools she will need to thrive at college? I thought about the Talmudic passage that details many of things a parent is expected to teach his child. While it doesn’t instruct us to teach our kids how to fish, it does say we must teach them how to swim. At least I did that! 

The importance of teaching a person to fish and, therefore, giving her the ability to feed herself, is grounded in Judaism. Maimonides, the medieval Jewish scholar, teaches that it is imperative to teach someone how to sustain herself so that she does not become dependent on others. Whether it be fishing or any other activity or skill that gives us the ability to be self-sufficient empowers us to lead our best lives. In doing so, we “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19) and flourish. 

Had I given my kid the skills she needed to be self-sufficient? 

The next morning, I received this picture from Abigail:
She caught a fish and a big one. She let me know that she tossed it back into the water after she caught it. So, she didn’t eat it (she doesn’t need to as I pay for her school meal plan!), but she showed that, no thanks to me, she can fish! 

One of the things I know that I taught my daughter is the lesson from Pirkei Avot: “Provide for yourself a teacher.” (2:6) No, I haven’t taught her every skill she will need to flourish. Neither has Cheryl or anyone else in her life. To think that any of us could have done this is foolish. But, together, Cheryl and I have taught both of our kids to surround themselves with people who can teach them, inspire them, lift them higher. As Abigail starts college, she has already demonstrated that she is living this lesson. One of her new friends taught her how to fish. May she now have food for a lifetime. And may the many teachers that she will meet during her college experience teach her many more skills that will allow her to choose the path that is right for her and choose the life she meant to live.

2 Comments

  1. Gary Dreispul Reply

    Beautiful story an one I could indetify with. Bless you and your family!

  2. Susan Zelinka Reply

    Love the story!!! You gave her the courage to fish …. and thats a great lesson!!!!

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