Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Av 5766 - August 1, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Home and Family

The Jellyfish
by W. G.

The jellyfish have arrived. Last year they were all large and bright blue with a navy blue edge. This year, they range from very small to very large. Their color ranges from an opaque white to a pale blue mixed with a transparent white, to a uniform dull darkish blue. The only constant factor is their sting.

I was walking home along the beach, carefully picking my way between numerous jellyfish stranded at the water's edge, when I saw a sponge lying on the beach, yellow and puffy and absorbent. Dried out and sold over a counter, it becomes a useful item in the home. What purpose do jellyfish serve? What role do they play in our world?

Last year, fascinated by these beautiful bright blue creatures, I had made inquiries of experts, even sending them photos. I discovered then that there are people all over the world who spend their whole lives studying jellyfish. Not only that, but they even devote their studies to one species only. They analyze the habitat, the chemical composition of the sting, and investigate all sorts of tiny details. But the question of why there are jellyfish in the world, exactly what they contribute to the environment, doesn't seem to be considered.

Could it be that by feeding on plankton, jellyfish clean up some of the pollution that men thoughtlessly feed into the sea? Are they some essential part of the food chain? I don't know. But every year they appear at the beginning of the swimming season and disappear by Tisha B'av.

Arriving home today, I saw on my desk photos sent to me by my sister. We had been for a walk and she had picked one of the flowers from a patch of weeds.

"Look here. See that black spot? Touch it. See it looks like a small black insect, but it isn't. It's a part of the flower. Now, look inside. See those little black insects moving around. Well they are needed for the pollinating process.

"When these little black insects fly over the plant and see the small black spot, they think that the plant must be safe and suitable, since one of their kind is already there. It is a way of attracting them. Isn't it amazing how Hashem has taken care of every detail for this plant which we consider a weed? So now I was thinking not only "Why jellyfish?" but also "Why weeds?" The answer for weeds came to me fairly quickly. These big empty patches of land are usually covered with weeds. The weeds hold the soil together. They prevent erosion. Who would care for a vacant patch? Who would worry if the soil was being blown away? Only Hashem cares and by providing weeds, sturdy plants, well suited to the environment, planted not by man, but by wind and animals and insects, the land is preserved in good condition.

So why there are jellyfish remains a problem in my mind. However, not every problem in life is soluble. So many things remain unknown to us. Scientists studying one species of jellyfish all their lives will no doubt, in the fullness of time, come up with an answer.

I wonder though, why does the secular world accept the work of these academicians as valuable, acceptable, worthy of a large salary and prestige? So much work on such a small subject! And yet, these same scholars dismiss our world, with its viable and productive code of life, with its devotion to scholastics in the form of Torah study, a place where all answers can be found — so cavalierly?


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