Life Advice from a Long-time Swimmer: Swim 100 laps every day

The Tosefta quotes Rabbi Meir (2nd century CE Talmudic scholar) saying that everyone should strive to recite 100 blessings each day. It then goes on to enumerate them - mostly in daily prayers.

Let's play with the word for blessings. They are berakhot ברכות in ancient Hebrew. Okay then. In modern Hebrew the laps that one swims in a pool are called berechot בריכות. A blessing is a berachah and a pool - and a lap in a pool - is a berechah.

I playfully read the ancient Talmud this way: Don't say 100 berakhot (blessings), say 100 berechot (laps).
Footnote about Meir from Wikipedia: Meir was buried in a standing position near the Kinneret. It is said that he asked to be buried this way so when the Final Redemption occurs, Rabbi Meir would be spared the trouble of arising from his grave and could just walk out to greet the Jewish Messiah. He requested that he be buried in Israel by the seashore so that the water that washes the shores should also lap his grave (Jerusalem Talmud, Kelaim 9:4).
And so I have crafted some Talmudic encouragement for myself to swim 100 laps a day. On many days each year, I do get to that goal.

Here are a few of my past reflections on swimming...

Some time ago, JTA reported that "Liberal men take the plunge into ritual immersion, slowly" -- Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jewish men were going to mikvah pools and finding it meaningful. Sue Fishkoff wondered why and so did I.

She ended her article with a quote from mikvah user and attorney Merrill Hassenfeld, “We’re always doing things for others, why don’t we set aside time to go to the mikvah?” he asked. “It prepares us to go out into the world and start yelling and screaming again.” (Has a greater non-sequiteur ever been uttered?)

Now, my confession. I am a pool addict. I am a lap swimmer.

Starting in 1982 my aim was to try to swim a mile - 64 laps every day. Finding the time. Finding a pool. Finding the energy. Not easy. Since 2013 I raised the lap level to 100 a day - a mile and a half. About 400 miles a year.

When I come out of my pool, I find that I feel healthier, more centered and completely relaxed. Swimming a mile in around 30 minutes is hard, aerobic work. That is what I have to invest to get results from my "mikvah" experience. I'm happy to observe that others can achieve their own "incredible" positive benefits from splashing around in a state of heightened imagination.

I have sought out pools to swim my laps all over the world. My most favorite pool was the old Gordon Pool on Tel Aviv beach near the Sheraton, pictured below from a few years ago (c. 2007).

It was one of the wonders of the world. Each night they emptied the entire 50 meter pool, cleaned it and refilled it from underground saltwater wells 120 meters below. The pool opened at 5 AM at 24 degrees, which was just fine for us lap swimmers.

Suddenly, the Gordon pool was leveled in 2008 without warning by the city of Tel Aviv. Happily, they rebuilt and reopened it as a more modern facility. I swam there in 2011. It's wonderful.

I admit that 100 laps is an arbitrary goal. But for me, most days, it's exhilarating!

2023 update: Sorry Rabbi Meir - most days I now swim 80 laps - 2000 yards. My aim now is for a good pace and an efficient stroke. I try to keep my workout to under 1000 strokes and under 40 minutes. 

Is it a blessing to continue swimming daily? Yes, it is like 100 blessings!

[reposted with enhancements each year from 5/20/09]

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