13 Av 5780 / Monday, August 03, 2020 | Torah Reading: Eikev
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Light at The End of The Cave    

Light at The End of The Cave

The cave was breathtaking. The sunlight filtered down, the water changed color, fish of all sizes and colors swam around them – the divers were drawn inside like a magnet…


Translated by Esther Cameron

Light at The End of The Cave, Part 1
It was a quiet and peaceful Sabbath morning on the shore of Ras-Natsrani near Sharm-a-Sheikh in the Sinai. The water was very blue, the sun shone with its full brilliance, the red mountains rose in the distance, the Bedouins, who admitted that they looked back with longing to the Israeli regime, danced attendance on the group of divers.
Yoram, the diving instructor, and Oded, a doctor by profession, were leading a routine dive as part of a diving course. Yossi and Chazi were eating breakfast, and the others were waiting for them. They were experienced divers, and after the dive they planned to go to a distant place called Paradise.
After twenty minutes Yoram and Oded emerged from the water. Yoram reported enthusiastically that he had discovered a very beautiful cave at great depth. Without thinking too much, Yossi and his friends decided to dive down and explore the cave.
Diving, as everyone knows, is not like driving a car. If a car breaks down you can pull over to the side of the road and repair it. Diving is a match between life and death, played on a watery field. A split-second decision can be fateful.
So why are divers willing to take such risks? No one who does not dive, especially on the Sinai coast, can understand it. There you find fish in a great variety of colors and forms, spectacular corals in all the colors of the rainbow, a different world, another planet. Enveloped in water, you are detached from the earth and surrounded by an infinite silence. The only sound you hear is your own breathing through the regulator attached to your mouth.
The three divers began descending to the cave, which lay beneath eighty feet of water. The dive was especially beautiful, fish surrounded them on all sides, creatures of crimson and turquoise that no eye sees from without. Beneath them they saw grottos and valleys, a wonderful new world spread out beneath their eyes.
They got down to the depth of eighty feet. At that depth one's senses are slightly dulled. It is impossible to do even a simple calculation. Different laws are acting upon man, he floats lightly above the abyss, does not see the bottom but only a deep blue. Caution is necessary, for you never know what might pop up from those depths. Their eyes were open. They looked at one another and signaled to one another in the sign language that is used underwater.
Yoram led his friends to the entrance of the cave they desired to explore. When entering an unknown cave, it is necessary to take precautions, to tie a rope to the opening and go in along the rope, but for some reason the cave did not seem dangerous to them from outside. It seemed simple and pleasant, and they thought this safety measure was unnecessary.
They now went through a somewhat winding passage and entered the cave. The cave was astonishingly beautiful, breathtaking. There were cracks in the ceiling through which the sunlight filtered down, the water changed color, fish of all sizes and colors swam around them. Fish are not frightened of human beings. Beneath the water all are friends. You can even pick them like flowers and put them in your pockets.
The cave was not like a closed room, it had many windings and grottos, branchings and alcoves. They began to explore the cave's recesses. Because of the great depth a sort of intoxication came over them. In their enthusiasm they did not sense the presence of danger.
When a diver strikes the bottom of the Red Sea with his fins, a great cloud of dust billows up like talc. As they passed through one narrow place, someone scraped the bottom, stirring up a cloud of dust that filled the cave. Chazi disappeared from the eyes of his friends. After a long minute they found him and signaled to each other that it was time to get ready to leave. They had only three minutes left in which to do it.
They began to return to the place where they thought the entrance was. There was no entrance. They turned to the right, to the left, backward, forward, straight ahead, no exit. Again to the right, again to the left, this way, that way, they came up against a wall. They went into an alcove and again came up against a wall. Time was growing short.
They had about six minutes' oxygen left.
They began to feel pressured, but they were still sure they would find the opening in the next minute. Again they turned to the right, again they turned to the left, forward, straight ahead. Each direction ended in a wall. The cave was more complicated and ramified than they had imagined.
Four minutes left.
Yossi's brain began working at full steam, trying to find the exit. His heart beat fast, which made matters worse, because when a person becomes agitated underwater he needs three times as much air. He was not yet in a panic -- after all, he had made scores of difficult dives -- but this time the situation was looking more and more impossible.
Two minutes left.
Yossi saw that the air in his reserve balloon had gotten down to the bottom, a situation he had never encountered before. Air contains moisture that condenses inside the balloon, so that drops of water accumulate at the bottom. Yossi felt, to his terror, that these drops were now coming into his throat.
His two companions halted for a moment, landing, in diver fashion, on their knees. Yossi looked into their faces and saw the fear of death written there. Their eyes said everything, and he understood that he too looked like that.
The consciousness now trickled into his brain that they were trapped at a depth of eighty feet, enclosed by the cave on all sides, with no opening to be seen. He turned in circles, looking in all directions, perhaps after all? No! They were at the end of their rope...
Now all the thoughts in the world were passing through his head. He thought of the friends who were waiting for him on shore. They would surely realize that time had run out. They would know where to find the bodies. No doubt the Egyptians would dive into the cave and pull the bodies out and the Red Cross would take them, and then there would be a discussion about how to transport the bodies to Israel. In the newspapers the story would read: "Three Israeli divers were killed in a diving accident near Sharm-a-Sheikh through carelessness."
He began to imagine the funerals. He thought: what will happen? I'm finished, but what about my wife and children? Poor things. What will happen to them? They need me! Who will take care of them? He remembered his mother who had heart disease, who had lost her other son, his brother, a week before his bar mitzvah years ago. She wouldn't be able to take it! His whole family wouldn't be able to take it.
Less than a minute remained. Nothing more to be done...
Yossi had not been brought up on Torah and mitsvot, and he was as far away from them as East from West. He had never turned to the Creator of the world, but without understanding at all, a long desperate cry burst from his heart:
M-A-S-T-E-R O-F T-H-E U-N-I-V-E-R-S-E G-E-T U-S O-U-T O-F H-E-R-E…
To be continued.

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