Swimming and Judaism


According to the sages of the Talmud (Kiddushin 29a), there are a few things a father is obligated to do for his son:

1. Circumcise him,
2. redeem him from the priests, if he’s a firstborn,
3. teach him Torah,
4. find him a wife, and
5. teach him a trade.

In the context of Talmudic priorities, the list seems to make sense–these are, after all, big hallmarks in a Jewish life. The passage is followed by a curious footnote: “Some say he must also teach his son to swim.”

Many commentators interpret teaching one’s children to swim as a sign of teaching them to become independent. You can hold a child in the water, but at some point, you have to let them go–hopefully having prepared them to float on their own.

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