Someone cast their sins into a pond. Then something totally unexplainable happened...
A friend was moving and gave us some goldfish. The expressed intent was that the fish would be put into a pond. We decided to build a small pond in front of our house, and kept the fish in an aquarium until it was built. The digging turned into a three-week project. Finally the liner was placed and it was filled with water and after about a week we put the fish in. We even made our deadline of Rosh Hashana 5764 (2003), and many people came to do Tashlich [prayers said next to water symbolically casting one's sins into the depths].
Out of all the fish, only one survived: A robust comet-style goldfish. She had a gorgeous long tail, and was brilliant red-orange with smaller swirls of pure white on her sides, hence we affectionately named her Swirly. Of course Swirly had to have a companion, so after a half an hour of fish examination at the pet shop, we bought a bright, solid red-orange goldfish which we called Sparky. They were very happy together in their new pond.
The next year, the pond was completely done with all the landscaping, and a natural stone path leading up to it. There were a few new occupants: some frogs, especially one big elusive one, and many baby goldfish- yes indeed, Swirly and Sparky turned out to be a breeding pair! Swirly was so friendly she would come up and eat out of our hand. All we really had to do was pour the food directly into her mouth, because she actually came part-way out of the water to get her food with her mouth wide open! Swirly grew about a third longer than Sparky (as female fishes do), and Sparky's fins grew long and flowing. They were a beautiful pair indeed with their bright red-orange colors.
Rosh Hashana 5765 came, and the pond was ready to receive visitors. Swirly was ready too. A good portion of the community came for Tashlich. Two days after Rosh Hashana, a curious thing happened... Swirly started getting pale. Granted we were a little concerned about it, but she still had a good appetite. Each day we watched her to see how she was doing. Two days after Yom Kippur, Swirly had become so light, that she had only one orange area left on her nose. We were really watching her, thinking that she was sick. Then on Hoshanah Rabbah, she had turned entirely white!
We have had experience with fish, having studied ichthyology and managing a Sea Farm in Hawaii. When a fish starts to mature, it is not uncommon for it to develop or even lose pigment, but Swirly had already became mature enough for egg-laying a year earlier! Her size and age were well beyond the stage of a "maturing" fish. Sickness or disease can make a fish "pale out", but this is usually accompanied by one or more other symptoms such as bloating, loss of appetite, erratic swimming, etc. Aside from color, she showed no signs of illness- parasitic, fungal or otherwise. Swirly was just as friendly, active and hungry as ever. A fish cannot just turn totally white, unless perhaps it has been dead for a day or two! We can safely say that scientifically there is absolutely no explanation for what we observed.
However, we have a Jewish explanation as to why this happened. On Yom Kippur, a red thread was hung in the Beit Hamikdash [Temple], representing our sins. The people eagerly watched the thread. If their sins were forgiven, Hashem made a miracle happen. The thread would turn white in fulfillment of the Scripture
We don't know who davened [prayed] at our pond that year, but someone must have had a whole lot of kevanah [focus] and achieved complete teshuvah [repentance], because their sins were obviously forgiven. Just like the crimson thread miracle, Swirly must have turned white as a sign. It is said that a person's fate for the year to come is sealed on Hoshanah Rabbah, and that was the day she had turned totally white and stayed white the rest of her life. Only Hashem is capable of this kind of miracle!
Ketivah Vachatimah Tovah [May you be written and sealed for good],
The Jewlight Staff
(Based on an article originally written by Jewlight Co-Founder Chasya Katriela, and edited by the Jewlight CEO, DH.)
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