The morning mist rolled over the hills surrounding the lake as a bearded man, bundled for the morning cold, trudged wearily out of shallows and onto the shore. A roped fishing net hung over his shoulder, dripping wet from the waves and empty: a reminder of all the work left undone. He knew from years of this trade that no fish meant no dinner, and no income. He looked at his younger brother, and the two teenage boys he was teaching how to fish, whose nets were also empty despite being on the water all night… the morning light spelled exhaustion on his face as well.
The two brothers couldn’t help but notice some distance away that a small crowd had gathered around something of interest. Upon a closer glance, they noticed that it was a man. Sighing heavily, the tired fisherman was reminded of how tired he was of the rabbis and all their talk, or maybe it was just his frustration from the lack of fish … let the Rabbis teach, he thought, while the rest of us survive… Undoubtedly this was another Rabbi, sharing his teaching with whoever would listen. He turned his attention back to the more important task at hand and continued cleaning his empty net.
Not a few moments passed when he noticed that the Rabbi was walking towards him and the small crowd was following. The tired fisherman nodded at his brother, alerting him to be prepared for a religious discourse on why they hadn’t caught any fish.
But to the brothers’ astonishment, the Rabbi walked right past them, picked up one of the uncleaned nets, and hoisted it back into the boat.
“You’re not done fishing…”
“Rabbi, respectfully, we have fished all night and caught nothing.”
“Throw out your nets one more time.”
Normally the man wouldn’t listen to the absurd request, but he was a devout man and his respect for the Law was unwavering. And there was something about this Rabbi that was …. arresting … maybe it was something about his penetrating gaze, the resolute look in his eyes that was at once both exceedingly ferocious and tenderly compassionate.
“Alright Teacher, we’ll try one last time.”
Within a few minutes they were back out on the water. The moment they dropped their nets to drag behind the boat they began to fill with schools of tilapia. The weight of the net was so great that the boat could barely carry it.
As the brothers drug the bursting nets onto the shore and spilled hundreds of squirming mackerel onto the rocky sand the fisherman’s gaze met the Rabbi’s…
… and then he spoke the words that would change everything … words he would never forget …
“From now on you will fish for the souls of people…”
It was as if a curtain that had been over his eyes had been pulled down for the first time and within him welled up a peculiar feeling that had some mixture of peace and purpose.
Almost suddenly the fish they had caught didn’t seem quite so important anymore…