One Fish, Two Fish, Old Fish, Blue Fish


We recently got a fish. Not a goldfish, though. A blue one. It's called a beta fish actually, which loosely translates to: less upkeep for the fish's grandparents than a goldfish would have been. And yes, I officially became a fish grandmother in my late 20's, as my daughter, the fish's proprietor, is the mommy.

He's a pretty blue fish with mauve highlights that nicely compliment the mauve fish tank he swims around in. I can't watch the fish for too long though, because I start to feel bad for the little guy and imagine setting him free in the toilet à la "Finding Nemo".

What's his life leading up to, I wonder? Hasn't he swum around that darn tank a thousand times already? Today? Then someone told me that fish brains are so small that every time the fish turns a corner, it's like it never happened.

There's a very friendly old man, who lives in our building, but unfortunately, for as long as I've known him, he has had the memory capacity of a fish. It's very sad to watch. I've bumped into him around the building nearly every day for the last three years, yet each time he sees me, it's like it never happened.

All this fishy business got me to thinking about the bowl of life that we humans flit around in. We keep ourselves entertained by staying busy and doing new things, but as it says in the Torah (in the book of Ecclesiastes) "There's nothing new under the sun." Everything that's happening now, that seems so fresh and exciting – it's all happened before. It'll all happen again. Round and round, like a fish in a fish bowl.

While I worry about the little fishy's boredom, I can at least take comfort in knowing that he's not pondering his own existence. But how about us able-minded humans? Do we use the capabilities that we've been given to ask the bigger questions, or do we stay distracted by all the little things in life? We like to delude ourselves in to believing that all the details that we get caught up in actually matter. But they don't.

The only real way that we can differentiate ourselves from that minuscule, cold-blooded creature (that I swear I will NOT flush to freedom) is to use our minds and spirits to transform our actions into ones that transcend this world. If we choose not to, in a sense, we remain as captive in our lives, as a fish is in its bowl.




  1. Allison,
    I’m not sure what you mean by “transcend” in this instance. What do you mean? It’s a great word, but too easy to use in a very foggy way. You might assume your readers already know what you mean, but they may not. If a suicidal terrorist wants to transcend the world, he blows up himself and others. I realize that’s an extreme and absurd example, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it tells us that without some kind of context, the idea of transcendence is elusive. What, to you, are “actions that transcend this world”?
    Best Regards,

  2. Great question, Richard. When I say a transcendent action, I’m referring to an action that has a spiritual component to it. While we Jews don’t simply live “for the sake of heaven” and are very connected to this world, we do have the ability to do things – which we call mitzvos – that connect to the ultimate Source (God). Unfortunately words like mitzvah and God come with a lot of baggage and pre-conceived notions that are probably not so accurate, so I tried to avoid the word mitzvah here by describing it as an act that transcends the simple physicality of this world. A mitzvah, even once a person has left this world, continues to exist in a spiritual realm. A cool thing about mitzvos is that we don’t have to go off and live in a cave somewhere, removed from everything. Mitzvos are things that we can do, every day, in a regular, mundane way, but are elevated to a higher level. Perhaps I’ll blog about this topic at some point in the future to elucidate further.

  3. Be sure not to put two male betas in the same tank. They’re very aggressive fish, and only one will survive.

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