I am a native Hebrew speaker and I find it difficult to translate and understand the Berayta in Kiddushin 30b (in the name or R' Akivah):

"ויש אומרים אף להשיטו בנהר מאי טעמא חיותיה הוא"

"The baraita adds: And some say that a father is also obligated to teach his son to swim in a river. The Gemara asks: What is the reason for this? It is necessary for his life"

  1. Does it mean swim or sail? In Talmud לשוט is used as sailing on a boat, or going easily above the water (Rashi says on the pasuk "שטו העם ולקטו" - "אין שיוט אלא לשון טיול".) How come it is translated as swim?

  2. If לשוט is sailing, why is it so important for living in Israel (R"A) - it is not a life-saving skill?

  3. If it is about swimming, why does it stand out from other life-saving skills, generally related to "ונשמרתם מאד לנפשותיכם"?

  4. Given that this order is an important one and said by a great Tana, I would expect everybody to follow and excel in swimming. Surprisingly, I could not recall a single mentioning of any of our forefathers, leaders or Sages who were allegedly good at swimming and even saved their lives by it.

  5. Does anybody of the Poskim elaborate on this obligation with more details?

NB: R"A himself was a victim of a shipwrekage (Yevamot 121a):

" It is taught in a baraita: Rabban Gamliel said: Once I was traveling on a boat, and from a distance I saw a boat that shattered and sank. And I was grieved over the apparent death of the Torah scholar who was on board. And who was it? Rabbi Akiva. But when I disembarked onto dry land, he came, and sat, and deliberated before me about halakha. I said to him: My son, who brought you up from the water? He said to me: A plank from the boat came to me, and I bent my head before each and every wave that came toward me. The waves did not wash me off of the board, and I reached the shore. "

  • This is awfully broad...
    – DonielF
    Jun 18, 2018 at 19:47
  • 1
    This is one subject, I didn't want to post multiple questions. Also the answers depend on each other.
    – Al Berko
    Jun 18, 2018 at 19:55
  • Just putting this out there, knowing how to swim doesn't always help you in the case of a shipwreck.
    – ezra
    Jun 18, 2018 at 19:57
  • I think only #2 and #4 might make this "too broad". The other questions ask about the definition and why this skill was considered important.
    – DanF
    Jun 18, 2018 at 19:59
  • @AlBerko Certainly I see questions 1-3 as being related. But I don’t see any reason to assume that the answers to those and the answers to 4 and 5 necessarily rely on one another.
    – DonielF
    Jun 18, 2018 at 21:49

1 Answer 1


Modern Hebrew vocabulary doesn't always reflect the usage in earlier forms of Hebrew. According to Jastrow, the word means both to sail and to swim, or more generally, to float.

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Nowadays obviously the word for swim is לשחות and the word to sail is the above, לשוט.

  • So what's the Mitzvah about? I know the meanings, I don't understand what's the obligation.
    – Al Berko
    Jun 18, 2018 at 21:28
  • @AlBerko The mitzvah is that the father should teach his child to swim.
    – ezra
    Jun 18, 2018 at 22:30
  • @ezra please reference where the rabbis say the "father should should teach his child to swim" as opposed to, to sail?
    – ninamag
    Jun 19, 2018 at 8:11
  • @ezra is there something preventing a jew from teaching his child both to sail and to swim, just to be on the safe side?
    – ninamag
    Jun 19, 2018 at 8:14
  • Either way around I asked for a reason why this should be a stand-alone Mitzvah.
    – Al Berko
    Jun 19, 2018 at 21:35

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