I was about two hours north up the Pacific coast from Los Angeles. Having found a beautiful cliff with a breathtaking overlook of the Pacific, I asked my driver to pull over and to give me at least an hour. What a magnificent spot for Hitbodedut...
Hitbodedut means solitary personal prayer. But, I wasn't alone for long. A very handsome gull with much finer flying finesse than I've seen from other seagulls glided effortlessly toward me and landed on the edge of the cliff about 5 feet in front of me. He looked at me with probing eyes, then said in perfect Hebrew, "Shalom Aleichem!"
"You're a Breslever, aren't you?" he asked, before I had a chance to snap back from my gaping amazement. "So am I," he said, not waiting for an answer. "I'm especially fond of Rebbe Natan's discourses on hitchazkut, spiritual strengthening."
"But your species are halachically impure," I remarked.
"True," he acknowledged. "But I am no normal seagull; I refuse to barbarically rip away at my fellow bird to fight for a fish. I have overcome the lust for bodily appetites. Besides, Rebbe Nachman says that there is no despair in the world. I may have been born impure, but I can uplift myself. My whole life centers around solitary flight and communing with The Almighty."
"I've never met a bird on such a lofty spiritual level. Do you have a name?" I asked.
"It's obvious that you're a foreigner," the gull said. "Everyone here knows me - I'm Jonathan Livingston Seagull."
I was stunned once more. "I thought you died at sea."
"I almost did. Really, there was no way out. The Almighty shined a ray of hope on me and I mustered up the strength to keep on going. Sound familiar, Rabbi Lazer?"
"How do you know who I am? And how do you know that my story is so familiar to yours?"
"Rabbi, how did you get through Rabbinical Seminary? Don't you know that King Solomon said (Ecclesiates 10:20), 'The bird of the sky shall carry the voice?' We seagulls know everything that's going on."
Jonathan then took off, singing "Dear Father," his song to Hashem. It was really moving. I want to share with you the poignant moment when Jonathan overcame despair and decided to keep on living and flying at all costs (see film clip, below).
Dear brother and sister, there's a little bit of Jonathan Livingston Seagull within all of us. No matter if we're down and bleeding, we can call out to "Dear Father" and He'll pick us up. You can soar skywards too. Have a wonderful Shabbat!