Swimmers know the feeling. Moving through the water, they shed the confines of their body and merge with the serene enormousness of their environment. They trade in their autonomy for a harmonious union of man and world. In the ocean there are no individuals, only the collective sum of its parts.

On a cosmic level, this is what the earth as a whole experienced in the Great Flood, when G‑d submerged it in a pool of unprecedented proportions. For a year, the earth was subsumed within the great waters; when it finally emerged, it was a world transformed. The pre-flood greed, selfishness and hubris was replaced with humility and commitment. A self-centered world became cognizant of its subservience to its Creator.

G‑d vowed never to flood His world again. From that time onward, His method would be more subtle.

These days, say the Chassidic masters, when we start getting carried away with the self thing and forget we're part of the Greater Whole, G‑d uses money.

At such times, we may suddenly find ourselves drowning in a flood of financial concerns. As the great waters of material worries overwhelm us, we wake to the realization that it's not the "I" that's calling the shots, that the self is not a self-sustaining entity; that we're all utterly dependent on our Source for sustenance.

Once that lesson is learned, the whirlpool calms, the flood recedes, and the Almighty is glad to spoil us with everything our hearts might desire.