Rabbi Shimon used to say: “When you pray, do not make your prayers routine, but pour out your heart and seek mercy before G‑d Who is everywhere...” (Avot 2:13)

"Fierce winds tossed the ship wildly. Huge waves crashed on the deck…."
"Fierce winds tossed the ship wildly. Huge waves crashed on the deck…."
Once upon a time, long ago, a young Jewish child was returning on a ship from a faraway country to his home in the Land of Israel. He was travelling alone, without his mother or father.

On the ship were many different peoples from Persia, Greece, Rome. They were not Jewish. They worshipped idols. The shy little boy kept to himself. He missed his parents. He was afraid the other people would make fun of him. He longed to be home.

One day a storm suddenly arose. Fierce winds tossed the boat wildly up and down. Huge waves crashed on the deck. The sails tore to shreds. Everyone was afraid that the ship would sink. All the passengers began crying out to their gods to save them. But nothing helped. The storm just grew stronger.

The passengers began to realize that their prayers were useless. In despair they turned to the little Jewish boy. “Why don’t you pray to your G‑d?” they asked. “You’re Jewish aren’t you, little boy? Get up. Ask your G‑d for help! Perhaps He will answer your prayers and save us all!”

Still the boy remained silent.

“What’s wrong!” the people cried. “Pray for us already!”

The boy had been so frightened that he forgot what to say. Suddenly he took courage. He called to G‑d with all his heart. “Please, G‑d, save us! Make the sea become calm, and make the storm go away, so that I can get home. I want to be with my parents again. I want to study Torah. Those strange idols cannot help. Only You, G‑d, can save us!”

Amid the raging storm, G‑d heard the little boy’s prayer. Suddenly the winds stopped. The ocean became still. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. They had been saved.

As soon as possible, the ship put into a port for repairs. All the passengers went ashore to stretch their legs and do some shopping, but the little boy remained on the ship.

“Don’t you want to come ashore with us?” the passengers asked.

“Oh no,” the boy said. “I’m afraid to get lost. What would happen to me all alone?”

“You!” the people exclaimed. “You’re not alone! We are the lonely ones. When we were in trouble, our gods did not help us. They were useless pieces of wood or metal.

“But you, little boy, you are the lucky one. Wherever you are, your G‑d is with you. He does not leave you alone when you go on a trip. When you call to Him, He answers your prayer!

Suddenly the little boy did not feel alone or unhappy any more. He was surprised to realize that these people did not think badly of him. They envied him! They had taught him a lesson. They made him realize that G‑d would always be with him, and would always take care of him, wherever he might be.

Before long, he arrived home safely, much the wiser after his sea journey.