In addition to the purpose of one’s trip, there is something to be learned from a cruise on a ship.

The normal domicile of man is on firm ground; sailing off to sea is something new and different, a bit out of the ordinary. Since the sea is not the normal dwelling place of man, one must travel on the sea on a ship which offers protection and provides for the person’s needs. And yet, going out to sea is always bound up with danger, so that when we finally alight on solid ground, we must offer thanks through the blessing of HaGomel. As we read in Tehillim: “Those who go down to the sea in ships.... Let them give thanks to the L‑rd for His kindness and [proclaim] His wonders to the children of man” (107:23-31).

What do we learn from this in our Divine service?

Going down to sea is symbolic of the descent of the soul to the physical world and its journey through life. For this world is compared to a stormy sea filled with “many waters.” These mighty waves are referred to in Shir HaShirim: “Many waters cannot extinguish the fire of this love, nor can rivers wash it away” (Shir HaShirim 8:7), on which the Alter Rebbe expounds: The “many waters” are the tribulations of earning a livelihood and one’s mundane thoughts in all worldly matters.... Despite all these problems, they cannot extinguish the love... the hidden love that exists in every Jewish soul by its very nature and which radiates from its G‑dly soul (Torah Or, beg. Noach). What course must one follow to be saved from these perilous waters? Go down to the sea in a ship: the good ship of Torah and mitzvos. On these “ocean liners,” the soul will chart a safe course through the stormy sea and reach its destination in peace.

This then is the lesson to be gleaned from an ocean cruise — that observing Torah and mitzvos is an absolute prerequisite to your existence. Just as you can exist at sea only if you are on a sturdy ship, so too, your journey through life can only thrive on the lifeboat of Torah and mitzvos. From another vantage point, when one encourages another Jew to study Torah or observe mitzvos, he is not only giving him or her good advice, he is actually telling him how to stay alive and afloat. If someone is drowning, G‑d forbid, pulling him onto your boat is not just doing him a favor, it is saving his life.

Taking a cruise also involves the aspect of leisure and pleasure, as it is not something that is absolutely necessary. Those who join such cruises will choose to do so to have a good time. This aspect of the cruise adds another facet to the observance of Torah and mitzvos: Not only do we observe Torah and mitzvos because it will save our life, but because we also find great pleasure in our Torah and mitzvos. This is the level of serving G‑d out of love. While this lesson is sound advice for all Jews in all walks of life and at all times, it is especially appropriate to mull over these thoughts when one is actually taking a cruise, for the novelty of the experience elicits a deeper contemplation on the essence of the experience and the desire for finding satisfying meaning and purpose. More mundane occurrences, although they, too, should be truly thought provoking, fail to arouse serious meditation because of their regularity and commonness.

If one would contemplate the return of his or her soul in the morning — having gone to sleep tired and worn out, and waking up refreshed with the return of the soul — he would recognize this as a gift from G‑d Who gives us life every morning. This thought should awaken in us a rush of love for the Holy One, Blessed be He. Remembering that his soul is pure and holy will enhance this feeling [toward G‑d] much more so. Yet, by its regularity and daily reoccurrence, one is neither impressed nor moved by this wonder.

The novelty of traveling on an ocean liner should awaken a new awareness about which one should contemplate deeply. The thoughts thus aroused should be utilized to mull over the theme of “going down to sea” in its spiritual sense as we discussed, and as is clearly understandable.

Most important of all, when those on the cruise return to the dock and alight on dry land — where civilization moves on and where they must go to carry out their own missions in life — let them act in accordance with this idea and let them take this lesson to heart. It should be seen and felt that Torah and mitzvos are things that affect their whole existence and bring them the great pleasure of serving G‑d out of love.

Toras Menachem 5747, Vol. 4, p. 233