Sometimes, the exact moment of transition isn’t always clear. Young to old, ordinary to extraordinary, physical to spiritual, random words to poetry, like to love. Transitionary periods are liminal – ‘occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.’ It is the state and space between.
Jewish tradition is filled with liminal moments.
The 10 days of repentance between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of deep introspection and transformation, enables one to reflect before entering the holiest day of the year. It is an opportunity to bring about inner change.
The holiday of Sukkot occurs during a liminal time. The holiday occurs at a time of year in Israel where it is turning into the rainy season and where we transition from our permanent homes to the temporary Sukkah (booths), an outdoor makeshift home.
Each week, we transition from a regular day to the holy Sabbath with special preparations made to mark the beginning of the Sabbath. The Havdalah ceremony marks the transitions from the end of the Sabbath, the holy, to the everyday.
Other liminal moments include bar and bat mitzvah, a rite of passage for Jewish teens marking the transitionary period between childhood and adulthood, as well as the mikveh, ritual bath. A person enters the mikveh in one state and exits ready to embrace another. A beautiful use of the mikveh is by a bride prior to her wedding, immersing herself in the ritual bath and reciting a prayer, emerging spiritually cleansed and ready to embark on a new journey with her soon-to-be partner.
Liminal space is where the process of change takes place. Liminality is now. It is surrounding us. Like a bubble ready to burst. The coronavirus pandemic, with all that is unknown about the virus, life upended, not seeing loved ones, sickness, physical distancing, profound gratitude for essential workers, lockdown, quarantine, layoffs, uncertainty, and anxiety. The tremors of racial injustice becoming a full-on earthquake with the horrific death of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and…. the list is long. Too long. Enough is enough. People are waking up, determined to do something. Determined to change. There is hope.
This liminal moment is a time of opportunity and growth. A time for individuals and communities to look within, discover who we really are, who we want to become and how we show up. We have to do the hard work. We are on the precipice. Our habits and routines have been disrupted. This is where we have the opportunity to create change. To be bold and have courage. With focus and intention, we have the ability to manifest what comes next. As Hillel said in Ethics of the Fathers (1:14): “If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?”
The moment is now. The moment to be considerate and smart – wear a mask in public, practice social distancing, wash your hands, express gratitude to essential workers, volunteer with a food bank, check in on your elderly neighbor or friend that lives alone. The moment to become educated – learn about the history of African Americans, read books and watch movies that shed light on their struggles, speak to the mother that needs to teach her black son how to be safe and navigate society, listen to the black voices about their experiences and their reality, ask how you can help, make a donation to organizations fighting racial injustice, and have difficult conversations around race with your family and friends. The moment to take action.
I recognize my privilege and know that I have a lot to learn. I am willing to do the hard work, grow and take action. I hope you will join me.
Our children deserve to live in a world that is just and compassionate. We have an opportunity in this liminal moment. Let’s not let it go to waste.