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“Remove your shoes, for the place on which you are standing is Holy ground” God said to Moses. We must take our shoes off, if only to feel more intensely that we are earth-connected.
Jacob similarly was shaken by his vision of the ladder: “This is the very gateway to heaven… God was in this place and I, i did not know it.” Consider: every bit of ground on this planet gifted to us is Holy ground, a place where heaven and earth can meet, or be severed depending upon our actions.
In the Torah portion Behar, meaning “at the mountain”, God speaks to Moses, not from the tent, but from Sinai itself, because crucial insights are coming: the land is alive! It must be, because it requires a Shabbat after six years in the same way the human spirit does after 6 days. The land further requires a Yovel, or Jubilee after fifty years, just as humans do, for the Yovel demands release of humans in bondage, and debts which bind us are released. Keratem d’ror – proclaim release throughout the land, and blow the Shofar and celebrate! And we really can celebrate, because we are free from the burden of Adam’s curse, to work the land for sustenance. We are in synchrony with the land, and we can never really own landa, as we can never own a human soul, a slave. Both belong to God. This release, the Jubilee, is proclaimed on Yom Kippur, when we remind ourselves that our lives and souls are in God’s keeping, releasing our egos to this reality. Furthermore, the land must never be sold beyond reclaim. Our fate, our lives are tied up with the land.

The land: is it really alive? Our earthly atoms are made literally of stardust. But alive? The ancient Greeks enlivened the planet in a persona named Gaia. This is not legend, but actual Biology. The planet’s living and nonliving parts interact to keep this planet habitable. We are part of an incredible, living system, truly intertwined with the earth for our survival. check out the Gaia hypothesis. In addition our spirits are in synchrony with the wild, and we suffer malaise too much removed from the forest, and the shore. “In wildness is the preservation of the world,” prophesied Thoreau, our own wild creativity, and that of the earth itself.
But the universe also pulses with time, and here too Torah links our lives and the land’s. With the pattern of counting seven we breath a sigh of relief, and so must the land. And after seven sevens, the Jubilee. The amazing thing is we are paralell-living this pattern of seven sevens right now as we count the Omer, building up to Shavuot – the fiftieth day – a Holy Day. It is a day of harvest, one in which we celebrate Ruth, whose very survival happened because we didn’t harvest everything, leaving the corners and the fallen grain for the wanderers, the impoverished, for Ruth, for us. We are making our way to Har Sinai – to receive ethical/ spiritually linked commandments. The same mountain from in this week’s verses. And Time itself is what we revel in when our spirits are released from the clock’s relentless ticking of our responsibilities when we celebrate Shabbat and Festivals.
The earth right now all around me feels like it’s being released from winter’s prison in a riot of new life and gentle breezes. How would this planet be different if sometimes we’d realize that every step was taken on holy ground, that the earth’s life is tied up in ours, spiritually and physically, and each creature and soul upon it? Wow, the possibilities! Our failings to one another and to this planet are profoundly spiritual failings. Perhaps that’s why the Jubilee was announced on Yom Kippur.
The song: Holy Ground, by Craig Taubman is here beautifully performed in Jerusalem by Abbe Silber


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