Welcome to the Liminal Place
– A Place That Is Not Business As Usual
What is a liminal space? The dictionary defines a limen as a threshold. A liminal space, therefore, is a circumstance within a space of time that is situated at the limen – the place where one condition is drawing to a close and another is beginning.
Anthropologist Arthur Turner captures the essence of liminality with the phrase Betwixt and Between.
Betwixt and Between – neither here nor there – that place between sixes and sevens. Uncomfortable and confusing, liminal space is the space between what was and what will be. It is, as Professor Neil Gillman so wonderfully describes, the Mezuzah moment** – neither entirely in, nor entirely out.
Liminality is often the dwelling place of one who loves G-d. With its fluid borders it is the place where Heaven and earth, life and death, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and despair, sleep and waking, commingle.
Poet, Shel Silverstein alludes to it thus: *
There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends,
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow.
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
The in-between liminal spaces of Scripture are filled with the possibilities of G-d:
Noah and his family rebuilding the world after the flood; Abraham holding the knife above Isaac; Jacob’s struggle with the angel; Joseph in the pit; Moses’ time in Midian; Moses and the Israelites at the edge of the Reed Sea; Israel in the wilderness; Joshua crossing the Jordan.
Scripture indeed is fraught with liminal moments – moments of imminent expectation, infused with both hope and doubt. Each of which leads to transformation and change.
Change involves tension and for those of us who have embarked on, or are seeking, a paradigm shift in thinking through the understanding and appreciation of the Hebraic mindset – we know that tension all too well. Often that tension comes in the form of a multitude of voices.
Here in The Liminal Space we strive to hear, contemplate, and dialogue for the sake of Heaven – guided by One voice.
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it…” (Isaiah 30:21a)
Achar (behind you, in the background) is the Hebrew word used here. Combined with shema (hear/listen/obey) and davar (a word) this phrase is very telling.
G-d speaks to us through His Words. We truly ‘hear’ His Divrei Torah – words of Torah (teaching or instruction) when we study them, reflect on them, obey them. The prophet Ezekiel spoke of that “voice” behind you — in the background:
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard a great rumbling sound behind me, “Blessed be the glory of the LORD in His place.” (Ezekiel 3:12)
That voice in the background – the Word of G-d.
For a people who want answers now and love absolutes, it is difficult to wait on the threshold; to be fluid – changing but not yet changed, and to live with the tension of ambiguity. Liminal space is a vulnerable place and it is a sacred space. Colored by twilight (that time between sunset and dusk and between dawn and sunrise), liminal space is the threshold to a new day or the dawn of a new light. In view of eternity, our life on this earth is but a limen, a threshold.
* Shel Silverstein – The Place Where The Sidewalk Ends
** A mezuzah is placed literally on the threshold of a door, marking the entrance of your home. Professor Neil Gillman wrote of liminality as Mezuzzah moments – not just marking the liminal moments but sanctifying them:
Mezuzzot mark the move from home to away,
Maariv the change to night from day;
Through the chuppa we pass, “alone” now “together,”
Havdalah – holy to ordinary