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The Liminal Space of CHANGE – Keren Hannah

Change, arguably, is the most constant and unchangeable element of life and yet is one that we find difficult to embrace. Much natural change often goes by unnoticed. Old age creeps upon us slowly. Relationships can sadly wither and fade away due to lack of awareness and attention. Sunrise and sunsets come and go without our giving their beauty and passing due recognition. Some changes, however, rise up before us and demand our engagement and conscious participation. Loss of a job, a physical relocation, an illness, a death, or, more happily, a marriage or a birth. All these are upheavals of a sort and need great conscious readjustments of lifestyle. Often a possible change requires a decision on our part. Do we accept the challenge and make the change…or not? These changes involve risk. To succeed we need the courage to take the risk, to have the will to learn.  We also need enough humility to admit to failure if that results, and, in which case, we need the determination to recover, to try again, and to keep going.

This liminal place of change –  the recognition, decision making, uncertainty, and adaptive challenge, is one we all pass through many times. Sometimes there are no simple, painless solutions to changes and they require that we learn new ways – a change of attitude, of perspective, and of behavior. We have to sift through what to keep and what to discard in order to face the challenge and to go forward as productively as possible.

One of the most dramatic biblical illustrations of change is the passage of the redeemed Israelite slaves through the towering walls of water as God parted the Reed Sea before them. They had to make the decision to go forward in faith and trust in the God who had revealed His presence and power to them in their place of bondage. Now they needed to learn to take individual responsibility for their decisions and actions. After generations of living under the dictatorship of Pharaoh, God was now inviting them to become His partners in His ongoing work and purposes. In other words, a slave-minded people needed to renew their ability to trust authority and to become self-governing at the same time.

We can learn from the principles of adaptability and positive change that enabled the Israelite community to survive, and to flourish and thrive. Rather than independence, they learned, it required interdependence – the humility to know that we need, with God’s help and guidance, to continue to learn and grow together. Did they fail at times? Of course they did. Do we fail at times? Of course we do. Winston Churchill once said, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” We must learn from our mistakes, recover from them, and go forward knowing we are stronger as a result. 

The key element of learning and growing, of coping with change, whether in the life of an individual, a community, or a people, is the fact that God gifted us with the tools we need in His Torah – His Word – His teaching, instruction, and guidance. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has described three types of knowledge. The knowledge you learn from books, that which you learn from teachers, and that which you learn from life. The important thing is to be in active dialog with God’s Torah in each of these areas; to affirm that there is only one guiding voice and that is the voice of our Father in Heaven. Our lives should be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in His Word. Just as Yeshua himself said, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:18-19). And, “…I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And He who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:28-29). Yeshua was the perfect embodiment of the Torah of God and was one with the Father’s will. 

Rabbi Sacks compares this unity to the musical term ‘counterpoint,’ which is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as: “The technique of combining two or more melodic lines in such a way that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their linear individuality.” [1]  When we are in harmony with the will and Word of God we can cooperate in unity and interdependence, just as a healthy body does, with each part playing its role in order for the whole body to function as well and effectively as it can. Together we can face the challenges and changes that come our way and achieve something greater than any one person can accomplish alone.  In unity we can enjoy the good and pleasant blessing of our God.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! …For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalms 133:1,3)

 

All stages of change, growth, and metamorphosis are beautiful!

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[1] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Lessons in Leadership, Maggid Books, Koren Publishers, Jerusalem, Ltd., 2015, 103

[2] Picture credit: Chabad; Artist: Adele Steinberg

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