Last year, my friend Rabanit Bracha Jaffe wrote about this week’s Torah portion, when the Children of Israel crossed the Reed Sea, and called the sea itself a liminal space.
The word comes from the Latin limins, a threshold. When you’re standing on a threshold, you’re neither here nor there, but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck; you just haven’t taken the next step. Yet.
Liminal spaces can be frightening. The familiar is left behind, the unknown is ahead. When traveling from one reality to another, it’s not unusual to fear that the new reality might be worse than the old one. Crossing the Reed Sea was a terrifying transition for the Israelites, a time of upheaval and uncertainty. And yet, led by Moses and a Pillar of smoke and fire, they continued.
We all find ourselves in liminal spaces from time to time. Some are brief, perhaps the amount of time it takes to walk across a dry sea-bed. Some last for a breath, like the liminal space between lighting a match for Shabbat candles and touching it to the wick.
Every year I live in anticipation of a certain date in late January, the day I was given a grim cancer diagnosis. It’s a celebration, but also a reminder of a painful time.
This year I find myself in a strange, new liminal space, the two weeks between the date of my ordination in 2017 and the date of my diagnosis in 1999. I waver between two realities; the one that began a new chapter of my life, and the one that didn’t end my life.
Like the ancient Israelites, I long for safety and security, and yet, like them, I continue to step across the threshold and walk into the future, not knowing what is on the other side. Eyes closed, hands outstretched before me, I hope.