The foundation of compassion
by Rabbi Robin Damsky
Did you ever notice how you walk differently on the beach or the forest than you do in the city? By the sea we usually remove our shoes. We want to feel the sand in our toes. If we walk close to the shore, the sand is firm from the ocean. It holds us up, but our feet sink in a bit, molding the earth with our steps. When the water washes over our feet they sink in even deeper. In the forest, our shoes mold to the earth as well, but less so. We can feel the softness of the soil underfoot, cushioning our steps and inviting our muscles to stretch fully. Contrast this with the concrete of the city. A phrase that comes to mind is, “pounding the pavement.” While this expression is often used to describe one seeking a job, it is an accurate description of what our feet do on concrete. They literally pound into the cement. We either tolerate the contact or seek shoes with soft souls, arch supports and plenty of rubber to keep us from injuring our joints.
The concrete is unyielding, whereas the earth and the sand are giving, forgiving.
While we look to build the foundations of our homes and businesses out of concrete and iron, which are fixed and rigid, they are rooted into the earth, which is malleable. It is ironic that even these materials come from the earth. We too, come from the earth, as we learn in Genesis 2:7, “God formed the human – adam – from the earth – adamah – Adonai formed the human from the dust of the earth. God blew into its nostrils the breath of life, and the adam became a living being.”
Dust of the earth… This might be sand. Or topsoil. Isaiah 64:8 says: “O Adonai… we are the clay and You are the potter, we are all the work of Your hands.” This theme is repeated in our Tanach and in our High Holy Day liturgy so we remember: We are from sand. Or topsoil, or clay.
So when we are considering the foundation of compassion, we must find a way to be compassionate with that which has formed us; that which composes our very essence. We must find, recover or enhance our compassion for the earth.
Action: Because the connection between Yesod and Tiferet includes bonding, today is an excellent day to examine the activities in our lives that bind us to the earth. It provides the opportunity to build new links and repair old links. What new links will you forge? What old links might you mend? These may be as old as a memory from a special time at the beach or in the forest, or it may be as ancient as reconnecting with the Source that created you.
Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, IL,B www.wsthz.org. She is the proud mother of Sarah. In her spare time she promotes social justice and tikkun olam – repair of the world -B through the garden.