“Clearing Out the Old”
You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make room for the new. — Leviticus/Vayikra 26:10
Meant to suggest plenty lasting from one harvest to the next, perhaps to connect with the promise of a sufficiency for the sabbatical year. But also, as noted in Torah in Motion,* to suggest that the old must be cleared out before the new is used. You don’t have to have a dance troupe, or even feel like actually moving, to consider Tucker’s and Freeman’s perspective on this verse:
[Consider] garage sales (the decision to have one; preparing for one; the end result of having had one, i.e., old things gone, new things in their place, more space in the house, etc.). How does it feel to get rid of something and replace it with a new item?
Take the garage sale and make it personal. What old habits would participants “clear out”? What new habits and attitudes would replace the old ones?
Challenge: Each dancer imagines that he or she is a house. In each room of the house is an old habit or attitude which the dancer wishes to get rid of. The dancers improvise solos in which they go through each “room,” confronting the imagined old habit or attitude, and gradually “replacing” it with a new, improved one. After they complete the change in one “room,” they go on to the next (up to six or so rooms).
Grain Long Stored
My copy of Torah in Motion once belonged to Mary Craighill (z”l), founder and long-time director of the St. Marks Dance Studio and Company (DC) and a leader in the sacred dance movement. As it happens, I was thinking earlier today how inventive Mary, a very “old school” ballet teacher in most ways, could be in her teaching — trying to reach those of us kind of shlepping through a class or two a week, along with her company members.
For example, turns in ballet are usually led by an arm or a leg, and are conducted in very precise ways. However, Mary once decided to show us how various parts of the body contribute to the turn. She said that she had learned from Jose Limon, with whom she had studied years before, that a turn could be purposefully instigated by any part of the body. So we spent the next 15 minutes using our heads, shoulders, and elbows to launch turns.
Maybe in the process our traditional ballet turns improved. I’m not sure. But I am sure that I knew my own body, and how a turn happens, in a way I never had before. I also felt more conscious of the chain of tradition in teaching — an essential element in dance as in Torah. But most importantly, I think, that lesson taught me that there are always more possibilities than you thought… old grain? maybe (Mary died in 1999 and retired a few years before that… so this lesson had to be a while back). But old grain that has helped me recognize, many times over the years, a place for the new.
* Please see Source Materials for full citation and additional information.
The “Opening the Book” series was originally presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group that for many years pursued spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.