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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Oh, Precious Land

Updated: May 5, 2021

The double parshiyot of Behar-B'Chukotai, includes a description of the Jubilee year. The Jubilee year, occurring at the end of each 49th year, gives the land an opportunity for complete rest. The text seeks to reassure those who depend upon the land for all of their sustenance, that even during this special year they will still be sustained and nourished.

The text, mirroring the land, speaks of the bounty that the land will give and the good lives that people will have if they honor this commandment. Conversely, the text, in great detail describes how God will not allow the land to produce if it is not given rest and how cursed its inhabitants will be.

This poem, Oh Precious Land, looks at the land as an agent of God's will. It explores the nature of the relationship with the land as an extension of God's commandments.

Oh Precious Land

וְנָתְנָ֤ה הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ פִּרְיָ֔הּ וַאֲכַלְתֶּ֖ם לָשֹׂ֑בַע וִֽישַׁבְתֶּ֥ם לָבֶ֖טַח עָלֶֽיהָ׃

The land shall yield its fruit and you shall eat your fill, and you shall live upon it in security.

Oh, precious land,

Oh, promised land,

can you hear me?

Oh, land of holiness,

you are not a person,

nor an angel.

Created by the King

You have no soul, no heart,

no brain that controls you,

no blood runs through your veins,

but you are an agent of the King,

You have been gifted with mighty power,

to give and to take

to produce and to punish

the power to bestow life and death,

Does this power rest easy with you?

Oh, land of the covenant

built of rocks

clay and sand,

Your body is molded with

gentle curves and rugged valleys

Water runs under you, through you

and beneath you

You are home to beasts and birds

and swarming insects,

an unending supply of sheep,

doves and goats,

wheat and barley.

You are promised,

intertwined with the King,

a beloved queen

a queen who is feared,

with the power to give or take.

וְלֹֽא־תִתֵּ֤ן אַרְצְכֶם֙ אֶת־יְבוּלָ֔הּ וְעֵ֣ץ הָאָ֔רֶץ לֹ֥א יִתֵּ֖ן פִּרְיֽוֹ׃

Your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.

Leviticus 26:20

Oh, Promised land,

You contradict yourself.

Are you a land of blessings

or a land of curses?

I ask you,

can you be both?

Will you feed us

or will you swallow us?

Will you sustain us

or vomit us out?

Will you hold us safe in your arms

or drive us away to our enemies?

Oh land,

of beauty and promises

are hearts are confused,

for we are but human.

We will remember to honor you,

to give you rest.

We must.

Oh Promised land,

oh precious land,

You are to be respected,


Rest now,

show kindness to us,

Grace us with bounty

Do not hold back from us.

Do not curse us.

Rest, precious land

Sleep well, queen who always gives

and does not delight in punishing

Our promised land,



אָז֩ תִּרְצֶ֨ה הָאָ֜רֶץ אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתֶ֗יהָ כֹּ֚ל יְמֵ֣י הֳשַׁמָּ֔ה וְאַתֶּ֖ם בְּאֶ֣רֶץ אֹיְבֵיכֶ֑ם אָ֚ז תִּשְׁבַּ֣ת הָאָ֔רֶץ וְהִרְצָ֖ת אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתֶֽיהָ׃

Then shall the land make up for its sabbath years throughout the time that it is

desolate and you are in the land of your enemies; then shall the land rest and make up for its sabbath years. Leviticus 26:34

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