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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Soil: A Meditation

Updated: May 10, 2023

The combined Parshiyot of Behar/B'Chukotai complete this year's reading of the book of Leviticus. These two parshiyot cover the concept of the Sh'mita, the sabbatical year and the year of Jubilee which occurs every fifty years. According to My Jewish Learning, " In the Shmita year, debts are to be forgiven, agricultural lands to lie fallow, private land holdings to become open to the commons, and staples such as food storage and perennial harvests to be freely redistributed and accessible to all." The Jubilee year, or Yovel, frees people from debt and releases Jewish slaves from their masters. Both Sh'mita and Yovel are a major reset in Jewish life. The ideas portray justice in its truest sense.

The underlying principal of Sh'mita is allowing the soil to lie fallow. The earth contains only 7% of soil suitable for agriculture. (Taken from 21st Century Guidebook to Fungi, SECOND EDITION, by David Moore, Geoffrey D. Robson and Anthony P. J. Trinci) Topsoil is a resources easily depleted, abused and overlooked. As responsible stewards of the land, it means showing a healthy respect for the soil and its makeup. It takes thousands of years to create topsoil. Our society is guilty of over farming, over fertilization, chemical additions and deeply disrupting the soil. " It can take 500 to 1,000 years for one inch of topsoil (the upper layer of soil containing the most organic matter and microorganisms) to form through the interaction of bedrock, climate, topography, and living organisms." (Taken from "WHY SOIL MATTERS by Renee Cho April, 2012. Columbia Climate School)

I hope that the next two minutes spent reading this poem/meditation, will encourage us to take note of the soil. Next time you walk outdoors past a green lawn or a park, or even waste land abutting a highway, think about the soil, how it is made and its unlimited importance in gifting humanity much of its food.


Soil: A Meditation


See it,

if you will,

just a brief moment

silent and still.




Go down to the garden.

From your house, your home.

Hands and knees touch the earth.

Pebbles, weeds and grass greet;

the soil hides shyly underneath.

Gather a handful of soil in your hands.

Hold it there, warmed by the May sun.

Observe its modest beauty,

always unadorned.

Sniff, Squeeze, Rub,Touch, Feel, Examine.

Let it run between your fingers.


Breathe in the musky perfume of the earth.

While it is in your hands,

tunnel into a world unseen.

Full of mystery.

In this world of soil,

microscopic evidence

of stone, crushed

leaves, now decomposed,

stems and roots.

Thorns, once sharp

now rubbed smooth.

Yellow dandelion petals


silently covered,

They, too, become part of the soil.

Soil, a marker of seasons past.

In it, feel the echoes of


the impact of heavy snows,

the ravages of drought.

A rhythm of seasons,


Moon countings.


Feel the casings of worms between your fingers.

Gratitude for these unsung builders of soil.

Powerful microbes;

powers that do not rest.


Root hairs woven into the tiniest of corridors,

Fungi weaving

miles upon miles of mycelium;

the internet of the soil

spreading wildly,


creating endless corridors,

assemblages of secret passages.

You hold it.

It is in your hands.


Feel the exoskeletons of insects,

decomposed feathers of robins and sparrows.

thousands of seeds

invisible to the eye,

waiting to pop.


home to armies of ants,

grubs waiting,

beetles crawling

mixed with

wasp’s wings,

clay and grains of sand.

Tiny seeds, as many as the stars in the sky

lie patiently waiting.


Hold the soil in your hands.



Consider what you hold in your palms.

Soil is golden.

Like a ring on your finger,

Your futures are connected.

Indeed, we are consecrated to each other.

וּבַשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗ת שַׁבַּ֤ת שַׁבָּתוֹן֙ יִהְיֶ֣ה לָאָ֔רֶץ שַׁבָּ֖ת לַיהֹוָ֑ה שָֽׂדְךָ֙ לֹ֣א תִזְרָ֔ע וְכַרְמְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תִזְמֹֽר׃ But in the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a sabbath of the LORD: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. Leviticus 25:4,5 (translation from Sefaria)


I found these links helpful in preparing for this week's poem/ meditation

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