The War of Water and Land


When Water and Land Collide

The Bible tells us that G-d decreed upon the sea that it should never cross over onto land. “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt” (Job 38:11).

He created a “line in the sand,” as it were, which serves as a boundary between water and land, never to be crossed.

“Do you not fear me? Says G-d: will you not tremble at My presence, which has placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it. And though the waves toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?” (Jeremiah 5:22).

How then can tsunamis and floods exist, when the waters cross over this seemingly impassable boundary? What happened to the decree that the “proud waves” go no farther that their own domain?!

The explanation requires a fuller understanding of water and land – the two global entities that Earth is comprised of.

In the beginning of time all of Earth was submerged in water. Then came a “divide between water and water,” separating the “waters above” from the “waters below” (Genesis 1:6), and the waters below were “gathered to one place,” allowing dry land to emerge, thus creating the distinction between “earth” and “sea” (1:9).

Ever since water and land have had a tenuous relationship, at times even being at war with each other. On one hand land is in need of water for its sustenance. Yet, too much water can cause destruction. We are drawn to beaches and waterfronts, yet we fear the awesome power of the sea.

The mystics explain, that the material nature of the universe is but a manifestation of its spiritual personality. Water and land embody two forms of consciousness: Water is the unconscious, “hidden worlds,” and land is the conscious, “revealed worlds.” Water reflects utter unity, where all its creatures are submerged and always feel connected to their source. While land symbolizes fragmentation, with its creatures feeling separate from their source and from each other.

The universe began submerged in water to ingrain in its “psyche” its fundamental unity. But the purpose of creation is to separate the “upper” from the “lower” and “land” from “sea,” and that human initiative should reunite our seemingly “disconnected” world of “land” with its source and purpose.

When our work in doing so is complete, there will no longer be “evil and destruction” because the “universe will be filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.” The evil and destruction that humans can perpetrate against each other is only possible when we do not feel our integral unity. But when we perceive that we are all like “fish in the sea,” submerged in and indistinguishable from our source (Divine knowledge), our interconnectivity will prevent any destruction.

Microcosm macrocosm. Each of us humans – mirroring the larger universe – begins life submerged in the watery womb. Nine months we spend there before we enter “dry land” upon birth. During this time our psyches develop a profound internal unity, which prepares us to face the existential loneliness of life on “land.” Then, upon birth, that “water” consciousness recedes into the background of our unconscious, and our conscious lives follow the psyche of “land mammals,” each of us self-contained in the here and now, living out our fragmented lives.

So the big question is this: Are we “water” people or “land” people? The answer is that in essence we are “water” people, integrally united with our source, but on our conscious level we have a “land” personality, with the purpose being that we discover the “water” within.

But here is the dilemma. Once land and water were separated, a primal and deep-seated tension separates them. The fragmented conscious universe becomes so consumed with its own immediate survival and self-gratification that it does not relate to the integral unity of “water consciousness.”

True, this division was initiated by the Creator who separated “land” from “water,” but the purpose of the separation was that we should emerge from the “womb” as independent entities, and transform the conscious world of “land” into a “world filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”

Indeed, the spiritual root of the separation between “earth” and “sea” is the tzimtzum itself. In order for us to exist as individuals we cannot be (at least consciously) submerged in the all encompassing “light-energy” of the Infinite. The divine decree therefore dictates that there be a boundary between “water” and “land.”

Yet, there are times when a door opens up between these two worlds. Sometimes it’s a healthy door, and sometimes it’s a devastating one.

This water/land dichotomy is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible. Take this week’s Torah portion. Moses is so named for he “was drawn from water.” The very water (River Nile) that could have caused the child Moses’ demise, as so many newborn males were tragically drowned in the River, becomes his savior. The very idol of Egypt comes to protect the one who would destroy this idol. Later Moses would part the sea, another manifestation of land/sea interaction.

The mystics explain that Moses was a “man of no words” because his soul originated from the “hidden worlds” of water, the intimate world of the unconscious, which is more profound and intense than any words of land can express. But for this exact reason Moses introduced unprecedented revelation to Earth. Precisely because Moses is a “water man” living on Earth, he is able to draw from the inner worlds, and bridge and express the language of the Divine and communicate it to the land people.

This only goes to show us how the two worlds of “land” and “sea” are so dichotomous, and we need Moses to help us bridge the two.

But even as they are bridged by Moses an inherent tension remains between “water” and “land.” A battle rages between them.

A tsunami is perhaps the strongest manifestation of this battle. What’s strange is that the force of a tsunami – a water surge that can travel up to 500 miles an hour – is not felt at sea. Ships in the open sea will barely notice the one or two foot waves generated by a tsunami. Its savage impact is experienced only as the tsunami strikes shore.

In other words water is not affected by water, no matter how powerful its force. Only land is affected, and… devastated.

Another fascinating fact is that a tsunami does not originate from water alone. Unlike wind-generated waves – the conventional sort that we are accustomed to – tsunamis are generated from the imbalance between… land and sea. Only a violent disturbance of the seabed – caused by an earthquake, landslide, volcanic eruption, explosion, or the impact of a meteorite – can generate tsunamis. When an impulsive disturbance vertically displaces the water column, it pushes a huge bulge of water to the surface, which results in a tsunami racing toward the shore.

A possible cosmic parallel to a tsunami is the Kabbalistic “breakage of the vessels” caused by the tension created between the imbalance of too much energy (“water”) and too little containers (“land”). This break (”shevirat ha’keilim”) is devastating; it releases chaos (“tohu”), hurtling “sparks” in all directions, embedding them in the deepest recesses of our material world.

However, the breakage is a necessary step in helping realign a misaligned universe. By exploding it releases the tension created by the tzimtzum between the energy and the containers – the dichotomy of the two realities, our independent one and the underlying unity that lies within.

The breakage is only a step toward repair (tikkun). We are charged with the mission to search and discover the scattered sparks within our material lives. Our calling is to gather, reconnect and elevate the sparks back into place, by integrating matter and spirit, land and water, in a healthy, balanced way.

Similarly, a tsunami results from the disparity and imbalance between land and water.

Yes, there is an impenetrable barrier that separates water from land – a Divine decree declaring “This far you may come and no farther.” However, the purpose of this boundary is that “land” should learn to reconnect with the “inner water” of our unconscious, in a healthy and balanced way. As Moses – “drawn from water” – led the way.

As long as they are not aligned, from time to time the rift will explode in an enormous surge of water overwhelming land.


Psychologically speaking, the unconscious (water) and the conscious (land) must make their peace; they need to become aligned in one seamless flow, as they were always meant to be. As long as they do not, the untamed unconscious can occasionally explode in all its wildness; in a ferocious display of unfettered energy.

Another manifestation of this phenomenon in our modern age is the information revolution. Knowledge is likened to water. But like water, knowledge can work both ways: As a powerful force for growth, or as a force that devastates lives. The information revolution of today – in which we can immediately access (google) enormous amounts of information – can be a blessing or a curse.

How many of us have become swamped by the waves of information flooding our lives? The constant media stream – via TV, the Internet, hand-helds, I-pods, and you name it – has inundated our lives, creating information addicts and may be causing more damage than growth.

This flood of knowledge with its assault on our psyche, is in many ways worse than any physical flood. Yet, within the curse lies the cure. This flood of information alerts us to the dangers of knowledge without focus; information without integration. And it reminds us that we must embrace Divine knowledge – knowledge that lifts and empowers us to be proactive and take control of circumstances, instead of knowledge and information that turns us into robotic observers and victims as it demoralizes and makes us anxious.

Water and land – two worlds that live side by side. So different, yet so intertwined.

Two worlds in our eyes. But really one and the same. They were once one – at the beginning of it all. And they will become one once again – at the end of days, when the world will be “filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea.”

From time to time we are reminded of their interdependence and of their imbalance – a reminder that is meant to make us aware of the need to align the two consciousnesses of water and land and relieve their tension once and for all. It’s up to us to unite them in a way that maintains the personality of each.

Water reminds us that we are all one, originating and being sustained by one uniting source. Some scientists have pointed out the fact that after a major earthquake, the whole world resonates like a bell that has been struck. Even more intriguing is that a big piece of the planet’s mass has been moved around, which actually altered the axis of the earth’s rotation.

May we determine to integrate healthy “water” into our parched land lives. Let us learn from Moses, the man of “water” how to draw into our lives Divine water.

May we do our part in filling our lives and this world with Divine knowledge and behavior, “as the waters cover the sea.”


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