כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכוֹכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַח֕וֹל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם
I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand upon the seashore.
The Hebrew Bible often uses sand as a simile for anything too vast to be counted, such as the divine promise of many descendants to our forefather Abraham. And in case you want to boggle your mind with the vast numbers of grains of sand, stars in the universe…or water molecules in 10 drops of water, read this.
Looking at the stars in the sky evokes transcendence, but why the comparison to the seashore, besides the vast quantity of sand there? I think that there is an added dimension to this biblical simile. The seashore, where land meets sea, is a liminal space, the edge of mystery, exploration, and adventure. Waves pound the sand, tides ebb and flow into pools, the shoreline is ever-changing and alive. Sunrises or sunsets at the shore are spectacularly beautiful.
Sand is also a classic symbol of impermanence. Footprints in the sand are washed away by the tide. Sand flowing through an hourglass represents time flowing by. In Tibetan Buddhism, an elaborate mandala made from colored sand is meticulously created, then dismantled, to symbolize the impermanence of life.
On the one hand, we are each just like a small grain of sand, but on the other hand, we are boundlessly blessed to inhabit this amazing world and experience its wonders.
Getting back to the human scale, the seashore is a healing place to be, as long as we care for it and keep it clean and unpolluted. The air at the seashore is healthful due to rich oxygen content, minerals and negative ions in the air. The sand itself provides a healthy surface for exercise, and an exfoliant to help us renew ourselves physically. If you can’t be at the seashore today, enjoy the seashore video and photos in this Gateway of the Sea, and take yourself on an imaginary trip to the beach.
Sand: A Finite Resource
I had never considered that seemingly boundless sand is actually a finite resource on our planet. Ceaseless demand for sand to produce concrete, asphalt, and glass to build the world’s cities has led to a worldwide shortage. To get more sand, companies around the globe are plundering riverbeds, floodplains, and beaches, often destroying habitats and wreaking havoc on societies and the environment. Sustainable building technologies and recycling are partial solutions to yet another environmental crisis calling for bold and thoughtful leadership.
Featured Photo: Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, JHD. Photos of black and white sand beaches in Hawaii, JHD.