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The luz bone


From David Grossman’s book on literature and politics, Writing in the Dark:

What was the thing that could preserve the human spark within me, in a reality entirely aimed at extinguishing it? One can answer this question only about one’s self in private. But perhaps I can suggest a possible path to the answer.

In the Jewish tradition, there is a legend… every person has a small bone in his body called the luz, located at the tip of the spine, which enfolds the essence of a person’s soul… Even if the entire human body is shattered, crushed, or burned, the luz bone does not perish. It stores a person’s uniqueness, the core of his selfhood… Those of you who would like to find your own response to this question may, when you go home, choose to gather your thoughts and consider: What is the thing within me that is the true root of my soul? What is the quality, the essence, the final spark that will remain in me even when all other things are extinguished?

This, to me, is a matter of truth. What is the truth of who you are? Beneath everything – and despite all that you present to the world, even to those you love – how do you describe your truest self, your true North?  I’ve been struggling with Grossman’s words, struggling to come up with something real. A passion for justice resonates. Also love. Curiosity. Longing. Fear. None and all of these, and something else I can’t yet name.

And your luz bone? Your truest self that will remain? I invite you to ask yourself this question. If you feel comfortable sharing your answer, please do.

Newly added P.S. Rabbi Sarah Niebuhr Rubin says this: From my days as a paleo-osteologist, I have to say I don’t think I ever discovered a luz bone. On the other hand, the bottom of the spinal column is called the sacrum – straight from sacred. By that, we sit on our soul!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. judith rose permalink
    04/26/2010 2:44 pm

    I have never heard of the luz bone before! I feel like I learn so much from your blog. What immediately comes to mind for me is “nothing is written in stone” — I take nothing for granted and I always am reassessing — whether it be ‘the rules’, my behavior, my beliefs, my life span. Because everything is changeable; I seek to enjoy the moment — for I know it will never be this exact moment again. On one side, my luz bone is filled with cross outs and erasures, tic marks and question marks; the other side is a smooth stone.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      04/26/2010 4:25 pm

      Isn’t this a fabulous concept, the luz bone? It is a new one for me, as well. As for your erasures and tic marks – I may steal your words for a poem I’m revising right now. If I do, credit will be given!

  2. 04/26/2010 8:30 pm

    In my 29 years of being Jewish, I had never heard of the “luz bone.” Two things I like: one is that it is supposed to be in the same spot, the base of the spine, in which I learned in my serious-meditation days that was the base of the energy. I would visualize breathing down into that very spot at the base of the spine, and visualize the energy flowing up through me, a kind of endless circle of energy that cleansed me and made me feel so good. In those days, I often thought that meditation was a way to hear “the still, small voice of God” and that if we could grow quiet enough, and focused enough, the essence of what God had to say would come through. The other thing is that the name “Luz” in Spanish means “light,” a nice thing, I think.

    So, when I am thinking of the luz bone as being the essence of me, the word that comes to mind is “kindness.” I often fall short of that, but I would like to think that is the essence of me. So, perhaps my luz bone may be covered up, or clogged in some way, but when things are flowing as they should (and I mean that in a spiritual and a physical sense) then the meaning of it is still there, shining white.

    p.s. The website for me is a shortened address, a “tiny url” for my Facebook profile. That’s where I post articles and reflections and comments about my day. Sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and sometimes only those who love me would be interested. But my profile is “open.” You don’t have to be on Facebook to look at mine. So, feel free.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      04/27/2010 2:47 pm

      I had never heard of it either, in all my 55 years! I did think about this wonderful Jewish renewal meditation where you breathed into your spine (right about where the luz bone is supposed to be) and out your head, each time repeating the name of God. Been a long time since I did it, but it certainly has extra appeal now.

  3. Herb Solomon permalink
    04/27/2010 2:09 pm

    Hi Sue: Grossman is terrific. Your excerpt from him is very provocative. I’ll have to give it some thought. It’s too profound and concealed for a kneejerk response. Luz bone????? Love, Herb

    • sue swartz permalink*
      04/27/2010 2:45 pm

      Yes, David Grossman raises something worth taking our time with. My friend Sarah reminds me that the sacrum – close to where the luz should be located – comes from the word sacred. So we’ve been sitting on our sacredness all along!

  4. 04/27/2010 10:23 pm

    Oh, this is a lovely bit of Jewish folklore that I wish I’d known about years ago. I trained as an Osteopath and worked for a time at the Jewish Vegetarian Society in London. So it all comes together, since that is where I began to feel a yearning to learn Hebrew in order to read the beautiful books in the closet! But I digress…… some of us “Classical” osteopaths believe that bone is a living, intelligent tissue, endowed with innate motility and a “soul life” of its own. It sounds very “woo-woo”, but actually it’s quite plausible. Recall, if you will Ezekiels’ vision of the Valley of Dried Bones; perhaps that’s where the Luz bone idea originated from – if so, does that make it Torah?
    And yes, certain bones have special attributes….the sphenoid for exaple, (which partly houses the eyeballs) is associated with vision in the idiomatic sense as well as the anatomical. I was never taught about the Luz bone in osteopathic school, but I think it would have intrigued us young, idealistic students as a metaphor for the fragment of immortality, the spark of divinity in us all. William Garner Sutherland called it the Breath of Life (Heb: ruach?)in the living subject……….perhaps the Luz bone is it’s calling card.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      04/28/2010 7:09 am

      I love all these connections: Ezekiel, bones as having a soul life, Sutherland’s breath of life (yes, ruach!). Thanks for sharing this Graham. More to think about… poem material???

  5. Carolyn Geduld permalink
    04/28/2010 9:02 am

    I have osteoporosis, which means that my bones are thinning and softening. That doesn’t sound good, does it. But if my luz bone is thinning and softening, perhaps that is hopeful. The essential me may be shedding what was hard, thick, stubborn, guarded, and defensive. I think that is mostly true. I like to think I am becoming softer, more compassionate, more bendable, more open and accepting. If my luz bone leads me in that direction, I shall be thankful.

    As I am to you, Sue, for helping me to become more thoughtful.


  6. 05/03/2010 12:40 am

    Neither have I ever heard of the luz bone, and I wonder how old the tradition is. I looked up the word in my Hebrew dictionary: hazel; gland, spinal column [luz shidra, which I found under luz, and looked up shidra, which means column], (fig.) backbone, foundation. There is another luz/laz, and that means turn or turn away, which makes me think of the spine turning or my scoliosis. Did Elisha’s healing practice involve the luz, even when he breathed ruakh 7x? into the body of the child (did I remember correctly, and was the child dead?). So, the spark that is my essence is my sassiness and the part that loves to get a rise out of people. Mmmmm, how does hazel fit in––shape, tiny size? Graham, any ideas?

    • sue swartz permalink*
      05/03/2010 1:18 pm

      Yes, Elisha raised a child from the dead. Very handy for a prophet. And I love the spark that is your essence, sassiness and all.

    • 05/03/2010 9:51 pm

      I haven’t thought too much about it, but “hazel” does tend to imply a gland, rather than a bone……now there are usually several or more coccygeal bones, but that’s obviously not what wer’e discussing here. There is also a terminalnode of the sympathetic nervous system known as the ganglion impar right where the Luz bone ought to be….but it’s neither a gland nor a bone – (this is becoming poitively Talmudic) – Perhaps more to the point, a famous osteopath teaches his students to wait and feel for the ruach to enter the body “through the midline”; this involves what he calls the “One, Two, Three” technique of visualising a minute spot of light originating somewhere in the midline, then another, then a third…..and they all expand and coalesc to fill the body with light. The point? (no pun intended) Well, I have just read that the numbers one to three are of immense significance in the sacred geometry of mystical Judaism, relating as they do to the integration of spirit and matter (ie ruach & basar) as we read in Bereshit. Now, before I get too far out of my depth, I’ll leave you to ponder, as I know you frequently do.

  7. George L. Walker permalink
    05/16/2017 8:30 am

    You can hear an interview with David Grossman, who say that he couldn’t help but become a writer—it’s part of his “luz” conducted by WFIU’s Will Murphy at wfiu dot org/profiles

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