JEWISH VALUES GARDENS
Values for a Jewish Gardener and Values in a Jewish Garden
A listing of Jewish values that can be illustrated in a garden space and the Jewish values of caring for the earth that we can live out as we care for our garden.
Shomrei Adamah: Protecting/Preserving the Earth
In the beginning of Genesis, Adam and Eve are instructed to till and tend, to have stewardship and dominion over the land. Adam’s name originates from Adama, meaning from the Earth, and embodies our connection to the soil. Throughout the garden, there are opportunities to teach aspects of conservation and sustainability. From water barrels to composting, we try to be sensitive to natural resources and consumption. As we work the soil, we are keenly aware of the responsibility of humanity for the Earth. We can find ways to bring the stories of creation and caring for the Earth into our garden.
Hiddur Mitzvah: Beautiful Ritual: According to Jewish tradition, we should not just complete the ritual, even with the best of intentions. Instead, we should try to make it beautiful, rich with color and texture. This is the reasoning behind the adorned candlesticks for Shabbat and the beautiful melodies for our prayers. We want our rituals to be mouthwatering and eye catching, resonating with all of our sensory experiences so that our souls can soar. When we incorporate garden beauty, recycled creativity, and the personal effort of using the garden for ritual, we add to this value of Hiddur Mitzvah.
Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof: Justice and Righteousness shall you pursue:
Jewish sages caution us to pay attention to the repetition of a word in Torah. In our gardens we aspire to bring Tzedek – justice and righteousness – from two directions: receiving and giving. With humility and appreciation for what we harvest, we can share some of our bounty. We can also look out and see that there are people in need of sustenance in our own community. With an effort from our garden, we can help feed the hungry.
Talmud Torah: Study of Torah:
Throughout a Jewish garden there can be plants and spaces that illustrate and ground stories, values, characters, and concepts of Torah and Hebrew literature. In one congregation, the week after threshing and winnowing a handful of wheat harvested from the synagogue garden, a Bat Mitzvah student encountered this passage in her Haftarah:
15 I will make of you a threshing board, A new thresher, with many spikes; You shall thresh mountains to dust, And make hills like chaff. 16 You shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them off; The whirlwind shall scatter them. But you shall rejoice in the ETERNAL, And glory in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 41:15- 16
The hands-on experience with the wheat gave her an important illustration for comprehending the passage she was working on. This constantly happens because the text of Torah and the Hebrew Bible are set in an agricultural world. By going into the garden and experiencing these actions we are more attuned to the rhythms, tools, and actions that are used to describe God’s interactions with the earth and with us.
Kevutza, Chevruta and Kehilah: Fellowship, Partnership and Community Maintaining a garden takes a village. With a collective effort from the beginning, individuals can experience the fulfillment of community. Similar to the pioneers from the early days of an Israeli Kibbutz, a garden can teach the community the necessity of collaboration.
Refu’at hagoof: Taking care of our bodies
The garden experience offers three insights into the care of one’s body. First, as we care for the plants we can understand how we should care for our bodies. As we witness the growth of healthy plants and a healthy ecosystem, we gain perspective about the elements we need to care for ourselves and the greater environment. Second, Judaism connects the body and spirit in amazing ways. From the rules of Kashrut to issues of lashon harah (gossip), the Rabbis teach that everything we put into our bodies is tied to our spiritual and physical discipline. Finally, gardening is an activity. When we dig, weed, water, plant, and pick, we have to sh’vitz. As we nurture our garden, we stretch and strengthen our bodies.
Eretz z’vat chalav u’dvash: A Land flowing with milk and honey.
At the end of a funeral, soil from the Land of Israel, specifically from the Mount of Olives, is added to the grave. Despite living outside of Israel, this is moment when we are uniquely connected to the variety of promises God made our Patriarchs and Matriarchs to inherit the Land of Israel. This land and the experiences of our ancestors, their search for and honor of God, especially through Shabbat and Shmita, weave through many aspects of Jewish life. Israel’s agricultural and ecological cycles are built into our holidays, our sense of time, and prayers.
Hamotzi Lechem min Ha’aretz: Bread from the earth
Ka-ka-tuv: ‘V’a-chal-ta v’sa-va-ta, u-vei-rach-ta et A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha al ha-a-retz ha-to-vah asher na-tan lach. “When you have eaten and you are satisfied, praise God for the good land God had given you.” Deuteronomy 8:1We envision our table as a mikdash ma’at (a little altar) and blessings praising God for the food we eat are said. The garden helps merge kevah (the words) and kavanah (intention). The prayers encourage us to think about where our food originates. Our ability to grow and cook food enables us to witness the time, effort, and energy consumed in our daily routines. The garden encourages us to take extra time to appreciate the creation of food and to understand the connection of blessing and satisfaction.