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.

Jewish Garden Values - Wheel-2

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 HAGOO: 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. 


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.