Peah Garden. Peah refers to the corners of the fields that were not harvested by the owner of the field. Instead, the produce of these corners were left for the stranger, the widow and the orphan. (Leviticus 19) There is a whole classification of produce: peah, leket, shichach – the corners of the field, the produce that does not fall and the produce left behind that the Torah and later Jewish law declares to be for those in need. These values mirror stories both in Judaism and beyond that all we grow in our garden is not our possession. Just like we borrow the earth from God or we seek to be partners in creation, these mitzvot and stories remind us that our garden experience flourishes when it always has a component of sharing, giving back or paying forward. A Peah garden is a “food justice” garden. Many communities grow vegetables to be donated to local food pantries and food banks. We can consider Jewish values of sharing our food with those in need. As we care for this garden, we wrestle with what we need as opposed to what we want. We have opportunities to understand sustenance instead of excess. We can find ways of paying our labor and blessings forward. This type of garden can also be paired with participation with a CSA, community supported agriculture.
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 candle sticks 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.
In the Five Senses Garden at Temple Beth Shalom of Vero Beach, Florida, the students connect the garden and nature with ritual. From harvesting herbs for Havdalah services, to creating dream pillows in order to learn about Hashkivenu (the prayer for a good night’s sleep), we seek to use the produce of the garden to add flavor and color to our acts of Avodah. When students plant, care for, and harvest the cotton for our Shabbat oil lamp, the experience of saying the blessing and kindling the Shabbat lights reaches new depth and beauty. Each garden offers opportunities produce or plants that can be used to beautify Jewish rituals.