The radiant universe, with colliding galaxies millions of light years away, having black holes, stars and nebulae, reveals the extraordinary intricacies of space and earth.
Historically, human life was set into motion in the Garden of Eden. Adam was molded from the dust of the earth. While Adam was asleep, Eve was surgically constructed from Adam’s rib. From the beginning of time on this planet, as a species, we lived off the land. In evolutionary terms, the need to be in touch with the soil has deep significance for us. If we envision the cataclysmic events at Sinai, during Shavous, we are witness to the congealing of the four elements of nature: human, animal, mineral and vegetation. All this took place against a backdrop of mountains, desert, grassland, plants and flowers.
In modern times, we too connect with our environment by spending our leisure time involved in outdoor pursuits during the Spring and Summer months. With our increasingly busy and scheduled lifestyles, for many, gardening in the fresh air has become a therapeutic activity,-- a tool to create our own form of paradise. Working the land often becomes a source of relaxation and healing for the mind, body and soul. Even Home Depot encourages the customers to "feed your lawn, grow beautiful plants and refresh your garden."
Furthermore, by verbalizing our appreciation to God we recite blessings of thanks for special occasions. As a general rule, the blessing is said before doing the action or enjoying its benefit. Regarding nature’s bounty, we have specific blessings for taste and the fragrant scents of fruits, vegetables, plants and spices. Traditionally, we say blessings upon witnessing and experiencing events, such as: hearing thunder, or seeing lightning, (as we know, we have experienced a lot of these lately in Annapolis)….or seeing the ocean for the first time in 30 days.
As we also look at trees blossom for the first time each year, (in our area we have the beautiful Cherry Tree blossoms), amongst others, we too bless the first fruits of the season. While the beauty and splendor of creation awes us, we also acknowledge the mysteries of creation—we even say a blessing when we see a monstrous creature. Perhaps the Cicada, the red-eyed bugs infesting our town, would fit this category. We fulfill the Almighty’s commandments by recognizing all these mysteries of creation.
Throughout the millennium, artists, musicians and poets have praised the Lord’s wondrous works. In the poem, "Ode to Enchangted Light", Pablo Neruda, writes, "….a Cicada sends its sawing song high into the empty air,
the world is a glass overflowing with water…." Pablo Picasso drew silhouetted hands holding a bouquet of flowers. The author, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The Hebrew nation compensated for its territory by its religious genius, its tenacious beliefs; its poems and histories cling to the soil of this globe like the primitive rocks…" A contemporary children’s book, "The Giving Tree," by Shel Silverstein, is a lovely story for children about kindness, whose main character is a tree.
It is true that our earthly terrain has been explored through Jewish mystical texts and tales drawn from rabbinic, Kabbalistic, folk and Hassidic sources. In one fascinating legend, "The Gates of Eden," the Jews deal with Alexander the Great. Another, "A Crown of Shoes," by the Baal Shem Tov, the characters are transported in an instant to the Garden of Eden where they find angels gathering shoes that flew off the feet of those dancing with the Torah. Another story is told of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, when he was on his way to war, he passed a hundred year old Jew, putting seeds into the ground, he inquired, "What are you doing?" The reply was, "Just as my ancestors have planted for me, so too shall I plant for my children and grandchildren."
Advice from the sages has been plentiful. Rabbi Eliezer taught, "The righteous are likened to the most exquisite plants." In the Talmud it states, "A person should always be flexible like a reed and not rigid like a cedar." Another pearl of wisdom is, "Grow where you are planted!" In Proverbs, it states, "The Torah is the tree of life to those who grasp it, whoever keeps it, is content."
Thus, whether or not you have a green thumb, may you and your family grow in your faith to beautify and enjoy our marvelous world. Wishing everyone a Special Mother’s Day and a Happy Graduation.