Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weeding - a Holy Act

The Shmita year just came to a close, and I'm marvelling at how much life in Israel is connected to the land, the cycles, the weather and more. Shmita is the biblical prohibition against harvesting your land. Every seven years, we are to leave the land alone. This includes everything from the farmers and their large fields to the weeds in our yard. During the year, there are many prohibitions and many ways that people deal with the prohibitions - I'm not delving into those here. What I am delving into is the common, everyday reaction that normal people have to these laws.

When Rosh Hashanah arrived, the shmita year officially ended. The next day, when Josh went to work someone said to him, "You'll never guess what I did last night! I weeded my yard!!" Now, this was said with pure glee. Glee over weeding a yard? She was so excited because she was working the earth - the earth here in Eretz Yisrael. And just the act of working the earth involved keeping some of Hashem's decrees. Can you imagine another religion that could find weeding holy?

I find it fascinating how Judaism manages to bring holiness to the most mundane things. The next day, I was taking my daily walk around the yishuv and someone else was working on her garden. I said, "How are you doing" and she replied, "Amazing! Look what I'm doing!" I called another friend Friday morning at about 8:00 and I said, "I hope I didn't wake you." "Wake me!?" she said, "We've been outside weeding and gardening for almost two hours!" We are either a very strange people, desperate to weed our gardens, or there is something more going on here.

And, of course, I see more to it than that. It's the connection to the land. The act of actually seeing the beauty in the sanctity of not weeding one year - and of weeding the next. We are so tied to the Torah here in Israel, to the cycles of the land and the people. We pray on Sukkot for rain - and when it rains here we don't usually think about the annoyance, the mud or the wetness. We think about the ground that will be nourished and the fulfillment of the prayers that we start to say everyday with Sukkot.

It's amazing to live somewhere that is so tied to the land -and that helps us to see holiness in the most mundane of activities. Happy weeding!