The snow is really gone, the rain is falling and the spring has finally sprung. If you are like me, you get a lift when you see spring flowers poking through the last snow, and you delight in hearing and seeing so many birds – including the ones that are nesting in the soonto- be-fixed light fixture over my porch. The Pesaẖ dishes are stored; I have done my counting of the omer up to Shavuot; I have relived the time when the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai; and, from this point forward, I feel the real blessings of life as I get my hands dirty in my garden.
Years ago, when my kids were young, and years before that, when I was young, I turned the earth over in my garden and laid out the rows for my vegetables. I bought the packets, gently pressed the seeds into the earth and watered my flock. In time, the first sprouts appeared, and slowly, there were leaves, stalks, and then, as if by some miracle, I could see my vegetables begin to form. Though my own kids may have snickered now and again, when it came time to share in the fruits of my labour, my children did as I had done with my father a generation before: we picked our cucumbers, went to the garden hose, washed them in freezing cold water and crunched away. I truly understood the brakhah of “bringing forth fruit from the earth” and I am not sure there was a more rewarding moment and time of appreciation for God and for each other.
Anyone who has experienced the miracle of childbirth can attest to an almost otherworldly emotional earthquake as the child begins to cry. We rapidly count fingers and toes and wait for signs that everything is as okay as it can be. Life emerges and the circle of life begins. We thank God for
the miracles of life, and while the stakes are nowhere as high as when we plant the garden, “im eyn kema ẖeyn torah” – if there is no sustenance, there can be no life. And so it is with our community; we reap what we sow. When we plant and nurture with all good intentions, we are sometimes rewarded
with the miracles of life. But sometimes the “tree” does not grow with a straight trunk – the spine, as it were, is bent and may need extra attention. Especially when the work that we put in does not yield the most productive crop, it is our job to do whatever is in our power to facilitate the positive growth and ultimately for everyone to share in the goodness of what we have to offer.
So what does all this have to do with life at Beth Tzedec?
As a community made up of so many wonderful seedlings and mature oaks, we have much to offer each other. Our younger members give us hope in their ability to achieve their individual potential. Our older members provide comfort in the “shade” of their experience, and their deep roots help secure us in stormy weather. Our ancestors have not just built a building, but their legacy was the articulation of a vision that we continue to embrace today; a vision that says that with all of the challenges facing modern life, we will provide the tools to keep that vision in perfect focus. Our parents and grandparents invested in something called community so that we could give our children a strong spiritual home, a place to grow intellectually and socially with like-minded peers, and a venue where the cultural of our people could find a voice and our voices could be at home in our personal expression.
I believe that we at Beth Tzedec, through our outstanding programs and staff, are embracing our people, wherever they are, without pretense or precondition. We all embrace our children and our loved ones. In my garden, I embrace the hope that this year may be a bumper crop and that maybe, just maybe, I won’t put in too much salt and ruin the pickles. It is time to embrace each other and share some of what Beth Tzedec has to offer and maybe. I hope this will be the year when you find a little more of yourself amongst the members of your community.