Propagating Passion

Sophie here, current caretaker of kibbutz yarok. I am now a full time student in addition to working at the kibbutz. My english teacher assigned us our first paper with the prompt: What are you passionate about. I wanted to share with you all what I wrote:

Propagating Passion

I dig digging. Digging into Mother after asking, feeling, listening for permission. I dig learning to listen for answers that don’t come in the form of human language, but that touch and move me into action or no action. I dig piling on layers of horse manure from the stable down the road on top of cardboard from the cvs or home depot dump. I enjoy connecting to Teddy, the guy who works at Home Depot and gave me special permission to jump in their dumpster and fling boxes that once held ladders into the trunk of my suburu. I like raking up straw to cover the manure, balancing the nitrogenous dung with the brown carbon bi-product of Sonoma County’s grassy spring[1]. I like watering the pile of decomposing matter and watching my barred rock and buff orpington chicken friends dig up the entire shabang while adding their rich waste into the mix. I dig waiting, because in waiting I learn what time really is. I learn how long things actually take in nature. I learn that everything does transform, that nothing stays the same for too long.

I dig sowing seeds into tiny pods and hosting them for a time in the South facing greenhouse outside my front door. I dig nurturing the baby seedlings with rain-water caught in the barrel under my gutter. I enjoyed it when a guy in a truck named Haggai (pronounced ha-guy) dropped off four rain-barrels one day because he knew what I was up to. I like acclimating small plants to the outdoors after many hot days spent within the plastic confines of the greenhouse. I like celebrating Havdallah, the ritual separating Shabbat from the rest of the week, by planting the baby plants under the light of the full moon. I like weeding and feeding the weeds to my chickens, goats, and compost pile. I like using the liquid run-off from my bathtub word bin to fertilize the plants. I like finding the first ripe tomato, or squash, or radish, or pea, or onion and making a salad in my mouth as I examine my plant friends. I like praying Maariv Aravim, the prayer for the transition between day and night, as I’m sitting between lettuce beds watching the sun set.

I dig kissing my baby goats through the fence of their pen after I put them to sleep. I like watching the baby deer forage with their Mama. I like to be the one who takes a bucket to the lake late at night to gather water to put out the fire and look at the amazing view. I like to celebrate Shabbat with my family when they visit town by tending the fire and baking them pizza in the cob oven. I dig it all, but when I forget that in June I get to share this land with 65 young folk I loose the passion. I dig the garden, but what I love is to hear young people bursting to share the ingredients they used in the fresh salad they created. I love to wake teens up at 6:00 a.m. with the blast of the shofar and work with them until breakfast. I love hearing that breakfast after a morning of work tastes better than any they had ever had. I love it when a kid says he feels more connected to his food when he has helped grow it. I love it when they sing spontaneously or enter into a fit of laughter or when they start roasting everything and anything over the open fire. I love it when they appreciate silence.

If you grow the most incredible variety of lettuce in the world, but don’t share it with anyone, the chances of it surviving are small. If you save those lettuce seeds and spread them throughout your community, your lettuce will thrive. I strongly believe in the need to build resilient human habitats, but for this idea to manifest it must be shared. I believe each community must be responsible for its own transformation into sustainability. My garden is on the property of a Reform Jewish summer camp. I live there year-round as the land’s caretaker. This past summer 65 sixteen year olds joined me, twenty at a time, over the course of eight weeks. They lived on the land in giant tipis and together we learned about the garden, our Jewish agricultural roots, living in community, and how to listen to ourselves. My passion is Jewish farming because it is the vehicle in which I am taking to embark on my lifelong attempt to live in harmony.

Judaism roots me in an ancient tradition with wisdom that teaches me about ethical farming, community, and awe for the world around me. For me, farming is enriched when coupled with Jewish ritual. It provides me with a guideline for how to live naturally. A.D. Gordan, the founder of labor Zionism, said, “we, who have been torn away from nature, who have lost the savor of natural living—if we desire life, we must establish a new relationship with nature.” I desire to live, to thrive. My passion is life. Jewish gardening is my method for seeking a way to live that reflects my desire to live in a way that is full and humble, joyous and moral, kind and brave. 

“Choose life, so that you may live”

Deutaronomy 30:19


[1] The raked straw in a pile in front of my home makes me pause after a lecture about water resources at the site of the green grass growing the junior college lawn, hm…sprinklers

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