Gardens

Gardens

Gardens

גנים

At the heart of a retreat center there is often a garden.

When I think of Elat Chayyim retreat center in Accord New York (now incorporated into the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut), I picture the large organic garden. Earthy scents, warm soil, the buzzing bees lulled me into a state of peace each time I stepped inside its gate. The garden produced much of the food for the retreat center’s scrumptious vegetarian meals, and it also provided a spot for meditation, whether at work pulling weeds or sitting in stillness.

For some people, a garden is a place to grow food or flowers and connect with the soil. It’s a place to be most human because Adam, the first human being, was shaped from Adamah, earth. A garden may be a large and lavish backyard mini-farm like that of many of my friends in Northern California, a plot in a bustling community garden, a container garden on a city balcony, or a even a houseplant jungle.

Choose your favorite Pathway, or follow them in order:

Soundtrack: Summer Meadow

Soundtrack: Summer Meadow

Continue to the next path: read some reflections by gardeners or return to the Gateway of Gardens Featured image: meadow and stream at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, Pleasantville, New York, JHD

Gardeners Reflect

Gardeners Reflect

Gardener friends share their thoughts on the spiritual meaning of gardening... Oneness in the Garden Carla Resnick The garden is a versatile place. It can be highly tended, or let to run amok. In either instance, or in between, it is a place of infinite beauty. In...

Gallery: Growing Up in the Garden

Gallery: Growing Up in the Garden

We call my friend's enormous Northern California garden, "The Kibbutz." What a paradise for children! Getting hands dirty in the garden is healthy fun for young and old Click on the picture to activate the gallery. Return to the Gateway of Gardens.  

Eden: The Once and Future Garden

Eden: The Once and Future Garden

Eden represents the idealized human past...and future. The paradigm of all gardens is Eden. The opening chapters of the Torah, Genesis, present the concept of earth as a primal paradise, the Garden of Eden, in Hebrew,Gan Eden, גן עדן. There the first person, Adam, is...

Torah Study: Two Versions of the Creation Story

Torah Study: Two Versions of the Creation Story

The Torah contains two competing or complementary accounts of how God created human beings:   Version I: Genesis 1:24-31 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures, cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their...

A Short Midrash: Don’t Mess Up the Earth

A Short Midrash: Don’t Mess Up the Earth

In this selection from the Midrash, God shows Adam all around the Garden of Eden and then gives him a warning not to mess it up: "To me, the sight of our Earth from outer space is not only  scientific triumph but today's most potent religious icon as well." --Rabbi...

Trees

Trees

Trees (Eitz)

עץ

One of the first things I noticed at Elat Chayyim (“Tree of Life”) Retreat Center near Woodstock, New York, were the huge trees, especially some venerable giant pines growing outside the dining area. As days went by, the trees seemed to me more than just features of the landscape, but rather as fellow beings who partook in the love of the environment, creatures from whom I could learn. It was not so fanciful when I learned that Jewish tradition compares trees to human beings. Humans seem to rule the animal kingdom while trees are the most developed of plants. Both receive nourishment from our roots and aspire upward toward the light, and as Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi pointed out, both trees and human beings never stop growing. Moreover, he often pointed out that the growing edge of a tree is on the outside, and so we–and our tradition–must continue reaching outward in order to be renewed.

“For is a tree of the field human” (to withdraw before you in a siege, Deuteronomy 20:19)? The biblical verse prohibiting the logging of fruit trees during a siege can also be read literally as: “For a human being is a tree of the field” Ki ha-adam etz ha-sadeh כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה

In forests, jungles, orchards, and cities, trees are essential to life on earth, since they provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and remove pollutants, while also providing countless expressions of beauty, shade, food, wood, and soil conservation. 

Trees have been sacred to many cultures and religions. In Judaism, we have pomegranates decorations on our Torahs, apples and honey for the new year, citrons and palm branches to wave on Sukkot, and many other customs, texts, and motifs involving trees and their fruits.  Trees have great importance in Jewish tradition as symbols of wisdom and Torah. In mystical thought the Tree is a symbol of the flow of divine energy into the universe.

 

Join me in this Gateway of Trees to explore the symbol of the Tree in Jewish tradition and in your life.

Choose your favorite Pathway, or follow them in order:

Gallery: Famous Fruit Trees of Israel

The five famous fruit trees of the Holy Land are noted along with two grains as the "Seven Species" (Shivat Haminim, (Deuteronomy 8:8). Embrace their bounty in artwork, Sukkah and home decorations, and foods for Jewish celebrations, especially Tu Bishvat (New Year of...

Torah Study: The Tree in the Garden

Torah Study: The Tree in the Garden

At the heart of the Bible's first story, humanity in the Garden of Eden, two trees play a central role, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life And out of the ground the Eternal God (YHWH Elohim) made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for...

The Tree of Life: Divine Wisdom

The Tree of Life: Divine Wisdom

Are we really exiled from the Tree of Life? While the book of Genesis depicts the exile from the Garden of Eden and it's Tree of Life, elsewhere Bible declares that the Tree of Life is available to us in another form.   She is a tree of life to those that hold on...

From our Sages: The Story of Honi

From our Sages: The Story of Honi

Honi (or Choni) ha-Ma'agel (the Circle Maker) was a second century tzadik (righteous person) who was kind of a cross between Johnny Appleseed (or Carob-Seed) and Rip Van Winkle. Honi was known for his ability to pray successfully for rain in times of drought, while...

Earth

Gardens
Trees
Wilderness
Holy Land

Water

Flowing Water
Water From Underground
The Sea
 

Air

Mountains
Wind
Seasons
Wings

Fire

Light
Darkness
Rainbows
The Moon

Take a Virtual Retreat

Making the Most of Your Retreat
Sacred Obligations & Boundaries
Your Guide
Our Sacred Sources
Additional Resources

Login

Subscribe

Contact Us

(235) 462-4623
info@divilibrary.com

Follow Wellsprings

Wilderness

Wilderness

Wilderness (Midbar)

מדבר

Midbar in Biblical Hebrew means Wilderness, particularly the arid wilderness of the Desert.

Central to our people’s formative experience was the life of the desert nomad described in the Torah, from our earliest patriarchs traversing the Negev to the forty years our people wandered in the Sinai. Prophets frequented the desert as a place to escape persecution as well as a space to commune with God. Two thousand years ago, the Dead Sea Sect, thought to be the Essenes, retreated to the Judean wilderness desert from the turmoil of Jerusalem and wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Midbar presents two faces in the Torah. In one sense it is the opposite of the Garden; it is untamed and uncultivated, awesome and dangerous. The desert is a symbol of all those times that we lose our way and wander aimlessly, as individuals or as a society.

The other aspect of Midbar is a positive one. It represents openness, possibility, receptivity. Wandering in the desert was the paradigm of letting go and letting God. The Torah was given in the Midbar; is it a coincidence that the same Hebrew letters מדבר that spell Midbar, desert wilderness, also spell Medaber, speech? The emptiness of the desert and its vast spaces and the awe it evokes allow for communication with the divine.

Deserts are important ecosystems and supply many benefits to the earth. Three hundred million people worldwide live in deserts. We must respond to global climate change lest spreading deserts and devastating droughts characterize our future on planet Earth.

Wander this Gateway of Midbar to explore the symbol of Wilderness and Desert in Jewish tradition and in your life.

 

Choose your favorite Pathway, or follow them in order:

The Book of Wilderness

The Book of Wilderness

The fourth book of the Torah, known in English as the book of Numbers, in Hebrew is known as Bemidbar which means, "In the Wilderness [of Sinai]." On a psychological level, "wandering in the desert" can represent a state in which we have become unmoored from our lives...

Make Yourself a Desert Wilderness

Make Yourself a Desert Wilderness

Freed from slavery in Egypt, our people entered the Midbar, the desert wilderness. Far from civilization, in the shadow of a mountain, we received divine revelation amidst the sparse landscape of earth, air, fire, and water.A beautiful Midrash teaches that the open...

Desert Oasis

The desert oasis is an important biblical image. The beauty and life-giving power of water in the desert suggest a source of spiritual as well as physical refreshment. Ein Gedi, Spring of the Goat Kid, an oasis near the Dead Sea, is known as the place that future king...

Building a Sukkah, symbol of desert wanderings

Building a Sukkah, symbol of desert wanderings

The week-long fall harvest festival of Sukkot is celebrated by building a temporary outdoor hut, the sukkah, and spending as much time as possible living in it. This annual ritual re-enacts the lives of our ancestors as desert wanderers (and later as farmers...

Eco-Meaning of the Sukkot Plants

Eco-Meaning of the Sukkot Plants

by Rabbi David Seidenberg The four species of the lulav [waved in blessing and praise on the holiday of Sukkot] represent the four types of ecosystems in the land of Israel: desert (date palm), hills (myrtle), river corridors (willow), and sh'feilah or lowlands (etrog...

BeMidbar: Finding God in the Wilderness

BeMidbar: Finding God in the Wilderness

"My time in the desert has helped me understand why God so often seems to speak to people when they are in the wilderness." Rabbi Barry Leff And the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai …Numbers 1:1 ...I’ve been spending a lot of time in the desert lately....

Holy Land

Holy Land

Holy Land (Eretz Kodesh)

ארץ קודש

The Torah (Five Books of Moses) is a story of a people and our ties to a sacred land, the Land of Israel. Promised to the Patriarchs, its habitation was still conditional on love of God and obedience to God’s ways. The Saga of the Jewish people became the story of living in the land, being exiled twice by powerful empires, and longing for our native land over two millennia. In modern times, Jews returned to and rebuilt a national homeland in Israel.

Just as love for one child can open our hearts to the needs of children everywhere, so, too can the persistent love for one ancestral landscape, ultimately open one’s heart to the sanctity of the entire earth. “The Earth belongs to God, with all that it holds, the planet and everyone in it.” (Psalm 24). One of the premises of Wellsprings of Wisdom is that our entire planet –uniquely hospitable, verdant, and filled with beauty and life–is our Holy Land, our living Temple, our sacred Garden of Eden.

Enter the Gateway of Holy Land to explore the holiness of all natural places: whether meandering, encountering animals, or finding your sanctuary outdoors. While you are here, you can also explore the ways in which the geography and climate of the Land of Israel shaped the Jewish people, and learn about some of the holy people working tirelessly for peace in the Holy Land. 

Choose your favorite Pathway, or follow them in order:

Finding a Sanctuary in Nature

Finding a Sanctuary in Nature

After the drama of the ten plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, and receiving the Torah at Sinai, the Biblical book of Exodus turns to what seems a much more mundane subject: building the first Jewish temple, a portable sanctuary known as the Mishkan. Where do we...

Talk to the animals; listen to Nature

Talk to the animals; listen to Nature

The Bible relates that King Solomon was known as the wisest of men. One verse suggests that he was able to converse about--the more-than-human world: יְדַבֵּר֮ עַל־הָֽעֵצִים֒ מִן־הָאֶ֙רֶז֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בַּלְּבָנ֔וֹן וְעַד֙ הָאֵז֔וֹב אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹצֵ֖א בַּקִּ֑יר וַיְדַבֵּר֙...

The Ecology of Canaan, in the Eyes of Our Ancestors

The Ecology of Canaan, in the Eyes of Our Ancestors

Note: My friend and colleague Rabbi David Seidenberg is one of the leading scholars on Judaism and the environment. Whether writing about Kabbalah and Ecology, or the Biblical vision of a justice and sustainability, his teachings are both inspiring and timely. -JHD by...

Let Nature Guide You Into a New Year

Let Nature Guide You Into a New Year

I treasure the late summer, just before the Jewish New Year, as a wonderful time to get out in nature, and I relate it to a Hasidic teaching. “The King is in the Field,” is a parable of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Hasidism. He likened...

The King is In the Field: A Meadow Gallery

The King is In the Field: A Meadow Gallery

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi taught a parable of a king on the way to the palace, who can be approached by everyone in the countryside with ease. His expression, "the King is in the field," characterized the late summer month of Elul prior to the New Year, as a time...