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Parshas Ki Saytzey - Growing Closer to Hashem the Natural Way       8 Elul 5789

08/28/20 14:53:30


It all started with an idea for the Shul to offer its members and supporters something to be picked up in honor of Shavuos. A gift bag including cheesecake, Torah content and a small basil plant was created. I, along with everyone else, picked up the gift basket and have faithfully watered the basil plant every day. Unfortunately, we do not use a lot of fresh basil. A few weeks after Shavuos, Jim and Libbe Sherman donated mini cherry tomato plants for people to pick up and grow at home. I also took home a few of the leftover tomato plants and religiously watered them, and made sure they had sufficient sunlight. Well, as with many things, they grew out of their small crib and needed a bed, so I replanted some in the ground and others in containers, taking care to invest in proper in soil, plant holders, and plant food in anticipation of never needing to buy a tomato again!

There is no question that we pay for the conveniences of life. Convenience is measured in time, effort, and availability;  it is more convenient to just go to the store and buy tomatoes – saving the investment of supplies and effort.  It is also cheaper than growing them on a small scale. Growing things in your own garden has no connection to convenience, but there is an abundance of satisfaction, confidence-building and learning about Hashem’s world which otherwise goes unnoticed. I do not want to come across as a novice, but that is what I am. The incredible ways of God’s world are seen so clearly and beautifully by simply watching and caring for things as they grow and mature. The more tending and loving care given should produce outstanding results, but this is not always the case. It is amazing how each of the eight tomato plants I nurtured all grew differently; some produced an abundance of tomatoes, others meekly produced very few.  

Through all this fascination, watching the fruits of my watering and feeding, I also faced some frustration and disappointment. Things were going well when I noticed many of the leaves on a few of the plants were all gone. Later, I observed a tomato worm latch onto a plant, eating all its  leaves right off the stem. Through the learning process of working with these plants, I understand that fruits and vegetables grow leaves and from those leaves  flowers bud, and from those flowers the fruit literally pops out. A small little ball grows bigger and bigger and eventually, with proper care and good sunlight, that little ball will turn from green to red. But without the leaves no flowers will bud. All that hard work instantly is gone – no plant, no fruit, nothing! Of course, there are ways to get rid of the worms, but it was devastating to experience, and I felt helpless.

After a few weeks of witnessing the budding, enlarging, turning from green to red, we were able and very ready to pick a handful of fresh tomatoes. I found out that many people in the neighborhood ere growing many different things, so I decided to purchase a few different vegetables and grow a variety in my mini farm. , this, of course, required more time,  an increased financial investment to build and the need to create more space. The greatest limmud/lesson was the realization of how much we need to rely on Hashem and how dependent we are upon Him for everything. The success is not solely on our watering and care;  the seed initially should be of good quality and the soil should contain the best nutrients and degree of water and sun for the seeds. The nutrition that we supply should not be too little or too much. (I learned a painful lesson about the danger of over watering,  literally drowning one of the tomato plants. I performed an emergency transplant.  My poor little plant is now in critical condition on life support). The biggest factor in all of this is to understand that we are not in control of the amount of sunlight required for the nurturing and growth of these plants. In short, only God is in control.  

The beauty of planting created within me another angle of realization:  I need to daven to Hashem for yet another matter - my vegetable garden. So, I inserted another request, added to my long list of things I ask of Hashem. Upon reviewing the Parsha, I noticed that the Torah gives us an instruction manual regarding how to yield a good harvest. In Parshas Ki Saytzay the Torah states in Devarim 24:19:  כי "תקצר קצירך בשדך ושכחת עמר בשדה לא תשוב לקחתו, לגר ליתום ולאלמנה יהיה למען יברכך ה' אלוקיך בכל מעשה ידיך"  “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back again to take it; it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless and for the widow, that Hashem your God may bless you in all of the work of your hands”. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch informs us that most of the agricultural Mitzvos have all been mentioned in Vayikra 19:9 and 23:22 where it was fully explained that these harvest gifts were to be reserved for the poor. This duty of the harvest, its meaning of being  conditional for happiness and blessing in the land, is understood to be a continuous act of recognition for our redemption out of Egyptian slavery.  This should be in the forefront of the minds of the people here at this juncture when the people were about to move into the land of Canaan. At the same time, a fresh harvest gift which was not mentioned previously in Vayikra is added here. This is the law of Shickcha/forgetting and the laws for fruit trees. In this instance the solution and guarantee for a good harvest is not only davening to Hashem but the requirement to take care of those who do not have land of their own. When we were slaves in Egypt, we did not have our own land to plant and were dependent upon receiving a slave’s ration. If we provide for Hashem’s children who do not have produce of their own, He will guarantee that whatever we plant will prosper.

Upon further reflection it came to mind that we have multiple personalities and identities in our relationship to Hashem. Hashem is our father, our king, our healer, and our Master.  The verse describes the stranger, the orphan and the widow in the context of individuals entitled to our benevolence. Likewise, each and everyone of us in our relationship to Hashem is sometimes viewed as though we do not know who our father is and that we are estranged from Him. We will say on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that there is no Shikcha/no forgetting by God. When we think of those the Torah singles out who need special attention,  this should actively be internalized, realizing we are these people vis a vis ourselves and Hashem. Now is the time to  nurture our unique relationship with Hashem and actively put more effort into growing in our Avodas Hashem. We have all emerged from a tiny seed which needs tender nurturing through spiritual nourishment day by day,  bringing us all to fruition as we approach the coming year.

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

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Wed, September 30 2020 12 Tishrei 5781