‘Every one shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for Hashem has spoken.’ Micah 4.4
What is it about growing your own fruits and vegetables that alleviates fear? Why does Micah believe Hashem has spoken through the act of farming or gleaning? Why a grape vine and fig tree? Why not under the string beans or cherry tomatoes?
As I sit in my back yard, positioning myself between my grape vine, fig tree, string beans and cherry tomatoes, I begin to understand what Micah might have meant all those years ago.
When I bought my house 4 years ago, there was no garden, it has taken much blood (literally), sweat and tears (of joy) to convert my driveway and yard into a veggie patch. And even now while the prep work is done, every year I must clear and prep the soil, plant and tend the veggies, clear the weeds, etc. It’s hard, tiring work and while I am full of appreciation for G!d and the natural cycles of the world, I know that the ability to feed myself is based on my ability to work the land. I am the master builder, the land and veggies my subjects and tools, and while G!d may have been the architect, I am (generally) in control of my destiny (winds, rains and freezing temperatures aside).
My grape vine and fig tree on the other hand are very old and take little annual effort. Both predate my ownership of this land. Both give fruit (over the next 3 weeks, Yeehaw!) without much work from me (besides a little pruning and watering). Unlike my tomatoes for which I take much prode, eating my grapes and figs is an exercise in appreciating the gift of food from Hashem and the natural world. As I sit under my grape vine I am reminded that the world works well on its own, with very little support or interference from humanity. I am reminded that for thousands of years, people lived as hunters and gatherers living off whatever bounty the world and Hashem would provide, and that all plants and most animals continue to live that way. I am reminded again and again that when Hashem spoke, the world was formed, in perfect balance for all its inhabitants.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrew term for orchard, Pardes, has evolved into the English word, paradise. Being surrounded by the consistent giving of fruit trees and vines is a utopian experience. Lacking not for basic sustenance, humanity is able to let go of the stress and challenges of daily life, and focus on the spirit and power of the world.
Unfortunately, human activity has thrown off this balance and there IS reason to be afraid. The world is no longer full of grape vines and fig trees that we can just eat from. We must fight daily to feed ourselves and work to protect the ecosystems which allow all G!d’s creatures thrive.
This September as grapes, apples, pears and even figs (at least in my pardes) begin to ripen, take a few moments to sit in an orchard or vineyard and experience the paradise of G!d’s world. Then think, how can I fill the word with more fruit trees and vines, how can I help make a world where everyone can sit under a vine and/or tree and truly not be afraid for themselves or the planet.