Could there be anything more harmonious, anything more joyful, than the compassion of compassion? This is Tiferet of Tiferet.
by Rabbi Robin Damsky
The truest compassion has no limits. It is as Isaiah spoke:
You shall indeed go out with joy, and be led forth in peace.
Before you mountains and hills shall break into cries of joy,
And all the trees of the wild shall clap their hands.
– Isaiah 55:12
When I walk in the forest and I feel the leaves crumble under my feet, when I sit on a rock and absorb the light filtering through the trees, I am in a state of joy much like the mountains and the hills. I can feel the trees clapping their accolades. I experience a sense of wholeness and holiness for God’s creation. I experience this as such a gift that I want to, need to, must give back. This is why I plant.
Certainly, planting is work. It’s not just the starting the seeds indoors or placing them in the soil. It’s ensuring the earth is rich, with compost, with worms that aerate the soil, with the right pH and the right mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. It is laying the soaker hoses and water lines and making sure that each plant has enough, but not too much, water. It is watching for pests and removing plants that crowd out desired growth. It is leaving some produce for the wild creatures, but finding ways to make sure the rabbits and squirrels don’t eat all the goodies. It is monitoring the heavy rains, the immense heat, the dry spells and the sudden cold nights. It is lifting and shoveling cubic yard after cubic yard of soil, compost and cocoa hulls, pushing the wheelbarrow from spot to spot to build and renew the earth. It is mulching and weeding, and the stark disappointment of annual plants that die unexpectedly mid-season and perennials that don’t make it through the winter. Each is a part of me, like a dear friend or family member, in whose well being I am completely invested. While I love the food the garden provides, the rapture comes way before the harvest, simply from seeing things grow: The carrots have sprouted! Look at that baby cabbage head, and check out the artichokes! The delight must be shared with others: “Have a cucumber, and here are some tomatoes. Got a minute? Can you help me stake up these sunflowers?” I must communicate the grace of these growing things to others, hoping that they feel even a ray of their beauty.
For every breath of air, for every beam of sunlight, for every plant or animal that adorns my plate, for the oceans that roar and for the night that sparkles its jewels of stars, I am in awe. I have so much gratitude. How do I give back to God? How in the world do I say thank you? I plant. It is my way of giving back to God. See God, all that you give to me? Here is my time, my heart, my cultivation. I give back to you and all the creatures that you created, helping to continue to nourish the miraculous web of life. Thank you for my life, and for all the life that surrounds me.
Psalm 96 tells us:
Let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be glad.
Let the sea and all it contains exult.
Let the forest and field sing for joy
For Adonai comes to rule the earth… justly… with faithfulness.
Action: How do you selflessly express your compassion for all of God’s creation? Where can you extend kindness to that which nourishes us from the earth, a kindness beyond what you’ve experienced previously? Find some way to express this boundless compassion today, and feel the joy it brings.
Robin Damsky is the rabbi of West Suburban Temple Har Zion in River Forest, IL,B www.wsthz.org. She is the proud mother of Sarah. In her spare time she promotes social justice and tikkun olam – repair of the world -B through the garden.