by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein
Inside, a cocoon
Finding my authentic self
Learning and relearning new skills
Herbs for more flavor
Cucumbers for pickles
I’ve never done well at gardening
But this year
There, right there
It is right there.
A single tomato
Ready for harvesting
Dew glistening on its fire engine red skin
One perfect tomato
Not like from the store
Not like a winter tomato devoid of flavor
This very one.
Cocooned against the cucumber leaves
Resting and gathering strength like me
An authentic, real tomato.
One single tomato
Symbol of this pandemic.
Last year for Earth Etudes I wrote about our community garden at Congregation Kneseth Israel (CKI). I also spoke about it as part of Gail Borden Public Library’s Earth Day videos. I filmed it before we planted this year. Even before everything was shut down and programming went virtual. I don’t usually do much hands on work in the garden, but it is doing really well at CKI. We have been feeding the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the marginalized since May. Kale, spinach, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and lots and lots of cucumbers. Our neighbors love them, especially the cucumbers. And it is a perfect example of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I’ve lost count of the number of deliveries that Congregation Kneseth Israel has made to the soup kettle at Holy Trinity Church, right across the street. It really is Unity on Division Street.
This year I decided I would try my hand at home. I have been writing lots, trying new skills and polishing up old ones. In the middle of a pandemic I was trying my best to lead an authentic Jewish life, for me. It fit with what I was doing for Earth Day, the fact that my husband has an agriculture degree from the Michigan State and suddenly I had, in theory, more time. So we planted. The container herbs have seasoned our food all season. The cucumbers produced nothing (but we did make pickles from cucumbers we bought at the farmer’s market). But the tomatoes? Every week we get one or a handful of perfect, flavorful, ripe tomatoes.
Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein is the rabbi of Congregation Kneseth Israel, in Elgin Illinois. She blogs as the Energizer Rabbi and serves on several local boards. She helped the City of Elgin plan this year’s 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, the programming all of which went virtual. She is the author of two books, “Climbing Towards Yom Kippur” about the 13 Attributes of the Divine and “Enduring Spirit” about the cycle of the Jewish year.