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Earth Etude for Elul 19: A Tomato, A Single Tomato

by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein

Six months

Inside, a cocoon

Finding my authentic self

Learning and relearning new skills

Baking challah

Chanting Torah

Painting seascapes

Planting

Herbs for more flavor

Cucumbers for pickles

And tomatoes

I’ve never done well at gardening

But this year 

This year

Success!

There, right there

It is right there.

A tomato

A single tomato

Ripe

Ready for harvesting

Juicy,

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 one.

This very one.

Cocooned against the cucumber leaves

Resting and gathering strength like me

An authentic, real tomato.

Perfect.

One bite

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. 

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