Seventh Day of Rest: What About the Farm?
A Jewish staple that brings our community together from week to week is Shabbat, the day of rest. At sundown every Friday Jews across the globe congregate around a dinner table, at a shul, in the mountains, or wherever they find peace and a restful state to observe our Jewish commandment to take a needed break. Food in the form of challah, chicken, salad, rice pilaf, or whatever the taste of the party entails is a must. Even on the day of rest, we still must eat and are typically encouraged to indulge in these meals to support our recline and relaxation among our fellow Jews.
As we eat and enjoy the food that has been produced by farmers and a variety of farms throughout the land, what happens to our farm and the many gardens that Jews partake in during the Sabbath? Are these human-tended slices of nature forced to rest as well? How will the plants protect themselves if the ebbs and flows of the earth’s atmospheric systems come into play? Since the act of farming is certainly defined as an act of work, tending our gardens is simply forbidden on the Sabbath. Yet, is this realistic for maintaining our systems of sustenance?
These questions arise as I notice the intense care our land needs at Ekar. I see transformation happen in a matter of days as squash go from tiny to massive and tomatoes turn from green to ripe. How does a Jewish farmer who observes the weekly Sabbath also ensure their plants are surviving in extreme climates? Especially while our temperatures have been on the rise this summer, I am stressing (not resting) as much as the plants if I fail to tend to their needs once a week. Maybe this comes from some of my Jewish guilt. Just maybe.
Yet, I take a deep breath when I arrive on the land every Sunday after Shabbat and find our veggies looking happy as ever. Sure, there are some jumbo cucumbers that were abandoned, a few yellowing leaves on the nasturtiums, and over-grown weeds when I return. But there is also a strength and resiliency that I feel among our crops that comes from that day of human-mandated rest. Nature figures it out. Plants understand how to prepare and protect themselves in short spurts of stressful times. I can rest easy knowing that our farmland, if properly prepared and tended the rest of the week, will continue to tend itself during the Sabbath. And for that, I certainly thank and bless Hashem.