Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Getting Closer To Garden

Two raised beds down a however many my lumber allows to go.  If everything goes according to schedule, I should be ready to plant seeds within two weeks.
I live in gardening zone 7.  The zones are based on first frosts so they're pretty important. In Southern California, for example, gardeners can plant just about anything anytime.  Here on the East Coast things are a bit different.  We had freeze warnings just a few days ago.  My first plantings will be lettuce, beets, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, leeks, melons, radishes, and summer squash.  Later on I hope to plant pumpkin, winter squash and potatoes.  We'll see.
This is all an experiment.  I'm learning as I go.  I think one of my biggest challenges will be to discourage squirrels and deer from eating everything just as fast as it comes up.  I'm hoping the split rail fence I'm putting up will help out with the deer.
I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Torah Thoughts on Tazria-Metzora

This week we read a double portion, Tazria and Metzora (Leviticus 12:1 - 15:33).  Colloquially known as “the leprosy portions”, these two Torah portions primarily concern themselves with how a person acquires impurity, the correct method for removing the impurity, and the person’s return to the community.  

The disease characterized as “tzara’at” by the text does not resemble the affliction called leprosy in modern times.  The mystery of what sort of ailment the Torah is describing is deepened by the fact that tzara’at can also be found in leather, in cloth and in the interior walls of a house.  What can this mean?

The medieval Torah commentator Nachmanides insists that tzara’at is not a physical condition at all.  He claims that it is the outward manifestation of an inner spiritual affliction.  If so, the Israelite community understood, very early on, that there is a relationship between the inner and outer self, and had a way to deal with it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

So This Is Happening Today

Getting Through the Bad
Point Pleasant Boro Branch
Thursday, Apr. 23, 2 pm
Register Online or call 732-295-1555.
Mary Walker Baron is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and an author. She is currently writing a book called Getting Through the Bad. This hour will provide an opportunity to explore practical, evidence based approaches to not only managing but embracing life's rough patches

Please register by calling 732-295-1555

I'm Getting Ready To Grow

I've begun the vegetable garden.  This is the first of 4 raised beds -- 3 feet wide, 5 feet long and 1 foot tall.  The support posts are 1 inch by 1 inch.  Why those dimensions, you might ask.  Because that's what would fit diagonally in my Jeep.  Next steps:  Build the other 3 beds which is a surprisingly easy task.  Just screw the boards onto the support posts.  It helps to have a variable speed electric drill.  I have one of those.  I bought it at Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) in Pasadena and had the sense to bring it with me to New Jersey.  Before I put in the mulch/top soil mix I will put cardboard or garden cloth on the ground to keep the weeds from growing up with the vegetables.  I've got the seeds thanks to High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont (www.highmowingseeds.com).  The fence you see is our backyard fence so it needs another three sides and, of course, a gate.  I think I'll put up a sign asking the deer to please not eat the vegetables.  I'm also thinking I should cover the beds in plastic with holes poked in for water and air.  We get heavy rains here which could damage the sprouting seeds.  It's kind of a scary thing to start a vegetable garden.  But then doing anything new can be a little scary.  There's always the risk of failure.   As the saying goes, though, the greatest failure is to never even try.
I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Torah Thoughts on Shemini

                This week’s portion, Shemini, (Lev. 9:1-11:47), begins with the tragic incident of Aaron’s two eldest sons, Nadav and Abihu, who bring some “strange fire” before God and are struck dead in the Holy of Holies.  The parshah goes on to expound the Torah’s dietary laws, kept to one degree or another by many Jews to this day.  
                This Torah portion emphasizes fitting and proper behavior and avoidance of impurity.  We may well ask ourselves why these details are so important.  Why are some animals permitted and others forbidden?  Why must two prominent young men die because they brought God one kind of fire instead of another?

                We try to understand the laws of the Torah on a rational basis because so many of them really are rational.  Don’t murder, don’t bear false witness, honor your parents – it is clear why these laws promote justice, fairness, caring for the world and for its inhabitants.  But not all of Torah’s laws are rational. This parshah concentrates on distinguishing that which God has declared fit from what God has declared unfit.  Unlike Nadav and Abihu, we will not be struck down if we eat pork, or a cheeseburger, or bread on Passover.  But the performance of these laws gives the Jewish people a common bond and a communal identity that has survived for thousands of years.  As we prepare for the Passover Seder, which will also be performed by Jews around the world tonight, let us celebrate that which makes us a holy people.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Liturgical thoughts on the Havdalah prayer of Shabbat in Pesach

               First of all, I apologize for thinking the wrong Torah thoughts last week.  In my haste in getting ready for the first Seder, my mind passed over the special Torah portions that are read when the holiday of Pesach falls on Shabbat.  Parshah Shemini, a perfectly good Torah portion, will actually be read next Shabbat.

                At the second Seder, though, I had the opportunity to say a prayer that is only said when the first day of Pesach falls on Shabbat.  When Shabbat is over, we say Havdalah, the prayer of separation, which distinguishes Shabbat from the other days of the week.  At the end of most Shabbats, the prayer concludes, “ha-mavdil bein kodesh l’chol”, “Who separates between the holy and the mundane”.  But when we are in the middle of a holiday, as we were at the end of last Shabbat, the prayer ends, “ha=mavdil bein kodesh l’kodesh”, “Who separates between holiness and holiness”.  

                In Jewish tradition, we celebrate holy things separately.  Weddings are not held on holidays because “Rejoicing should not be merged with rejoicing” (Babylonian Talmud Moed Katan 8b) Separate joyous occasions should not overshadow one another.  Each should be savored for itself.

                May each of us find joy in this Shabbat, and in the remaining hours of Passover, and look forward to occasions of holiness to come.