Thursday, August 25, 2011


Parshat Re’eh
25 Menahem Av, 5771
August 25th, 2011

    All through my childhood my father refused to take what my siblings and I called “real vacations.” The slightest whiff of ostentation meant instant rejection, and merely saying “Hawaii” would have produced gales of laughter. However, Dad was willingly and equivalently generous on trips that he considered character building.
    This meant that I spent my childhood and adolescence packed into our family motorhome, listening to books on tape, exploring a surprising amount of the western United States: up and down the coast of California, Sequoia, Mammoth, the Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion National Parks in Utah, Nevada, Lake Havasu, Yosemite, and one extraordinary trip to Yellowstone and back.
    As is the way of grown children, I am now grateful to my parents for destroying my chance at teenage popularity. I have never seen Waikiki beach, but I feel a rootedness in the land on which I was raised. When I leave town to camp, or simply to drive to a conference up north, I find a part of myself waiting for me in California’s landscape, whether beach, sierra, or farmland. This gorgeous state is my home, and a grand home it is.
    You and I are urbane people. Connection to the land is something that we wonder at, not that we experience daily. 
    But while driving it occurred to me that our disconnection occasions the loss of something essential. Nature and that which comes from it - primarily all that we eat - have lost their depth for us. We are unable to see the seed sown to raise the wheat for our bread. We do not remember the sweat wiped from brows when the grain was harvested, milled, made into flour, baked in ovens. We do not know whether the hands which rolled the dough were treated humanely or abused. All that which comes from the land has deep history indeed. 
    Rabbi Ahai ben Yoshayah stated: One who purchases grain in the market—to
what may such a person be likened? To an infant whose mother died, and they pass him from door to door among wetnurses and [still] the baby is not satisfied. Avot d’Rebbe Natan 31:1
    The danger is seeing the land, and the food which comes from it, as flat - somehow without history - for this builds an insensitivity and rapaciousness. We act as a baby never truly full, caring only about getting more, not where that “more” comes from. 
    May we all be blessed with finding our roots in the land around us.

No comments:

Post a Comment