The Spir­i­tu­al Gar­den­er: Insights From The Jew­ish Tra­di­tion To Help Your Gar­den Grow

January 1, 2013

In this ele­gant and elo­quent guide, quo­ta­tions from the Torah, the Midrash, and Cha­sidic Mas­ters blend seam­less­ly with author Andy Becker’s own gar­den­ing tips and tales. His thought­ful reflec­tions range from the bit­ter­ness of horse­rad­ish to the sweet­ness of rasp­ber­ry jam, and are gor­geous­ly illus­trat­ed by Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton artist Abi­gail Drapkin.

Discussion Questions

Cour­tesy of Andy Becker

Gen­er­al Dis­cus­sion Questions

1. What Jew­ish val­ues are most brought out or exem­pli­fied through gardening?

2. Have your con­nec­tion to and expe­ri­ences with Judaism inter­sect­ed with any of your expe­ri­ences gar­den­ing or feel­ing con­nect­ed to nature?

3. Is gar­den­ing a mitzvah?

4. What is our respon­si­bil­i­ty to the nat­ur­al world? Should all species of flo­ra and fau­na be main­tained? (Exam­ples: inva­sive weeds and mos­qui­tos vs. acclaimed endan­gered species?)

Ques­tions By Chapter

1. Gan Eden (Tak­ing Action): Have you ever start­ed a gar­den area from scratch? How does an idea turn into action

2. Seed Cat­a­logs (Bal Tash­chit): How often are we unthink­ing­ly waste­ful in our dai­ly lives?

3. Turn Over(Transformation): How is the mun­dane trans­formed into the holy?

4. Tick Tock Ear­ly Spring Gardener(Time Man­age­ment): Does Judaism teach time man­age­ment as the author sug­gests? How do you per­son­al­ly avoid procrastination?

5. Creepy Crawly (Meta­mor­pho­sis): How do you feel about bugs, slugs, and worms?

6. Weeds(Humility): Does gar­den­ing teach humil­i­ty? Is humil­i­ty a good qual­i­ty to cultivate?

7. Lawn Envy (Envy): How much of gar­den­ing is just plain show­ing off?

8. Damn Wab­bits (Esau-type Feel­ings): What do you think about trap­ping ani­mals? What does Judaism teach about the ani­mal world?

9. Bay Leaves and Pars­ley (Smell): Does the sense of smell bypass the intellect?

10. Reap What You Sow (Set­ting an Exam­ple): In life, how often do we real­ly reap what we sow?

11. Horseradish(Bitterness): How do we con­fine bit­ter­ness in our lives?

12. Rasp­ber­ry Jam (Divi­sion of Labor in Mar­riage): How do suc­cess­ful cou­ples fair­ly divide chores in marriage?

13. Mr. Mole (Ethics of Hunt­ing): Under what cir­cum­stances do you think hunt­ing is eth­i­cal­ly right or wrong?

14. The Green House(Having a Best Friend): Dur­ing what peri­od in your life did you make your best friend?

15. Plant­i­ng Trees (Car­ing for the Nat­ur­al World): How, if at all, does being sur­round­ed by nature make you feel better?

16. The Old Catal­pa (Old Age): How is a per­son like a tree of the field”?

17. Borscht(Diversity): Have you ever made borscht? What are your favorite Jew­ish fam­i­ly recipes?

18. Abun­dant Gar­den Abun­dant Peace(Benefits of Gar­den­ing): What are the ben­e­fits of gar­den­ing that you enjoy the most?