Veggie Surprise – Parshat Behar-Bechukotai 5778 – Rabbi Eve Posen
A while ago Duncan and I tried a farm share CSA. It became a fun little guessing game. Every week we’d wonder if we’d get vegetables we were willing to try. Would we know how to cook them? Would they all get cooked eaten before they went bad? We were living in this unknown Schrödinger’s carrot type of world with zero control over what we’d actually receive in our bag and whether or not it would actually be tasty. We spent the summer simultaneously excited and terrified about our fresh produce.
The element of surprise in relation to crops plays a role in our parshah. This week we read a double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai. These two portions of Torah make up the final chapters of the book of Leviticus. Parshat Behar focuses on letting the land rest. We learn about the return of land during the 50th year and the cycle of workers and loans. In Parshat Bechukotai we read about the blessings that God will bestow upon the Israelites in exchange for following the laws of the Torah and the rebukes and curses that will come if they don’t. Tied up in both of these narratives is the idea of security – both financial and physical.
Chapter 25, verse 6 leads us into a world of the unknown: “You may eat whatever the land during its Sabbath may produce.” The Torah teaches us that in the seventh year we let the land rest. To prepare for this you might save in whatever way you can from the sixth year so that you’ll have enough to eat in the seventh. But what will happen to the land during that year when you’re not touching it? Will it produce on its own like the wild blackberries of Portland seem to do? Or will nothing happen and you’ll be left with no fruit of the land like pretty much any garden I’ve ever planted and subsequently ignored?
This is the unknown. This seventh year is the great equalizer. Wealthy or poor, green thumb or black, no one has any idea or can predict exactly what will fill the land in the seventh year. We are to live this year expecting the unexpected and hoping that we won’t starve.
If you know me, you know I am a huge planner. I like to include all options and plan for all situations. I don’t like the unexpected because it throws me off my game. I live in a defined everyday routine, and in order to manage expectations in our family, we do a lot of planning for what might happen. Adjusting on the fly (a.k.a. “going with the flow”) is one of the most challenging parts of life for so many because as human beings, we have an innate desire to know and understand, and that means planning. The Torah this week reminds us that sometimes knowing isn’t always possible. The best we can do is manage our expectations and learn to work within the circumstances we’re given.