Welcome to the Mishnah Garden!
In Hebrew, the word, Mishnah, literally means “to study” and also refers to the Jewish oral tradition. By planting actual and metaphorical seeds, Adat Shalom’s Mishnah Garden embodies and inspires social and ecological responsibility in our community. In 2010, our congregation built an 800sq. foot organic garden in raised beds and installed and a food composter. In 2010 we planted and harvested 136 lbs. of fresh food for Manna Food Center, our local food bank. In 2011 we surpassed that with 160 lbs. of vegetables grown in the Mishnah Garden in combination with an additional 38 lbs. from congregants’ own gardens for a grand total of 198 lbs. The food was donated to Manna, Anne Arundel Food Bank, and Open Arms.
While this contribution is small in context of Manna’s 45% jump in food bank assistance requests since the economic downturn, it augments our long standing social action work for Manna’s canned food program, and heightens intergenerational consciousness the need to provide fresh food in our own community. The garden spurred classes and discussions about Jewish food ethics, our agrarian traditions and sustainable growing practices. We tasted the delicious fruits of our labor at our weekly Shabbat Oneg lunches. Most of all, our members—young and old experienced the joy of growing food in community for Tikkun Olam.
Tending the Garden on Shabbat
Two thousand years ago, our tradition identified 39 prohibited Sabbath labors, including farming. In our then-agrarian society, most people worked the land for six long days, so the seventh day had to be different to be special. In our time, since we no longer live in an agrarian society, farming/gardening has become something “other than work” for us. In fact, for many it is a time of connection with nature and with each other, and a way to share our blessings.
In Adat Shalom’s Mishnah Garden, we intentionally schedule heavy-labor activities like building beds and digging compost during the week. On Shabbat we engage in rejoicing activities, such as light weeding and harvesting vegetables. The fruits of the Mishnah Garden are then shared in community, at our own Shabbat Onegs and more broadly with Manna, our local food bank and other food pantries.
In 2011 we graced the garden with a new sign Ginat haMishnah, translated as, backyard garden of or connected to the Mishnah’. A metal artist created a simple metal sign that graces the corner of the garden. He wanted to capture the essence of the original scripture. The edges are scrolled by heated steel hammering. The lettering was cut, not with a straight edge, but with a jagged edge, as the Ten Commandments were burned into the stone tablets. The material is high carbon steel with a rust patina connoting its resolve to survive through the generations. The rusted steel is consistent with the natural progression of materials, drawn from the earth and returning to the earth in an “ashes to ashes” context. The patina implies an urgency that precious things may not last forever. The letters are cut through, implying that what is really important, lies beyond.
In 2012 Sara Sennett and other members of the congregation designed and built five mosaic and steel monolith markers around our nature trail. Each of the markers is linked to a book of the Torah and bear the Hebrew name and a phrase that connects the book to our synagogue. The Mishnah Garden will be linked to Exodus, (Shemot) with the phrase Sowing Freedom.
In 2012, we started a Garden Chug (interest group) to attract broader interests in gardening. Our motto is, “We do and teach and teach by doing”. The Chug is a hands-on experience for anyone who wants to touch the soil, learn how to garden and share their knowledge with others of all ages and abilities. This is a wonderful intergenerational activity.
Whether you are a gardening maven, novice, or newbee—all are welcome to learn how to start your own garden at home, help with the Mishnah Garden, or trade gardening knowledge, swap tools, seeds, and plants. We seek those interested in growing gardening and food experience among our Adat Shalom community.
Visit our Repairing the Earth Blog by year to read more about the life of the Mishnah Garden and join us in the garden! Contact Fred Pinkney or Cheryl Kollin to get involved.