Love Thy Neighbor

An oft bandied phrase, one that has been ping-ponging in and out of my thoughts for weeks, months even:  Love thy neighbor.

How do I treat the woman next door who is sneaking out the back door to go cheat on her husband?  How am I supposed to love the two men at work who just announced their sexual relationship?  I believe those things are against Torah, so how am I supposed to love these people?

The attached condition, “as thyself’ also gives me pause.  How do I apply that if I don’t so much love myself?

I did an online search and looked at the context of the Law:  18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Ah, some context is now given.  It’s not simply a willy-nilly overview of how humanity should be each others’ doormats; to the contrary, this is a simple provision that it’s not up to me to take the matter of law/justice/judgement into my own hands and apply as I desire, angrily so.

Additionally, the condition defines that I’m not to act by my own determination against the sons of my people – against my tribe, so to speak.  This certainly isn’t an obligatory statement regarding the whole of humanity.  The whole of humanity is not addressed by Torah, just the nation of the Hebrews and those who would take that citizenship.

By extension, this relieves me of an obligation to pass judgement, to call to attention a broken Law of Torah unless the violation is made by a fellow Hebrew.  I can point out the matter to the violator, or serve as a witness when it’s my fellow tribesman, but assignment of the duty of repayment and the pronouncement of recompense is not mine to dole.

This also means that I should not take vengeance or bear a grudge against myself, right?

Not as simple.

When my guilt is intertwined with that of the culture in which I’ve been raised, the separation of the threads of real guilt and perceived and societal guilt is an intricate and timely endeavor.

Not truly an easy task, that:  cleanly separating what would be expected of me should I truly live in a Torah community, and take an active part in the scales of justice that would prevail there.  In order for a release from guilt, there is a penalty to be applied.  Justice served, penance done, go on and live your life.  Complete.

In absence of that community – well, what then?

So, I continue to live the Law as best I can, in a society not understanding of that Law, not conducive to the keeping of that Law.  I keep to myself, do my best to get along with others, because I have no need and no right to judge others’ choices or to preach my beliefs.

And wonder:  will there ever be a day that I could wholly practice this simple phrase?

Where Do Kids Get Their Ideas?

I had two special guests this weekend:  my seven-year old granddaughter and her newly discovered seven-year old cousin, my great-niece.

Preparing for the weekend, I had to stretch my eating habits a bit.  I’ve found that most young girls, typical youth anyway, are not health conscious and are certainly not aware of organic foods and natural products.  They’re typically pretty picky about their food, as am I, but we see things completely different.

Assembling the donuts, the pizza plans, the sports drinks, I was contemplating how those items were going to affect my newly discovered waist line.  Ah, we all have to stretch a bet now and then, right?

So, we’re having a fabulous time, we three gals, cavorting in the backyard pool.  The girls are off to the side, having some girl-talk when I hear, “Aunt Trish – do you go to church?”

“No, but I do get together with other believers.”

“Then you don’t know God, ” she states, very matter-of-fact.

Why would a child think that I couldn’t possibly know about God if I didn’t go to church?

That sent my mind reeling.  How do I explain to a seven-year old that I follow a different God – a God who doesn’t require me to go to church, but who requires that I do get together with other believers?

I simply replied, “Oh, I know all about God.”

“But you can’t know everything,” she retorted.

True that, dear child, true that.

 

How Does the Garden Grow?

Have you ever wondered how the seven year cycle works as it applies to crops?

Initially, I thought that the point was to store up and preserve as much food as you could for the upcoming year.  Accidental happenings in the garden have me thinking differently.  I wonder if we work too hard to plant, and might rather be better off leaving the plants to grow themselves.

I’ve been building a large garden, in the hopes that it will require less work, but provide benefit to insects and soil, beauty, food, natural pest control, and long term sustenance.

Perennials, heirlooms, companion plants, natural borders, and predator bug attraction are primary components.   As is a need to relax and not be constantly pulled by things needing done in the garden.

You could say that I’ve tossed aside conventional wisdom when it comes to gardening.  There are no neatly hoed rows, no tidy sections of ground in this garden.

When the plants start to bolt, I allow several to completely go to seed.  The purpose was to harvest seeds – what happened is that many plants dropped seeds, and had seeds scattered by the winds.

The result has been that there were volunteer plants galore:   cilantro, butter-crunch lettuce, Minnesota midget cantaloupe, and rattlesnake pole beans.  Yes, beans survived a hard winter and took up residence all over the garden this year.

Tiny potatoes left in the ground have produced potato plants three years now.

This year, I’m going to take this concept farther.  I’m going to let a portion of everything in the garden go to seed, then mulch over the garden in the late fall.

We’ll see what ‘grows of itself’ next spring.

Here’s a quick garden tour:

I can tell you that this garden does not produce great quantities, so far.  I’ve harvested a lot of herbs, some lettuce, minimal peas, a decent garlic crop, and walking onions.  The pole beans are now ready to start harvest – last year I harvested until September.  Dry beans have been super productive, as have the cantaloupe.  Asparagus, grapes,  raspberries and blueberries are all new plants, so they are continuing to stake their space.

That’s my Hebrew garden.

Are you growing food this summer?  Do you incorporate new ideas into your garden?  What works best for you?

 

Emotional Dictates

We’ve reached a societal point where we look at a situation, wrap a strong emotion around it, and label it “good” or “bad”.

Murder, bad. Right?

What if the person who was killed had committed a crime deemed punishable by death? Would that change the judgement? Is the guilty party still deemed guilty for murdering when the dead was going to receive a death sentence?

That’s the thought that kicked off my recent pondering. I applied this concept more locally and liberally, and realized how easily the public is manipulated by emotion: “If it feels good, do it”.

I focused on the subject of Gardening/Crops.

Almighty created all living things; herbs of the field, trees for food, animals, fish, birds and mankind. Creation was labeled “Good”.

morning light zinnia

 

Rules were established to maintain a system supported by Almighty and optimal for mankind.

Included in those rules were those specific to foods:

  • Certain animals and creatures were not meant for consumption
  • Mixed seeds and mixed breeding are not allowed
  • The soil must be allowed to rest and replenish every seven years

Seems pretty easy to follow, right? The great thing is that when the Rules were followed, Almighty would respond by giving good rains to keep the cycle running smoothly.

Enter the illusion of intelligence called public thinking.

  • If an animal or creature tastes good, then it’s meant to be eaten
  • When plants or animals don’t produce as profitably as hoped for, create a hybrid or GMO product to outdo the original
  • Use up the soil, wear it out, then toss in some chemicals to make it more productive

These emotional based choices don’t look toward the long-term effects; they’re the product of a spoiled child’s litany: “I want more, I want better and I want it now.” Forget about what’s right, what’s good and what’s been proven to endure thousands of generations. We can do it better.

Similarly, emotions are used to ploy people with items they simply “must have” to feel valuable, or to meet societal expectations, or to follow societal “norms”. This tactic has proven quite useful in separating people from their hard-earned wages. Without drawing on those emotions, we’d simply be left to make purchases that were necessary. Oh, the horrors!

Emotions hold so much importance in society, but truly they change more often than the wind direction. How can a firm stand be made on a shifting base?

A favorite quote states that permanent decisions should not be made based on temporary emotions. How appropriate. How many times have a group of pained people pressed for policies to protect others from pain? Isn’t pain a fact of life? You have joy and you have pain.

Often, state and national laws follow similar logic. Look at seat belt laws. Emotions run amok from grieving family members create rules and dictates that penalize a person for not buckling a strap on their body each time they sit in a vehicle.

It’s akin to the declaration my Hubby made when my son could have killed himself during a fall from a very high tree branch he had climbed. Hubby firmly stated “you cannot climb any more trees!” While I was similarly shaken with emotions from the near fatal incident, I was quick to alter the edict (one of very, very few times that we disagreed on issues related to the kids). Kids climb trees, kids get hurt.

top of the tree

We cannot eradicate boo-boos and pain by employing more emotion-based rules, but we can apply common sense to keep ourselves out of the most dangerous situations.

My personal choice is to look at life through the lens of Torah, where sound judgement rules – rather than emotions.

 

Suffered Life

I have recovered from a long period of depression – in the midst of my depression, every event, every duty, every change was taken in by my despairing mind as a personal attack. A thing to be suffered. Another thing to survive.

It’s so hard to believe I was like that now that I’ve healed.

But I remember.

cold outside

I know my thoughts, how I would literally be buffeted by every single fucking thing. Hammering at me. Constantly. Ceaselessly. Pressed down further into the deep pit of despair by the weight of it all.

Every little thing another burden, another suffered pain.

I cannot find the words to describe to you how relieving it is to be free of that weight. To be myself again, a person I’d lost and didn’t even know I was missing. Can you imagine?

It’s a little frightening to look back at how poorly I handled my work load, my loved ones, myself.

 

Our home reflected my negligence. Dust littered walls and decor. Cobwebs in corners and ladybug skeletons in light fixtures. Disorganized closets and drawers. Stacks of indecisive mail pleas.

bath

Work fared some better. I was busy at my job. I was completing tasks. I can’t say that I was unproductive, that’s not really the case. I wasn’t wholly engaged. I was pained by the pressures, pained by the responsibility. Procrastination took on a new level as I allowed every deadline to guide my last-minute rush to complete tasks. Challenging items lay piled like little losses across the desktop, normally bare.

Loved ones received little response from me. Conversations were stilted, as I simply had little to give. Rote queries became tiring and friendly visits a perceived personal attack on my pig pen space.

 

I cared little about keeping up and was quite surprised to find my nails too long, and my shoes scuffed and dirty, and my socks worn bare. I realized that I had chosen a few outfits and wore them repeatedly, a pattern of my ailment.

wine thirty

I see now that challenges had overwhelmed me, robbed me of my confidence. I could no longer believe that I had any abilities, any worth, anything worth fighting for.

Perhaps that was driven by my affected memory loss, my lack of B12. It’s also a symptom of depression. Realistically, it’s a sick cycle – which came first, the B12 deficiency or the depression? It doesn’t really matter now, does it?

I suffered life.

The shame of this does not escape me. I regret with my whole being the time that I lost to this down. Life is too short to waste time, as we only live once. This is our opportunity and it doesn’t wait around.

What I know is that life is hard, and there are going to be icy patches that take your legs out from under you and the landing might bust your ass.

The patriarch Jacob/Israel nailed it when he said it had been a long, hard life.

But there are joys and beauties and challenges and people who make those hard things seem better, easier, worth it.

There is the living, the breathing, the taking it in and giving back out. The push and the pull, the ups and the downs, the ride – the scenes.

There are the connections, those electrical charges that occur when you are affected by another human being. Warm hugs and handshakes, twinkling eyes smiling and sorrowful eyes sharing pain.

heart angles

Belly laughs, crying because you’ve laughed so hard, laughing too hard because you’re trying to retell a remembered funny and it just makes you laugh more, sighing because that memory was so sweet.

There is beauty around us that makes us silent, steals our breath, the majesty of creation – acknowledgement of an Almighty that put this tiny sphere in the universe for a reason, a purpose that escapes us. And that’s okay. We’re not meant to know.

heart angle focus

And work to keep our minds active, and flexed and eager for the next challenge. Labors that produce more than the material design that we’re striving for, but that also build muscle and endurance and an appetite for the bounty of this great planet.

And something here might seem to have some faint recognition in your brain, some far away bell sounding a muted alert, some rusty hinge squeak coarsely affecting your ears.

have a heart

Listen, pay attention, you who are suffering life.
Get help!

Find the reason and pour every bit of energy you have left into fixing yourself.

You deserve it, you’re worth it.

Life is.

Don’t miss it.

Change of View

 

Dabbling with photography, I find that my perspective of creation has shifted.

I’ve always been most relaxed in the outdoors, providing I’m not in a crowd; and appreciation for the beauty of our fabulous world, the colors, the varying landscapes, the wildlife, has always been an important piece of my makeup.

garter 5

This lens finder view, however, has greatly enhanced what I see.

lettuce flower

As my focus shifted to the quality of light, the positioning of the subject and the backdrop, it changed the whole picture for me.  Suddenly, I can see the snapshot, the perfect setting, the quality photo – most often just before I pass by it doing seventy miles per hour!

I miss a lot of kick-ass photo ops.

I see them.

I enjoy them tremendously.

In fact, you could say my heart fills with their radiant beauty.  If I could reproduce what imprinted momentarily in my mind, I could wow you with that vision.

I have a lot of work to do, to up my game in photography.  I can’t tell you if I’m up to that challenge – I truly enjoy my hobby, but I worry that taking it to a higher level, or even to a business level, would remove the joy.  I’m anal like that, obsessive about things that I shouldn’t be.

What I can tell you is that right now, the appreciation for Almighty’s creation has me filled with such awe, such gratefulness that I can simply be witness to that beauty.

If you could feel what I feel… if you could see what I see.

That is enough.  That will keep me.

Stripping Away Cultural Inheritance

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