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23 Animals, Plants, Rocks, Sky, Snow, Trees, and Land

23.1 Animals

But ask the animals, and they shall turn you – ת(ו)רך; and the birds of the air, and they shall tell you;
Or converse with the earth, and it shall turn you; and the fishes of the sea shall declare to you.
(Job 12:7-8)

A proverb teaches that if we wish to learn to work, we should go to the anthill. Each animal, each plant, each rock is a teacher from G-d. Each behaves according to a perfect nature providing instruction. The animals, the earth, they shall turn you back to G-d.

Animals are our ‘buddies’ in life.[2488] They teach us to live in the present. People find in life that it is hard to say goodbye. Yet from animals, we learn to adjust to new people and new places we choose to live. Animals give us joy. They entertain. They are playful. They are clowns. We love them. They love us.

I spent some time on the JH Ranch in Bayfield, Colorado where I learned about cattle. The JH Ranch uses solar power for most of their energy and is completely self-sufficient. They live on their goat milk, goat cheese, fresh eggs, and range free beef. They raise Charolais[2489] with Red Angus and a Black and White Milk Cow. Raising cattle requires patience. For example, one needs to give them time to recognize an open gate and they will walk through on their own accord. They don’t like to pushed or herded, but will go to the right place if shown the way. This is how people are as well.

Cows are smart, knowing when they are doing something wrong. They will look you in the eye trying to evaluate where you stand. Cows become comfortable with people they see regularly, while being skittish around strangers. They have visual, audio, and olfactory recognition skills.

23.1.1 Birds

Birds are almost as intelligent as people and should be avoided as pets for the simple reason that they were meant to fly and captivity for them is a limitation on their native form of locomotion. Consequently captivity leads to neurosis in the form of feather plucking etc.

While birds would rather be outside climbing real trees, one may cut branches and bring them inside and lay they on top of cages for the birds to nibble on the branches and leaves.[2490]

“My tree, My tree,
It came inside to me”

Text 23-1: Clara’s Day in the Sun
Last Sunday Clara the Cockatoo was out in the backyard sitting on my friend’s shoulder when it got excited and wanted to get off darting immediately to the giant Maple Tree. She began to climb and climb until she almost reached the top. There, she rested through the afternoon heat and when she got hungry started eating the maple leaves and chewing on branches. We on the other hand were worried that we would not be able to get the bird out of the tree. I did not want to leave the backyard for fear she would jump and land in a neighbor’s yard. My friend talked to Clara and she would just coo back and not come down. We discussed squirting her down the tree, but she was too high up. So we waited thinking she would have to come down for a drink. At sunset Clara began her normal screeching to call the “rest of the flock home”. To accompany the screaming Clara began a foot stomping while screeching antic and slipped, recovering herself about half way down the tree. After this fall she straightened herself and resumed screeching. My friend came outside and saw Clara and said “you are coming down”. Well Clara was probably going to head right back up the tree, but she was now within reach of the hose so we squirted her down as she opened her wings to protect herself and then softly glided to the grass below.

Next week we brought some of Clara’s favorite maple branches inside and laid them on her cage like suhachk on top of a Sukkah. My friend exclaimed for Clara, “My tree, my tree, it came inside to me.”

An African Grey Parrot named Tov makes a difference with her owner as they go to schools and read to the children. While birds should be free, sometimes, a bird’s life has great significance living amongst humans.[2491] The same can be said for dogs that are less deprived if taken on frequent walks; but how does one fly a bird? Some birds like magpies make loud noises, but maybe they are bothered by our noises as well.[2492]

Text 23-2: Grey Owl on the Beaver
Every creature has its rightful place and in its rightful place it becomes beautiful.

Every person also has their rightful place and in that place they are beautiful.

Text 23-3: Chief of the Su Indians speaking to Grey Owl
A man becomes what he dreams and you have dreamed well.

23.2 Plants

Like animals, plants are our friends in this world. Plants are like children. We nurture them into maturity. In arid countries, plants are precious. The Bible refers to a number of plants and trees including:[2493]

Table 23-1: Plants of Israel
Plant
Description
Verse
Barley
Seorah
Long Hair
Animal food. Also a source for bread for poorer people.
Land of wheat and barley.[2494]
Ruth gleamed in a barley field.[2495]
Cake of barley bread.[2496]
Barley and straw feed animals[2497]
Fig Tree
Source of fruit for the Israelites.
Good shade tree.
Height of 20-30 feet.
Clothes of fig leaves[2498]
Cake of figs[2499]
Symbol of peace and prosperity[2500]
Flax
Linen
Height of 3 feet with blue flowers.
Products include sails, rope, and garments.
Linen and wool threads should not be woven together into ‘shatnez’.
Linen and wool threads are of a different nature and a weaver should not force them to conform.
She seeketh wool and flax,
worketh willingly with her hands.[2501]
Linen constituted the high priest’s vestments and the curtains of the tabernacle.[2502]
Rahab hid Joshua’s spies under stalks of flax.[2503]
Frankincense
Tree
The resin is exposed by peeling a thin layer of bark. It hardens into incense, i.e.
the frankincense, “free-lighting”.
Used to make sweet-smelling smoke in the temple.[2504]
Vegetables
Melons
The gourd is probably a melon in biblical references.
We remember ... the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.[2505]
Wild gourds.[2506]
A lodge in a garden of cucumbers.[2507]
So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.[2508]
Grapevine
Grapes were eaten in season, but wine preserved the juices for a later time.
And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard.[2509]
Herbs
Present everywhere, these are the grasses of the field, the small flowering plants along the hill sides. Examples include: Mustard, Rue,
Mint, and Anise.
Small rain upon the tender herb.[2510]
And thou shalt eat the herb of the field.[2511]
Eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.[2512]
Lentil
Adashim
“to tend a
flock”
A sturdy pea like plant that grows in dry climates. This food like barley is for
difficult climates or times.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils.[2513]
King David is given lentils to eat.[2514]
A field of lentils is defended from an attack by the Philistines.[2515]
Eaten during times of exile and famine.[2516]
Lilies
Anemone blossoms of white, purple, and blue. Alludes to other flowering plants as well.
A sign of spring.[2517]
He shall grow as the lily.[2518]
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.[2519]
Oak Tree
Elon
The name contains that of G-d.[2520]
Kabbalah describes the sefirot as the ‘Tree of Life’, the tzelem, the Hashmal, the image of G-d.
Alludes to other trees of great size as well.
Oak, whose leaf fadeth.[2521]
Symbol of holiness, power, and might.[2522]
Abraham’s oak.[2523]
The weeping oak (willow?)[2524]
Burn incense upon the hills under oaks.[2525]
Oak of Moreh.[2526]
O ye oaks of Bashan.[2527]
Olive Tree
The older trees are very important as they
bear the largest crop. For this reason, during
times of war, G-d commanded the Israelites
not to destroy these trees.
Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts.[2528]
Bring pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always.[2529]
His beauty shall be as the olive tree.[2530]
A dove with an olive leaf.[2531]
Palm Tree
Dates provided honey, weavers produced mats and roofing from the leaves, fibers provided thread, rope, and rigging for boats, and fishnets.
Builders made doors and support beams from the wood, even boats from the hollow trunk.
Deborah’s palm tree.[2532]
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.[2533]
Pomegranate
The hard casing survives for long periods in very dry climates. Inside the casing, the fruit is full of red seeds, surrounded by a juicy pulp,
hence, the name pomegranate, “apple with seeds.”
A land of pomegranates.[2534]
And Saul tarried ... under a pomegranate tree.[2535]
Make pomegranates of blue and of purple and of scarlet round about the hem.[2536]
Reeds and
Rushes
Made for pens, paint brushes, papyrus for paper.
Lengths of papyrus glued together, biblos, led to
the word for bible. Source of baskets, boat
materials, measuring rods.
Can the rush grow without mire?[2537]
She took for him an ark of bulrushes.[2538]
A measuring reed.[2539]
Sycamore Tree
Fig-like fruit. Consumed by poorer people like
Barley. Tree served for shade. Builders used
the wood in construction.
I was a herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit.[2540]
He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost.[2541]
Thistles and
Thorns
Thistles and thorns served as a protective plant around vineyards and other crops.
Also they provided kindling materials in an area of limited wood supply.
A hedge of thorns.[2542]
Sow not amongst thorns.[2543]
The burning bush.[2544]
Cursed is the ground for thy sake... thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.[2545]

23.3 Rocks

Land, brooks and springs, valleys and hills, plants and trees, iron and bronze are all part of our precious earth.[2546] From here we know that even what man produces, bronze from copper and tin is a product of earth.

Text 23-4: The Seven Blessed Foods of Israel
For the Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water,
of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates;
a land of olive oil, and honey;
A land where you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack any thing in it;
a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig bronze.

The Land of Israel produces seven delicious foods in this blessing. The seven fruits of G-d’s blessing to Israel correspond to the qualities of the lower sefirot:

Table 23-2: The Sefirot and the Seven Species
Sefira
Species
Significance
Hesed
Wheat
With kindness, God bestows wheat in abundance enabling the expansion of the population.
Gevurah
Barley
Barley is a tougher food mainly for animals, which derive tremendous strength from the nutrition locked in its kernels.
Tiferet
Vines
These are the grapes of Israel, the source of her vitamins and nourishment. They are the heart of the people, a source of joy and celebration on the holidays.
Netzah
Fig trees
Fig trees live for hundreds of years and connect families across many generations. They are a symbol of endurance and victory. They provide sustenance and shade even in drought years.
Hod
Pomegranates
Pomegranates lush red fruit surrounds her seeds and reminds us of the joy that God has given to the world. We are thankful for this blessed fruit with its unique beauty. The red color denotes the left feminine side of the Tree of Life.
Yesod
Olive oil
Olive oil symbolizes righteousness. Olive’s purest oil is fit to light the Menorah in the Holy Temple.
Malchut
Honey
Honey is the sweet reward of the land of Israel. From date honey, olive oil, and wheat; Israelites fashion halavah cakes. The sweetness of honey is Malchut that is the Shechinah of G-d.


In reference to Deut.8:7-9 the land of Israel flows with springs that nourish the plants of Israel. Israel’s earth contains copper and tin that they used to make bronze.[2547] Bronze greatly improved the quality of farm tools and equipment. Iron discovered later proved the most durable of the early metals.

Rocks are our friends in the world. Moses learned this the hard way after striking one with anger to bring forth the miracle of water. For this sin, Elohim prohibited Moses from walking on the rock of Israel. That land is precious is beyond question. The Torah teaches that a man must till the land, must tend to it, he must make it his own so that he will nourish her and she will return her produce. In the movie “Far and Away” young Joseph from Ireland to America is preparing to race for his own land that will be given in the Homestead Act of 1862. He is worn from his long journey and in exhaustion experiences a vision of his father:[2548]

Text 23-5: Far and Away
Da, is that you?
- Joseph!
- Oh, you look like you’re not doing too well, my boy.
I missed you, Da
- A man is nothing without land, they say...
- Land is a man’s own soul...
I’ll work my own land someday.
- If you manage it, my God, your old Da...
- will be smiling down on you from Heaven above.
...
- You’ll be running in the race tomorrow, I presume.
I always said I’d get my land.

The sky above us, the trees before me, the snow between, land is what we are, land is where we return.


[2488] Avigail of New Zealand
[2489] A breed of large white cattle developed in France.
[2490] 7/6/03: Gayle speaking for Clara the Cockatoo.
[2491] See Section 4.7.3: Text 4-13: Luzatto's Knowing Heart on Ecology for the kabbalistic benefit
[2492] Suhi
[2493] The Plants of the Bible, Nancy Peelman, Morehouse-Barlow Company, New York, 1975
[2494] Deut 8:8
[2495] Ruth 2
[2496] Judges 7:13
[2497] Kings 1:4:28
[2498] Gen 3:6-7
[2499] Sam 1:25:18
[2500] Kings 1:4:25
[2501] Proverb 31:13
[2502] Exodus 26:1
[2503] Joshua 2:6
[2504] Lev 2:1, Exodus 30:7, Kings 1:11:8
[2505] Numbers 11:5
[2506] Kings 2:4:39
[2507] Isaiah 1:8
[2508] Jonah 4:6
[2509] Leviticus 19:10
[2510] Deut. 32:2
[2511] Gen. 3:18
[2512] Numbers 9:11. September 11th a bitter day in our time.
[2513] Gen 25:34
[2514] Samuel 2:17:28
[2515] Samuel 2:23:11-12
[2516] Ezekiel 4:9
[2517] Song of Songs 2:12
[2518] Hosea 14:5
[2519] Song of Songs 2:1
[2520] Such a tree might have been a shrine as in the religion of Astarte from Greek or Asherah of the Semitic venacular. Those worshipping her chose groves of trees. She was the wife of El in the Ugarit and later that of Baal in the Caanan where Baal substitutes for El. Like Adam’s wife’s name Hava which meant the ‘mother of all living’ so Asherah represented general fertility.
[2521] Isaiah 1:30
[2522] Isaiah 2:13
[2523] Genesis 13:18
[2524] Genesis 35:8
[2525] Hosea 4:13
[2526] Genesis 12:6
[2527] Zechariah 11:2
[2528] Deut. 28:40
[2529] Exodus 27:20
[2530] Hosea 14:6
[2531] Genesis 8:10-11
[2532] Judges 4:5
[2533] Palm 92:12
[2534] Deut. 8:8
[2535] Samuel 1:14:2
[2536] Exodus 28:33
[2537] Job 8:11
[2538] Exodus 2:3
[2539] Ezekiel 40:3
[2540] Amos 7:14
[2541] Psalm 78:47
[2542] Proverbs 15:19
[2543] Jeremiah 4:3
[2544] Exodus 3;2
[2545] Genesis 3:17-18
[2546] Deuteronomy 8:7-9
[2547] Copper with a tenth of tin is bronze—a much stronger metal.
[2548] Far and Away, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Ron Howard Film.

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