…and the farmer plows
Into the ground
And in the background, the cypresses
And the pale sky of the hot wind
The farmer will grow bread for us
So that we can grow (from the song “Geography Lesson”/Eli Mohar)
Summer is ending, a cool wind begins to blow, the days grow shorter, the squill plants are blossoming, and pomegranates are hanging from the tree limbs. Autumn is here.
The holidays of the month of Tishrei are soon upon us, and among them is Sukkot, the festival of the harvest, that reflects the deep connection between the holidays we celebrate, their historical events and the agricultural realities of the Land of Israel. Noga Hareuveni, the founder of Neot Kedumim described the end of the year as “the end of the agricultural year…when the crops still remaining in the field are hastily gathered for storage before the first of the approaching rains; figs and raisins are brought in from the rooftops where they have been drying in the sun, the first olives are harvested, ripe date clusters are cut down from the palms. Everything is gathered and stored away”1
At this time of year the ground is still a shade of yellowish-brown, still adorned with the thorns and thistles that were able to survive the scorching summer heat. This is the time, before the rains have begun, to plow furrows into the ground. The first plowing is intended to open up the ground and to prepare the land to absorb rainwater and the wheat seeds that the farmer will soon plant. The first plowing is also meant to knock down the stubborn thorns that prevent the wheat seeds from spreading their roots. The plowing is done by using a plow that is equipped with a stake that it drives into the ground, or alternately, these days, by a plow operated by the engine of a tractor.
The act of opening the ground for the series of stages in the agricultural process is nevertheless accompanied by uncertainty, and a worry as to what the future holds. This uncertainty is reflected by a person, ready to welcome the new year that is now upon us, full of blessings and hope yet not knowing what the year holds in store. The land needs the rains (in Hebrew g’shamim) while man needs fulfillment of his hopes (in Hebrew: hagshama). It was regarding this triangle – man, earth and rain that our Sages taught that “there are three elements which balance one another out: man, earth and rain…this is to teach us that without land, there is no rain, and without either, there is no man.” (Breishit Rabba 13:3).
1Noga Hareuveni, Nature in Our Biblical Heritage, trans. Helen Frenkley (Israel: Neot Kedumim, 1980) , p. 69