One Farmer’s COVID Holiday Thoughts, October 2020

By Carole Caplan

This year—in this unusual and uncertain year—unable to gather in community, I chose instead to pray outside.

The words and songs of the service streamed out of my phone which sat neatly tucked into my tool belt

I had been weeding as I prayed along, enjoying the morning sunshine and the cool fall air.

I think it was out somewhere between the rows of fading sunflowers and the newly planted kale that I surprisingly ran into God…or perhaps it was that God, equally as surprised, ran into me.

The familiar tunes had tugged at my heart, and suddenly—without thinking—I had sprung up and began to dance, twirling to the music with the sun on my face and laughing like a little girl.

As the laughter turned to tears—you know, as it often does when we allow ourselves to open past the veneer of the everyday—I had an undeniable sense of being connected to these growing and dying things around me, to the cycles of the seasons they follow—and to the rhythms they look to teach me about year after year. 

Similarly, I felt connected to a growing and dying peoplehood, a Jewish project spanning space and centuries that was reaching out to me there in the field that very day.

For a moment I felt completely a part of, not apart from, and I felt it deep inside my bones.

As a farmer, the agricultural content of our Jewish teachings and rituals are not lost on me as I steward this small piece of land.

On Sukkot we are told to build huts to dwell in—structures consciously designed to be unstable—a roof which lets the rain in, and walls fragile enough to be blown over with the next big wind. We wave water-dependent species in all directions, and as Sukkot closes, we beat water-loving willows on the ground as we pray for rain—rain that might come at just the right time and in just the right amounts. At the same time, as farmers we are gathering in the harvest, the tactile abundance of the year which might nourish us through the cold months ahead. We buy seed and we plan for a harvest we can only trust will one day come to be.

As Jews, I think we are called to live precariously amidst the plenty precisely to remind us that despite our efforts for control, the future remains unknown. And even given that unknown, we are called to remember that this is not to be the time of our worry, but rather it is called the time of our rejoicing. The teachings seem eager to imply that joy is the fertile ground in which we can plan and plant for happiness. Happiness that might come from choices well made, and from a life well lived, but one that nonetheless, is not guaranteed.

The teachings seem eager to imply that joy is the fertile ground in which we can plan and plant for happiness.

In the bounty of the winter squash piled high in the barn awaiting market, gratitude comes easily for me and helps me access that type of joy. And with that joy, there inevitably comes hope. Farmers are incredibly hopeful people, you know. We have to be. The odds of seeds growing and plants reaching maturity against the realities of droughts, of floods, of untimely frosts and heat spells, of pests and disease…well, it’s all a practice of patiently tending what is in front of you today, despite the knowledge that disappointments and failures abound. Yet what remains certain to the farmer is that growth is possible, and that alone seems to provide the energy for one to endure, to remain adaptable, and to do the hard work that needs to be done.

If hope holds space for possibility and roots itself in joy, then perhaps joy is a fertile and abundant attitude waiting for us right outside the doors and walls we build as we attempt to keep ourselves safe. So, I invite you to join me outside. Come out to the farm sometime. Put your hands in the dirt. Soften. Connect. Find yourself to be a part of life. And listen. Joy dwells here, I am sure, and is calling out to each of us echoing our ancient texts: May we be grateful, may we be blessed, and may we merit to live many days upon the soil.

Photo: Pezibear

Another Renewing Sukkot Campout for AARC Families

Rabbi Ora shaking the Lulav with Beit Sefer Students on Sukkot

AARC families gathered this year on Carole’s farm to celebrate Sukkot. The campout began with a group effort to build the Sukkah. The children diligently created paper chains and tissue paper flowers while the parents and some older teens worked with hammers and nails.

AARC parents enjoying the fire after working hard to construct the Sukkah!

Once the Sukkah was complete, families enjoyed a cookout and a night under the stars!

On Sunday morning, Rabbi Ora joined in to bless the Sukkah, sing songs, and shake the lulav with the children and their families.

Beti Sefer students shaking the lulav and the etrog

The whole campout was a beautiful way to welcome in the New Year: with community, love, and the great outdoors!

The 5778 Sukkah Goes UP

The Sukkah is UP at The Farm on Jennings. Carole invites anyone to come and have a meal in it, and relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and land.

Havdalah in the Sukkah

 6900 Jennings Rd, 48105.

Saturday October 7

5:30pm to 7:30pm (Sunset is at 7:05).

We’ll have a potluck dinner, and close with havdallah.

Bring a dish to share. Musicians, bring your instruments.

AARC Sukkah raising begins, Oct 1 2017 at The Farm on Jennings

Cooperative Hammering

The first s’kach (organic rooftop) goes up

Decorations get made

A very long chain decoration

We invite 14 Ushpizin/honored ancestral guests: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David (the kids named them all!)

 

Oct 16 Beit Sefer and All Congregation Sukkah Building

Last year, we build the sukkah on a beautiful day, hope it's as nice this year!

Last year, we built the sukkah on a beautiful day, hope it’s as nice this year!

Beit Sefer students really did the building. Come on out and help!

Beit Sefer students really did the building. Come on out and help!

This coming Sunday morning, Oct 16, 2016 9:30 to 11:30 during our regular Beit Sefer/Religious School time, AARC will be building a Sukkah at Carole Caplan’s farm, 6900 Jennings Rd. The students, teachers and parents will build the sukkah just like last year, and we welcome help from all AARC members and friends. We will scour the land for s’kach (raw, unfinished vegetable matter) roof cover; we’ll make decorations; we’ll sing some songs in the finished sukkah! Please give yourself enough time to arrive by 9:30 so we can get the sukkah built in time to enjoy it. The eight day holiday of Sukkot begins at sundown on Sunday Oct 16.

Our really delightful Children’s High Holiday machzor/prayerbook closed with the Ufros aleinu prayer which is part of the evening Hashkivenu prayer.  The prayer asks God to spread over us a sukkat shalom/shelter of peace. As Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt says,

“During evening prayer there’s an extra blessing added — extra because it doesn’t appear in morning or afternoon prayer — which asks God to shelter us through the coming night. We pray ופרוש עלינו סכת שלומך, ufros aleinu sukkat shlomecha, ‘spread over us the sukkah of Your peace.’” Here’s a link to her blogpost “Shelter and Peace.”

And here’s link to the Hashkivenu prayer as sung during St. Louis’ Central Reform Congregation’s evening service. Recording features a wonderful group of CRC musicians: Rabbi Randy Fleisher, Leslie Caplan, Marty Miller, Andrew John, and Steve Friedman.

When we build a physical sukkah together, we can bring the meaning of this even closer. Enjoy, and see you Sunday.

Beit Sefer Builds a Sukkah and Shakes a Lulav

 

Beit Sefer students really did the building.

Beit Sefer students really did the building.

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What a beautiful day to build a sukkah.

Enornous toda raba to Carole Caplan who really knows how to build a sukkah!

Debbie Gombert led us in song.

Debbie Gombert led us in song.

We made lulavs from local plants and shook them to the east, north, south, west, and up and down.

We made lulavs from local plants and shook them to the east, north, south, west, and up and down.

Lunch and Learning in the Sukkah, on the Farm

apple bushel

Sept 27th, 2015, 11:45am-3:30pm

Join us for a vegetarian catered lunch.
Please bring a side dish or something from your harvest to share!

Following lunch we will celebrate the season with:

  • Readings and reflection on the end of this shmita cycle
  • Mindful walking in the garden
  • Art and exercises for expression and play
  • Yoga / Movement practice

There is no charge and the community is invited, but space is limited. Please RSVP to caplan.carole@gmail.com.  Directions will be provided.

This event is hosted by AARC and the Jewish Alliance for Food, Land and Justice, and is funded in part by a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor!

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The Sukkot Retreat is Coming! (Sign up here)

Sukkot Retreat, 2014

Fri, Oct 10 to Sun, Oct 12

What:  Relax and enjoy a weekend full of learning, community, celebration, rest, and fun:

For-sukkot

• Build and decorate the sukkah
• Celebrate Sukkot
• Friday night songs and games
• Yoga
• Workshops
• Beit Sefer Sunday morning
• Bonfire with s’mores
• Havdalah
• Music and folk dancing
• Children’s activities and child care on Saturday

All with wonderful meals and beautiful walks!

Where: Emrich Retreat Center, 7380 Teahen Rd, Brighton, MI 48116

Directions and Map for Emrich Center:  http://mapq.st/piicbZ

New this year:  Eight more rooms of extra space, to allow more privacy, ability for kids to be near each other, etc.

Questions?  Contact Mike Ehmann, mtehmann@comcast.net

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