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The Emuna Garden    

The Emuna Garden

There’s nothing at all “natural” about the Land of Israel, as the Levy family from London found out in their new home. Emuna is what makes the garden grow...


One of the mitzvahs I was most excited about doing when we moved to Eretz Yisrael in 2005 was planting a garden.

I’ve always loved trees, plants and green, and in every garden we had when we lived in London, we always tried to leave it greener than we found it. When we found our new-build house in Modiin, I spent hours and hours dreaming about the amazing garden we were going to create from scratch, in that patch of bare, red earth at the back of the house.
We moved in to the house in August 2005, and by December 2005, we had spent an absolutely enormous amount of money creating our dream garden. Except that it wasn’t. Even though we’d spared no expense on the watering system and the plants, and the hard landscaping, hardly anything seemed to be flourishing or growing.
The soil wasn’t the problem – our neighbours on either side had exactly the same stuff, and their gardens seemed to be flourishing. But our grass never grew properly, then died. Our climbers never got off the ground. Our trees – which we’d bought already fairly big – seemed anaemic and droopy. A few of the ornamental grasses took off in a big way; in a much too big way, in fact, as they quickly swallowed up most of the garden.
The other flowers and herbs got eaten by a million bugs; and everything in our ‘dream’ garden – other than the weeds - seemed to be either dead or fast approaching it.
At the time, I couldn’t understand why. We’d spent far more on our garden than our neighbours had, yet ours was the worst of the bunch. Today, I understand why our garden in Modiin was such a flop. Firstly, we never asked Hashem to be part of the process. We just assumed that a fancy garden design and a ton of cash was all that was required. Also, the garden itself was one big exercise in ‘gaava’ (pride), and trying to get one-up on the neighbours (not that we realised this at the time).
Lastly, there is a real mitzvah of settling the land in Eretz Yisrael, and with our western mindsets, my husband and I thought we could pay someone else – in this case, our gardener – to fulfil it for us.
We left that house two years ago. As the icing on the cake, there was a mix-up with our buyers, and their gardeners came and overhauled the garden the day before we actually moved out.
It was quite a traumatic experience to see the garden that I’d poured so much time, money and effort into reduced back to a patch of bare earth in a matter of minutes. But once I’d got over the shock, I was grateful to Hashem for giving me some clear evidence of just how futile and temporary all our grand plans and designs are.
Fast forward to January 2009, and my husband and I again found ourselves in a house with no garden, to speak of. What we had, on three sides of our house, was an overgrown mess, which had been planted 10 years ago, and then left to fend for itself.
As it was shmitta last year, I didn’t even start to think about what to try and do with the garden until after Succot.
When I did start to think about it, to be honest, I got a bit downhearted. Hashem, in His kindness, had given us a wonderful house on a shoestring budget. Baruch Hashem, we have enough parnassa to cover our needs, but we certainly didn’t have the tens of thousands of shekels I thought we would need to ‘do’ the garden. In fact, we barely had a thousand….
And because it was so overgrown, I couldn’t even make a start by planting seeds, or other cheap, small plants. So I did what I always now do when I feel stuck: I asked Hashem for help to sort our garden out.
I told Hashem that I wanted a garden so I could say ‘Birchat Ilanot’ (the blessing on the trees) there; so I could sit there and do hitbodedut; so I could beautify a bit of Eretz Yisrael; so that I could show my two girls some of Hashem’s wonders, as the plants and trees grew and developed.
It didn’t take long to get an answer: three days later, I was speaking to a friend who has a strapping teenage son who was looking for something to do to earn a bit of money and keep himself busy.
He came and gave us a quote for clearing the garden – and it’s exactly the amount we had set aside. A little while ago, with Hashem’s help, we planted five new trees in our garden.
I can’t tell you what a thrilling experience it is to plant a tree myself, here in Eretz Yisrael. Even though it’s still very early days, and the garden is still more wasteland than tropical paradise, I am already getting so much more joy out of it than the ‘designer’ garden in Modiin. Every time I step into the garden now, my soul sings.
As so often happens when you do your best to trust in Hashem, and have patience that He will resolve a situation for the very best, I’m seeing that it was an enormous blessing that we couldn’t afford to have someone else do our garden.
It could still take a while for our garden to ‘get there’ – but now, because we are part of the process, and learning from it and enjoying it so much, our garden hasn't just become a place where we can develop our physical dream of a lush, green paradise; it's also become a bona fide 'garden of emuna'.

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  Thank you Rivka!
Sarah Chaya6/7/2009 2:05:52 PM

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