Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Don't kill those "weeds"!

Don't kill those "weeds"!
Do a random search for foraging and you will find more and more sites, blogs, and books popping up every day written by folks relearning and sharing the bounty of the wild.
Now I know, when you hear the word "foraging", images come to mind of folks dressed in woodsy gear traipsing deep into the forests searching for rare mushrooms or strange plants. I'm not saying this doesn't happen. Because it does. And it's awesome. But you don't have to go into the woods to find a wealth of food. It is growing right under your nose. The wild is everywhere! Even in the city sidewalks.

After all, Mother Nature knows that just what we need following a long winter is a good cleansing. She provides just that through the first plants that push up through the cool soil.

Here are just a few of the plants seen growing here on the farm and all over the area in the past few weeks.
Eli's favorite, Field Speedwell (Veronica persica).
This lovely early bloomer makes a refreshing tea. Boil and steep 2 c. water, 1 handful of fresh, washed speedwell. Add honey or other herbs/spices to taste. The beautiful tiny blue flowers along with the rest of the plant can be used as an expectorant for coughs, digestive aid, and blood cleanser. Remove those toxins! Freshen that skin!

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), it's everywhere! 
Used in soups, salads, and teas this bad boy can be eaten cooked or raw. The leaves, flowers and stem are all edible. It is high in iron and fiber and is a great detoxifier, astringent, and diuretic. Did I say detox???
Spring Onions, tasty.
You'll find clumps of this stuff growing among your grass. It's usually taller and it has a thin, rounded hollow stalk. Sometimes the ends curl up like the ones in the photo. The best way to identify these fellas is to smell them. If it smells like onions, it's onions! The best way to use them? Any way you would use chives.

And the ever popular, always healthy Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
You know these beauties. They are commonly seen being attacked by humans trying to rid them from their lawns, spreading people's wishes all over the land, or having their "heads popped off" by children of all ages. Very easy to identify. These plants are called dynamic accumulators for their ability to pull nutrients through their long, strong tap rots from deep in the soil. These nutrients are what give the plant its healthy punch. The list of health benefits from this crazy little lion plant range from liver support to diabetes, bone health, skin disorders, urinary problems, high blood pressure, anemia, weight loss, and much more! It is packed full of iron, fiber, vitamin C, protein and all sorts of other health words. It's amazing that all of us aren't out there digging it up right now and chowing down!
I dug up a bunch of this at the farm last week, brought it home, got out my biggest soup pot and made a giant batch. I made so much I got to share it with my friends.  It was raving good, we had it all finished by the next day! I loosely followed this recipe and must add that we all liked it better the second day. Be sure to use the whole plant, not just the greens. Remember those dynamic roots! 

We good folks here at the Farmacy have been busy harvesting tons of this glory and prepping it for use for our Community Supported Medicine members. Pretty soon, boxes will be arriving packed with fresh goodies made from our Dandelions and other natural wonders, just for you. 

Don't forget to sign up for your share today! 

Go for it! Step outside and pick some dinner! I dare you.

NOTES: Please be aware of any pesticides or any other chemicals that have been applied to the area before picking and ingesting any wild food. Also, never eat any wild food that you cannot identify with 100% accuracy. Check your field guides. Only eat small amounts of any food you are trying for the first time, in case of allergies.

DIY: Do-It-Yourself Reality.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY: Do-It-Yourself Reality.

One of the special delights that have evolved in my life the past few years is a new hevruta of study companions. You have the fruits of some of our studies in past entries. Currently we continue our study of Kedushat Levi, the Hasidic commentary to the Torah of Yitzakh Levi of Berditchev. here is the translation of a wonderful reflection of prayer and the zug (partnership) of God and humanity:

[An] additional explanation: Bereshit - [read it as] bet (two/double) beginning
The Blessed Name bestows shefa [beneficent outpouring] and we through our prayers make an opening in the divine outpouring [allowing it to reach the prayer], each according to his [i.e., human] will. 
This one [for example] will make an opening by means of the letters of chayyim (life) for [enhanced] life; That one with the letters of chokhmah (wisdom) for [greater] wisdom; 
Another with the letters of osher (wealth) for wealth.[1] 
And thus [it is] for all goods, each [may be used] according to our will. 

Look, for everything that is [found] in the [the realm] of the spirit, there is something analogous to it in the [realm of] the physical. 
So look, in the physical [universe] there is sound and speech.
 The sound is the matrix/container,[2] while speech is the opening [3] for the sound made through letters [to activate the shefa].  

Thus [for example] on Rosh ha-Shanah, the sound of the shofar is [or signifies] the outpouring from the Blessed Creator - it is the matrix.
 And when we say the malchut, zechronot, and shofarot [4], it is the opening by which we shape the outpouring of the Creator through the letters/words, every individual according to his will. 

[Hands-on Judaism: young Kolamites making their own shofar]

See, this outpouring matrix that flows from the Creator, it is the aspect [we know as] the written Torah [which is given to us]. 
While this opening we make for the outflow through letters, this is the aspect of the oral Torah, it being the will of Israel, when they make interpretation of the written Torah  [5]. 
So this [is the meaning of] bereshit - "double beginning [to the universe]" - the [combination of] written Torah and the oral Torah [bring creation into being].[6]

1. This is based on the word mysticism of Sefer Yetzirah, which regards the letters of the Hebrew Alef-Bet as the building blocks of creation. Very much analogous to the periodic table, where elements can be combined to make useful compounds, it is taught that proper application of the letters and words of Hebrew allows the adept to construct reality from them. This is also a testimony to the Jewish notion of humanity dignity and power. God gives us the raw materials of the natural (and supernatural) order, but we may mold them and shape them to our needs and the needs of the world. 

2. the translation of calul here is debatable. I welcome a better suggestion, 

3. Tzimtzum literally means contraction/condensing. The image is a space created in the membrane between the spiritual and physical realms to allow the shefa to enter one's life, i.e., spoke prayer attunes us to the divine "frequency," while the words themselves serve as the access code for translating the spiritual bounty into physical reality. 

4. the three liturgies that accompany the blowing] consists of verses that refer to these three themes. Each verse is specifically selected for their upbeat message for Israel and the world. The liturgy, of course, is a Jewish creation, an addition to the purely biblical command to sound the shofar on the holiday. The significance of this will be evident at the end of the homily. 
5. Here the theme of partnership (and mutual dependency) really gets highlighted, and in a somewhat counter-tradition manner. Jewish thinkers have tended to treat all the two Torahs, the written Torah and it's on-going interpretation, as God-given. Rabbi Yitzakh unpacks that flattening, monistic thinking by reclaiming the oral Torah as a human creation, and the very thing that renders the divine gift of Torah (Torah = divine outpouring) meaningful on the physical plane. Without us and our wordy, argumentative ancestors, the Torah would be divine, surely, but inert and unable to benefit the world, like a heap of iron ore that need human intervention to refine it, reshape it, and make it into tools.

6. The biggest metaphysical claim of all - that only through the combined efforts of God and humanity that the universe exists.  

When Adam Did Fall Did Sin We All?

 When Adam Did Fall Did Sin We All? The Fall of Man and Original Sin [not in] Judaism
Once again recently (it happens quite a bit here in Texas), I ended up discussing the culpablity of Adam and Eve in light of the death of Jesus. For traditional Christians, of course, the "Fall of Man" or the "Fall from Grace," is a massively important doctrine.
[Eden story from a medieval Jewish manuscript]

This "Fall" is more than the story of the expulsion from Eden as described in Genesis, mind you. Like all religions (Jews do it too), Early Christianity, starting with Paul, attached and extrapolated all kinds of extra-biblical claims to the obvious meaning of Gen. chapter 3 (we all will die, we will have to labor for our food, women will suffer during childbirth, we hate snakes).

For Christians, the two most important add-ons are that of
a) "original sin" -- that the sin of disobeying God attaches not just to the first couple, but to all their offspring (i.e., us), and
b) that the punishment for that is "eternal damnation," not just death in this world (as Genesis states, explicitly), but "death" in the next world, in the form of eternal exile from God into a suffering afterlife.

The Christian solution, of course, is Jesus. But for Jesus to be the cure, then the illness, original sin, needs to be "real." That, it seems, includes the idea that Adam and Eve were real, historical, flesh-and-blood people. A mythic first couple won't serve. A metaphor simply cannot carry the weight of justifying the kind of real, metaphysically transformative sacrifice Christians credit to Jesus. Thus the constant kerfuffle over the historicity of Genesis.
Jews, too have argued over the literal truth of Genesis 1-4, though not so much in the Modern era. While there is a small bundle of naive, anti-modernist ultra-orthodox (Haredi) Jews who cling to the historicity of Genesis, the vast majority of Jews, building on our own 2000 year old tradition of metaphoric interpretation, generally view the Eden narrative as important, but not factual.

Key to our relative equanimity about this is that Judaism does not have a doctrine of "Original sin." We simply do not read human nature through "Fall-colored glasses." How can this be? Well first, we don't pile on a lot of additional punishments to the ones listed in Gen. 3. Even if we assumed that Eden was a historical event, we don't think all humanity bears the guilt of past people's crimes, though we all must live with the consequences that flow from the decisions of earlier generations (who can undo the past?).

Moreover, there are key linguistic features in the story that suggest that even the author of Genesis did not take the expulsion from Eden so literally. The key feature being "names." The first couple actually have none. The English Bible would have you believe they were named "Adam" and "Eve." But the Hebrew actually says, ha-adam "the earthling," and he first calls her ishah, "woman." Later he redubs her chavah, "live [giving]" (3:20) after she proves the capacity to be, well, life-giving. But this hardly a name, as the animals (who already showed their capacity to reproduce) are called chayah, "living [creature]." One letter now distinguishes her from other reproducing creatures - hardly a personal name. And "the earthling" never loses the definitive article (the) from his name, demonstrating that it is a common, rather than proper noun (it's not his name). Hebrew works exactly like English in this regard. We say "David" rather than "the David," because a proper noun is innately definite. The point? These two figures are meant to be "everyman" and "everywoman," universal "types" of humans, rather historical ancestors. That's why its no continuity problem for the author to introduce Cain's wife in Chapter 4 - it's a mythic account of a universal human experience, not a  historic event.

Moreover, Jews have never required the kind of metaphysical heavy lifting from the Eden story that Christianity has. There is a simple reason for that - we take our cue from the rest of the Hebrew Bible. While it's position in the first four chapters gives it great prominence, the fact is that Adam, Eve, Eden, and the expulsion get virtually no play in subsequent biblical texts. You would think that if Eden and its loss defines what it is to be human, and the true condition of human nature, that the prophets would allude to it fairly frequently, as in "You are just like your ancestors, Adam and Eve..." or "Because of what God decreed in Eden...." But no. The figures "Adam" and "Eve," ha-adam and chavah, never get a mention throughout the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Never (well, maybe once, just to cover my bases, but my research indicates never). So much for a defining story. And Eden, well... It does get passing mention, mostly in Ezekiel, as the location of the ideal mythic past. But getting expelled? Nope. God's continuing wrath and alienation over the sin of Eden? Never.

What are we to make of this silence? It means one of two things, either
a) The authors of the rest of Bible don't know Gen. 1-4 (i.e., it was written only after they wrote their books), or
b) they didn't think it was a big deal story.

We can see a big deal story they do care about - the Exodus. The rest of the Bible: the prophets, the historical books, the Psalms, are constantly alluding to the Exodus. THAT'S the story that matters. THAT'S the story you need to teach to your children.

And that, by the way, is the biggest theme that post-biblical Jews extrapolate from the Eden story - it's a foreshadowing of our exile from the promised land, our harsh work and difficult labors (in both sense of the word) in Egypt. Eden is a sign for us, but one of both regret and hope. Jews take from Eden not the notion of human "sinfulness," but that human life and human history is a series of exiles and homecomings.