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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Arise, My Friend

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Passover is a holiday that celebrates many things. Freedom is at the forefront, as we mark the transition from slavery to freedom. In many ways Passover also celebrates family and community and the accumulated traditions of the generations. It is a time to celebrate together and re-enact practices that have taken ages to develop. Passover marks the beginning of counting the Omer and the agricultural roots of Judaism, which leads me to my favorite meaning of Passover, which is the holiday that brings the spring.

Passover is rich in liturgical traditions. The joyous Hallel is sung and on the first day of Passover and we make a change in the Amida prayer; instead of praying for rain, as we do during the winter months, we pray for dew instead.

Jewish liturgy refer to the land of Israel and the seasonal cycle there, but spring is coming to Massachusetts as well. Locally, as does the rest of the world, we hope for dew and we hope for nourishing rain for our gardens, our reservoirs, our crops and our orchards.

It is appropriate that we read The Song of Songs on Passover. The Song of Songs is understood by the rabbis as a love story between God and the Jewish people. Less literally, it is a rich and layered love poetry, with vivid imagery which describes young love. Into this poem about the re-birth of spring, I have tried to intersperse some of the verses about gardens from the Song of Songs.

Last, this poem is special to me as it is about gardening, the soil, herbs and the tiny things that live on the surface of the garden under the leaves. Spring is a magical time, a time of rapid changes that have been in the making during the cold winter months.

In the spring and summer I often sit upon a small tree stump in my back garden and simply observe the many things that happen by my feet. Every year I try to portray my messy garden in photographs. Please see this series about flowers found in my yard.

In the meantime, I hope you will find a place outdoors to sit. Disturb the soil a bit. See the seeds waiting to sprout, bits and pieces of brush. Watch the spiders, the ants and the tiny plants that are beginning their growing season. I hope it brings you as much joy as it does for me.

Happy Spring!

Arise, My Friend

"For now the winter is past, The rains are over and gone." Song of Songs 2:11

Arise my friend, for the spring has come!

The winter snows have retreated, Throw open your doors and windows!

The air warms and nourishes you.

"Kumi rayati!*," Arise my friend

Leap outside of your doorway! Lift your head toward the sky! Feel the sun’s rays on your closed eyes. Her warmth kisses your wintered cheeks.

"Awake, O north wind, Come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, That its perfume may spread." Song of Songs 4:16

Arise my friend and go to a garden Sit your wintered self upon the cool earth.

Surround yourself with moss, lichens and pebbles. Inhale the perfume that only spring can offer.

The musty smell of the earth under the cover of leaves

the mushrooms,

the earthworms,

the busy ants,

the bees awakening.

Before you is a spring collage of decay and life

on the cusp of new growth.

Hold the soil in your hands

and see it as it is,

rich and complex,

brown and life giving.

"The blossoms have appeared in the land, The time of pruning has come; The song of the turtledove is heard in our land." Song of Songs 2:12

Allow your ears to hear the season arrive

Listen for the music of the songbirds.

Hear them call to one another,

as lovers do.

Their music lingers like a breeze between

the towering oaks and pines

Watch them.

Their iridescent reds,

their sapphire blues,

their muted browns,

as they gather feathers and moss

to build their castles in the air.

"O you who linger in the garden, A lover is listening; Let me hear your voice." Song of Songs 8:13

Sit, my dear friend, in the garden.

Revel as the bulbs push upward

with the mighty strength of Samson

Rub the leaves of the fragrant herbs

between your winter worn fingers

the thyme,

the sage,

the sweet marjoram

Scents mingle and mix

Breath them!

feel spring blossom within you.

Arise, my friend!

For spring has arrived .

The snow has fled

and the season of dew begins.

"My beloved has gone down to his garden, To the beds of spices, To browse in the gardens And to pick lilies." Song of Songs 6:2

To see a post about my summer garden.

* Kum Rayati Song of Songs 2:10

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