by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster
Member, Hazon CSA Tuv Ha’Aretz in Tenafly, NJ
"How great are Your works, Oh God, How very profound Your designs!"
In Michael Ableman’s book Fields of Plenty, there is a moment when he describes looking across a field planted with more than 70 varieties of summer squash, all in bloom. It is a picture of abundance, but what I remember thinking when I read this passage was, “There are how many varieties of squash? I’ve only ever seen 3 or 4!!! Where would I find 60+ more? And how would you cook them?”
Every spring and summer, I am amazed by the new varieties of fruits and vegetables I discover from local farms, expanding my palette beyond the year-round supermarket staples. They serve as milestones in my life: that happened during the August we discovered heirloom tomatoes, or that was the summer I started eating beets and kale. Each new taste leaves me just a little bit more in awe at the wonders of God’s world that I could easily take for granted.
One bracha that is familiar to many of us is the Shehecheyanu, which we say at significant moments in our lives, such as wearing new clothes, lighting the first night of Chanukah candles, or a conversion. One time when say this bracha is when we eat a new fruit or vegetable, either for the first time altogether or for the first time this year.
Imagine, if you are like me, and you only eat strawberries when they are local and in season. When you finally get your hands on a ripe, tasty strawberry, you feel lucky to be able to eat it in its proper time and place. It makes sense to take a moment to translate that gratitude into thanks to God for the blessing of a small, perfect morsel of fruit.
We are just at the beginning of the CSA season, a season when we will be blessed with beautiful produce that tastes the way food should taste. Some of what we find in our boxes every week will be new to us this year; other produce we will encounter for the first time in our lives. Each piece of food will be the result of the partnership between the farmer who grew the food and the Creator who thought to design that carrot or those 70 varieties of summer squash. I invite each of you to take a moment, as you begin your CSA journey, to offer words of thanks, either the traditional ones below or the ones you feel moved to say.
Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who has caused us to live, and has sustained us, and has enabled us to come to this time.
Barukh ata Adonai, Eloheinu melekh ha-olam, she-hecheyanu, ve-kiyemanu ve-higiyanu la-zeman ha-zeh.