Even as I pour water on thirsty soil, and rain upon dry ground, so will I pour My spirit on your offspring, My blessing upon your posterity. And they shall sprout like grass, like willows by watercourses.
We have ready access to water by simply turning a tap, but for the ancient Israelites much hard work was involved in securing sufficient water to sustain people and their animals. In Israel, rain falls only in the winter months, and largely in the northern part of the country. In the limestone hills, water collects underground in chambers and caves, and the ancient Israelites would dig down to find flowing water at underground springs or to reach below the local water table.
Communities and individuals in the highlands hollowed out cisterns in the limestone rock to collect the winter rainfall running off slopes. Channels were cut to divert runoff into the cisterns, and cistern walls were plastered to minimize leakage and provide sufficient water for the dry months. At the southern end of the good agricultural land, wells were dug to access underground springs and find water, as Abraham did at Be’er Sheva.
In the Biblical Garden this spring, students in grades 4 through 7 did winter clean-up, planted seeds in the raised beds, and scattered bedding plants around the garden. With much enthusiasm they potted up our two etrog seedlings, fragrant herbs, and the new dwarf pomegranate and olive trees, and carried pitchers of water from the convenient tap to water the results of their efforts. Indeed “water is life,” and a blessing no less precious in our day than it was to the ancient Israelites, who labored so hard to provide sustenance for their families.
This summer, stop in and spend a few quiet moments in the Biblical Garden. There are fragrances, colors and sounds to be savored, and a bench awaits if you just want to sit.
Michael Schlesinger is Temple Sinai’s Biblical Gardener. Mike has been gardening since he was eight years old. He used to grow grape vines and make wine when he lived in California. He now tends to our garden, continuing the traditions started by Catherine Walters.