Shavuot marks the end of a 49-day count leading from one harvest period to another – from barley to wheat.
I was amazed two weeks ago to find a single stalk of barley growing in my back garden, probably due to my five-year-old daughter having played in the garden with pearl barley ingredients for a cholent pot many moons previous.
That single stalk, standing tall and exquisitely beautiful prepared me for Shavuot, standing for the single individual in lockdown, awaiting reunification with the rest of humanity.
When we do return, let us remember the great revitalisation that nature, God’s handiwork, has experienced while there was far less human-induced pollution poisoning the planet.
The festivals of the Torah revolve around the seasonal crops. Ruth started out in the fields of Boaz gleaning stalks of Barley. Boaz spotted her and enquired how after the manner of her gleaning.
This led to him taking Ruth as his wife and to them becoming the ancestors of King David and ultimately, the Messiah yet to come.
We need to go back to caring for the earth that God gave to Adam. Observance of mitzvot must come back off the supermarket shelf and return to the field, the farm, the allotment.
The Igbo people, who have roots in the Israelite way of life, call this Omenana – living God’s word on the land.
We Jews recite this twice a day in the second paragraph of Shema. Only a farmer can truly appreciate what the Feast of Weeks actually means, the fate of crops hanging in the balance.
May crops worldwide be protected, and the supply chain uninterrupted in the era of Covid-19. May our appreciation of God’s creation grow and our gratitude increase for the sun, rain and human labour that brings bread out from the land.
Chag Shavuot Sameach!
Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to Merseyside Army Cadet Force