“You shall not sow your vineyard with a second kind of seed, else the crop – from the seed you have sown – and the yield of the vineyard may not be used” (Deuteronomy 22:9).
As Moses is offering guidance to the Israelites on how to create a social, judicial, agricultural and ritual structure, we are given this law forbidding planting two types of seeds in one field.
It is one of many in our Torah forbidding interference with the established order of nature, particularly with the mixing of two kinds of substances.
This law is from a pre-Darwinian time when it was believed the creation of plants and animals ended on the sixth day of creation.
Today, we must re-examine it in partnership with our understanding of evolution and our ever-expanding knowledge of science.
We now know that companion planting can increase agricultural productivity while reducing the use of environmental resources.
For example, planting corn and pole beans together is mutually beneficial – the corn stalk provides a pole for the beans to grow on and the pole beans add nitrogen to the soil, aiding the growth of the corn.
The original intent of this law was to honour God’s role in creation, stemming from the belief that mixing two types of seeds interferes with the handiwork of God.
We can best honour creation today by using our knowledge of agriculture to act as God’s partner in this world… by planting our harvest in a way that yields the greatest results, while being environmentally and socially conscious and by considering how our agricultural decisions can best create a sustainable food source for those in need.
By making ethical agricultural decisions that honour the sanctity of the natural and human world, we can still honour the intent of this prohibition.
Rabbi Elana Dellal is a member of the rabbinic team at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue