Cultivating a Bounty of Resilience, Perseverance, and Swiss Chard by Rabbi Philip Ohriner | Camp Ramah Northern California

Cultivating a Bounty of Resilience, Perseverance, and Swiss Chard by Rabbi Philip Ohriner

We all have moments when it is difficult to appreciate the bounty in our lives. Perhaps this is most palpable in life’s transitions or the moments of newness when that which is familiar changes in some way. While wandering through the wilderness at Taverah, the Israelites struggle to appreciate the manna falling before them. They yearn for the delicacies of Egypt, the bounty they experiences while enslaved. As we read in the Torah this week, the Israelites’ collective resilience is tested along with their ability to persevere. They struggle to appreciate the bounty God provides them in the form of manna. They are in a new place, with a different source of food, and a new reality.

The beginning of the Summer at Ramah Galim is also a time of transition with newness for some, returning for others, and a change in life patterns and sustenance for all of us. During this first week, many at camp had the opportunity to spend time in our chavah (farm). Together, campers and staff cultivated a closer connection to our own food system here at camp. Together, we planted, nourished, mulched, weeded, and harvested. We snacked on tomatoes, kale, chard, and lettuces, blessing them with a newfound appreciation. For some, it was the first time they put their hands in the soil. It was a joy to watch campers and staff try a new kind of green directly from the garden for the first time or compare older lettuces and their bitterness to the micro-greens growing next to them. One night, we even provided enough Swiss chard for all of camp and green onions for the soup at aruchat erev (dinner). I don’t think I have ever seen kids more excited to eat Swiss chard!

In our wandering through the landscape of life we encounter moments that test our resiliency and ability to persevere. By cultivating close connections to the resources that sustain us, we are better able to see the bounty and goodness before us. Those who participated in the sacred work of cultivation here at Ramah Galim are entering Shabbat with a heightened awareness of the bounty before them—the bounty they helped cultivate in partnership with one another, the earth, and the source of all life. Believe it or not, all of that Swiss chard we harvested is long gone. The bounty of resilience and perseverance is still nourishing us.
Philip Ohriner is a rabbi and founder, cultivator, educator, goatsherd, and egg harvester of Ma’alot Farms, a homestead and permaculture-based ecosystem advancing environmental sustainability and empowering the Silicon Valley community to cultivate skills for resilient living.