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Among my many failings is the fact that I do not have a green thumb. Plants and I do not agree and, in fact, many times I feel that the plants that I have in my home are just downright hostile to me. The care of these plants and the reason that they have survived so long has always been due to the distaff side of my home. I very much enjoy flowers and plants and I see in them some of the bountiful goodness of the pleasures that the Lord has arranged for humans in this world.


So I persist in watering and caring for the plants in my house in spite of my bumbling efforts to keep them sprightly or at least alive. The only exception to this seemingly endless tale of frustration is the orchid plants that I have in my house. They require very little care and that is what they receive. Their flowers are absolutely magnificent and their presence has a soothing effect on my rabbinic nerves that sometimes become frustrated and jangled.


And the greatest thing about orchid plants is the fact that after they shed their flowers after a month or two they do not die but remain dormant, sometimes for more than a year, and then suddenly revive themselves and begin to produce the bulbs that will then produce their beautiful flowers.


I love to watch this process for it gives me a sense of revival and resilience. There is a great human lesson to be learned from the orchid plant and I am grateful to have that opportunity. The Torah itself indicates that humans have much to learn from nature – both the animal and plant kingdoms – and that only a fool would ignore these lessons built into God's creation.


I have had an orchid plant in my home that has been dormant for well over a year. About a month ago, the person that helps clean and keep my house orderly proposed that I dispose of this plant since it obviously was no longer going to revive itself and produce flowers. I told her that this plant had done so previously and that I would hang onto it, if for no other reason than a sentimental one.


The plant must’ve heard the warning that it was on a very short leash and, beginning two weeks ago, it began to wake up. It now has suddenly sprouted bulbs and just before Shabbat it gave birth to the first beautiful orchid flower. I was deeply touched by the event for it highlighted to me the continuity of life, which is one of the basic values of Judaism and of its Torah.


We all pass through difficult and sad times. We all, in the words of Proverbs, “fall seven times.” But we are commanded to rise again to continue, for the challenges and difficulties of life are inescapable. The strength and resilience that the Lord built into human beings must be exploited by continuing to do acts of kindness, mercy and justice. Watching my orchid plant bloom again brought home to me this attitude… a mere flower served as both a great challenge but also a comfort.


I realize that even orchid plants do not bloom forever. All things in this world are finite and that applies to work with plants as it does to humans and other creatures. This realization however does not dampen my enthusiasm at seeing my orchid plant once again blossom and give forth flowers. The plant does not seem to be overly concerned about its ultimate future and demise. Meanwhile it does what it is supposed to do – produce beautiful flowers so that the human beings can have enjoyment.


That is also a great lesson to humans who are haunted by our sense of mortality and finiteness. In Proverbs again, King Solomon in describing the great woman of valor, states that “she is able to laugh even to the last day.” We do not see anything humorous about the last day. But the deeper meaning is that while we have not yet arrived at the last day, we have to pursue our mission and task in life with enthusiasm and joy and not with a sense of doom and foreboding.


The gift of life and resilience that the Lord has planted within us is what makes life magical and gives it a whiff of eternity. I am very grateful to my orchid plant for having taught me so many important lessons.


Shabbat shalom


Berel Wein



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