Eat, Be Satisfied, and Bless

by Christine Sine

Photo By Lisa McMinn used with permission

By Lisa Graham McMinn

Jonathan is the administrative director of a farm box cooperative in Portland called Tuv Ha’aretz, Hebrew for “goodness of the earth.” Tuv Ha’Aretz is part of a Jewish food movement across the country bringing together local farms and ancient agricultural and spiritual traditions of Judaism. Produce in the boxes comes from local and sustainable farms, wrapped in Jewish culture and faith.

Jonathan drove out to see what we are up to at Fern Creek with our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) enterprise. After a farm tour, the three of us sat and drank coffee and hot chocolate on the picnic table shaded by the forest behind it. He pulled out his notebook and we began a conversation that wound its way through history, faith and spirituality as it relates to food, Jewish rituals associated with blessing, contemporary challenges to good and ethical eating, and his dreams for what’s possible to heal people, to learn from elders and the wisdom of our traditions, and to connect communities to sustainable, local food.

We all left that conversation inspired and encouraged.

“Eat, be satisfied, and bless” is the motto of Tuv Ha’Aretz, and the blessing part has stuck with me since Jonathan’s visit. Historically Jews offered a hundred blessings, or bracha, a day, a practice honored by some contemporary Jews as well. A hundred blessings a day averages about one every ten minutes during waking hours, and while there are specific blessings in the Jewish tradition, I thought about how saying 100 blessings (or so) a day can’t help but put one into a posture of gratitude. If at some point in the day we bless the air we breathe, the water we drink, the house we live in, flowers and trees growing outside, might life be richer, might we be more humble regarding how we live it?

What if I took a moment to bless this time I have to write, to bless words themselves, and the grounding given me by my Judeo-Christian heritage? In a moment I’m going to go make a mocha; what if, while the soymilk steams, I say a blessing for the farmers and laborers, the cocoa, coffee, and soy plants, the land that grew it all, and the bees who make the honey I’ll use to sweeten it? I can hardly imagine living this way, but want to make blessing feel less optional, and more a natural outpouring of living my Christian life. Saying blessings is less about tacking a spiritual discipline onto my must-do list than it is about using my head, heart, and body to bless and to be grateful rather than allowing my mind to wander aimlessly, picking up this worry or that, festering over some offense or embarrassing moment, or scheming somehow for more recognition, achievement, stuff, or love.

Blessing leans us into the reality that we belong to something bigger than ourselves, and are in an interdependent relationship with other individuals, with ever-widening community circles (family, church, city, state, nation, world), and with God’s creation itself.

As our conversation with Jonathan meandered we landed on what it means to live an embodied faith, not just one attending to our hearts and minds. So how we feed ourselves (what we eat, yes, but also where food comes from and how it is grown and harvested) is part of lived-out embodied faith. Might living from an outpouring of blessing lead us to more compassionate and gracious choices? Similarly, what might it look like to learn to listen to what our bodies have to say to our mind and soul as we make our way through our days? For example, any time we find ourselves on our knees or laying down, might it be an invitation to humility, to gratitude, to letting go of control?

Mark and I are on our knees a lot these days, and not primarily because we have toddler grandchildren, though there is that, too. We plant baby cabbage, broccoli, and kale on our knees; some of our weeding and harvesting is done as we kneel.

A day or so after Jonathan’s visit I was kneeling by the onions, weeding out grass growing too close to the onions to use a hoe. I paused to bless the soil, the worms, and other microbes living out their God-given creaturely lives. Last week we planted tomato starts, and this week eggplant and peppers, and while I didn’t manage to be mindful with every planting, I wondered how it would change my relationship to these plants, to Fern Creek, to our CSA members who will eat of the bounty, to God, if I blessed every plant as I set it into the soil.

On most days after Mark and I have worked together on our various farming tasks, we walk down toward to creek to spend a few minutes in the hammock before heading back up the hill and inside to fix dinner. The hammock stretches between an old oak tree and a younger Douglas fir, and from spring through fall we are well shaded by the canopy above us. We gently sway, often in silence—Mark napping, and me listening to the creek, birds, squirrels, and the occasional car, helicopter, or airplane. Setting our bodies down, lying down—could that become an opportunity to bless the bodies that allow us to do the work we do? To recognize there comes a time to stop, and blessing the stopping of work at the end of the day as being just as good and important as the work itself? In the stopping we recognize that our greatest responsibility in the end may be less about getting some job done than working with integrity, humility, and gratitude.

As we wrapped up our conversation with Jonathan he said, “I have one more question: how can I keep you in my life?”

“We should share a meal together,” I said.

He smiled, and said, “Yes, of course, we should eat together.” photo

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Olivia May 24, 2016 - 6:17 am

Wow – that practice of offering a hundred blessings a day – that is powerful! Blessing our every embodied action…

Marylee Sheffer May 24, 2016 - 12:47 pm

Beautiful. I’m blessed just reading this. Thank you~

Christine Sine May 25, 2016 - 10:53 am


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