Back to Nature – Emor
Parshat Emor, which encompasses the mitzvah of Sfirat Ha’Omer, falls smack in the middle of this time period. The Torah commands, “And you shall count for yourselves on the day following [Pesach]…from the day that you bring the waved offering of the Omer…And you shall offer a new Mincha…” (Vayikra 23:15, 17).
The days of Sfirat Ha’Omer, which in the era of the Beit Hamikdash coincided with the harvest and offering of the Korban Omer, transpire precisely when the winds and tempests of winter settle and the rainy season ends (although there is always an occasional rainfall or two to send everyone scurrying back to the top shelves of their closets in search of raincoats and umbrellas…) It’s the time of year following Pesach when spring is already in full bloom. Wheat harvest days are here, lifting the heart and sending blood pumping energetically through the body, calling us to head outside to the fields, imbibe fresh air and the sweet scent of freshly – cut wheat.
Mishnah Menachot relates that on the second night of Pesach, messengers of Beit Din would head to the field and cut the Omer with great fanfare. The vivid description painted in the Mishnah lets us picture the scene exactly as it occurred, hear the congregation cry, “Hein!” and practically inhale the scent of the wheat. The delicious fragrance of the Great Outdoors.
And all the villages nearby gather there so [the Omer] will be cut in a great display. Since it is dark, he says to them, ‘The sun has set?’ They answer, ‘Hein—Yes.’ ‘This scythe?’ They say, ‘Hein.’ ‘This box?’ They say, ‘Hein.’ On Shabbat, he says to them, ‘This Shabbat?’ They say, ‘Hein, this Shabbat. ‘Shall I cut?’ And they tell him, ‘Cut!’ ‘Shall I cut?’ ‘And they tell him, ‘Cut!’ Three times [he asks] about each one, and they reply to him, ‘Yes. Yes. Yes!’ (Menachot Ch. 10)
The next morning, the nation offered the Korban Omer from the new harvest.
The following topics in the parsha command the Jewish farmer to recall the pauper and convert – those who lack for bread – during the joyous harvest season and to allocate a generous portion of the crop for them. “And when you shall cut the produce of your land, do not consume the corner of your field… For the pauper and the convert you shall leave them” (23:22). Even in the field, a Jew is required to demonstrate ethics, strong moral values and give to those who have less than he.
In contemporary times, field labor, farming and agriculture have been reduced to a minor – if at all – role in life. Most people earn a living remote from fields of waving grain. Scythes and shears are not to be found on the toolbar, and bread is purchased in a grocery store, or in better cases, hot from the bakery.
It’s important to teach our kids that milk isn’t born in cartons, oranges aren’t manufactured in nets. (Net? They may ask. You mean there’s a net beside the internet?!) Our estrangement from the magnificence of raw nature sometimes breeds deep longing for what’s most natural.
The last decades and even centuries have witnessed a glorious revolution in innovations of technology, industry and modern design. At one point in time, nature, to an extent, had become synonymous with provincial and primitive. Yet with all the neon attractions and distractions in the world, the soul continued to crave nature and long for it, which is manifest today in the prevailing Back to Nature trend. Recycling, environment consciousness, health foods, the revolution of the Greens, unindustrialized foods and even natural lines in cosmetics are all parts and results of the growing awareness and appreciation of the significance and splendor of nature. Even vacation spots are often chosen for their fresh air and natural beauty. I know of a wide variety of spacious vacation residences at a range of prices that are cheaper and even more charming than luxurious hotel rooms, with their drawing card and common denominator being that they’re all located, “in the heart of nature.”
photo: Lane Dittoe Photography
Back to Nature is an increasingly – fashionable design trend that’s taken root around the world. ‘Back to Nature’ – that simple, authentic, plastic-free and aluminum – free look and feel is not only socially – and ecologically – correct, but also attractive and incredibly soothing. A natural flair doesn’t necessarily have to mean old-fashioned country-style, and on the contrary, may blend beautifully into modern, contemporary designs.
What distinguishes this trend?
First and foremost, use of natural materials. Simple, raw finishing like porcelain, stone, rough-textured wood in its natural or recycled shape, and fabrics like cotton and linen.
Floors are laid with either wood parquet or natural wooden beams. Another option is stone tiles accented with a bamboo, straw or wicker mat.
There’s a bit of debate regarding use of wood: On one hand, there’s nothing like wood to create a natural, warm feeling. On the other hand, use of wood is frowned upon due to rapidly-decreasing forestry which negatively impacts our entire ecological system. Therefore, a second attractive option is bamboo which exudes the same natural feeling but is more green-friendly because it grows so quickly.
bamboo products – kane kash
Plants as accents and ornaments in the home have the dual benefit of natural beauty and balancing the quantity of carbon dioxide in the air which contributes to a healthier environment. When homestyling, I always select plants that enhance the room with a fresh, natural look.
design: Penda photo by: Zhi Xia
On that note, I highly recommend using energy-saving bulbs, specifically yellow LEDs which are energy-saving and still emit a warm atmosphere. Bed linens and spreads, tablecloths, curtains and all other textiles should be fashioned of cotton or linen.
The mitzvah of Sfirat Ha’Omer begins the day after Pesach with the offering of the Korban Omer and concludes with the presentation of Bikkurim on Shavuot. The festival of the Bikkurim reminds us to step out of our plastic and aluminum bubble and exit into a world that’s all natural beauty. It reminds us that man was created from the dust of the earth and will one day return to it. Above all, it connects us to the magnificent world of Hashem, the seasons of the year, and the produce of our lovely land.
bridalguide photo by Elizabeth Messina