“Any sowing seed that is sown.”
The discussion of earthenware vessels and plants brought me back to my childhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was growing up in suburban New Jersey and fashioned myself a budding flower child. I was too young to join the revolution, which seemed so romantic to me, and Height Ashbury was on the other side of the country, but I longed to go to San Francisco with flowers in my hair and feel the “strange vibration of people in motion.” I was a mature ten-year-old who read the Village Voice and the newspaper of the Young Socialist Alliance, and ached to be part of the counterculture, but I lacked the ability to travel much beyond my backyard. So, I collected plants.
I celebrated the first Earth Day and hung plants in my bedroom. I collected spider plants, african violets and wandering jews. The wandering jews with their purplish leaves were the toughest of the lot, and hence, we come to today’s Daf Yomi reading.
We are told that one who snips away a leaf from a plant growing in a perforated flowerpot on Shabbat is liable, as the plant in the pot has the legal status of a plant securely growing in the ground. The collection of succulent plants in the early 1970s at a time when the first Earth Day was celebrated had the same connection to the ground as the odd plant that the Rabbis collected in the perforated flowerpot. (If you are in the market for a perforated pot today, you can find some interesting selections on Etsy.)
There is another angle to this whole debate: seeds in a perforated pot are considered pure because they have the same status as a plant in the ground, which is pure by its very connection to the moist earth. A seed planted in an unperforated pot can become impure because its connection to the earth has been broken. Seeds of the earth in general are pure. We are told that “any sowing seed that is sown” remains pure. The Rabbis examine different pots in their determination of plant purity and analyze the placement of roots in the perforated pot. They follow the principle of being “rooted in the ground” and determine the purity of a perforated pot based on the size of its holes, and placement of its roots. Suffice it to say that our little flowerpot remains pure.
I remember the first Earth Day which is heralded as the start of the environmental movement. My High School held a fair on its grounds with a few tables that had mimeographed literature on smog and air pollution, and some information on growing plants. Somehow, in my memory is a macramé plant holder and backward facing earth shoes (which my grandparents found especially amusing), and the Whole Earth Catalog and school walk-outs and sit-ins (yes, we had them in middle school!) to protest desecration of the earth.
My generation of baby boomers was going to save the earth and be the generation that made a difference. But so many of us became “yuppies” and entered the establishment; some of us became computer scientists during the first wave of end-user technology, some went to medical or law school, some died of AIDs (too many), and a few held on to their ideals and did more to rescue the earth than just composting waste, and even fewer of us were able to effect small change in the world. And now, when I see young people in the streets protesting police violence and racial inequality, I hope that this is the generation who may actually in my lifetime save the earth.