Although when I arrived it looked like this:
I lived in intentional community with this lovely bunch of interesting and inspiring soul seekers:
Together we observed and experienced the transition of season from spring to summer, spending our days out in the field learning to grow organic food, preparing beds, laying out irrigation, seeding, transplanting, harvesting, weeding, mulching, pulling up dead trees, planting new ones, carrying out any task which needed to be done. We took on the farm chores; looking after and milking the goats, taking out the compost, caring for the chickens, opening and closing the sides of the high (חי) tunnels. None of us had done much – or in most cases (mine) any – farming before but we learnt quickly by doing.
Every weekday morning we began the day with ‘Avodat Lev’ (‘Work of the Heart’) from 6 to 7am. With a structure inspired by the Shacharit morning prayer service, it was an hour of singing, meditation, movement, music and whatever else the person leading decided to include. Initially the staff and apprentices lead and after a few weeks we began to lead them as well. It was a beautiful, grounding and connecting way to start the day which I loved and miss. I hope to bring this practice into my life back in the UK and – amazingly, to me – so long as I can find some folks who are interested, I feel able. I grew up in a United Synagogue Shul, never lead any prayer (I am a woman) and have always felt pretty alienated from services. After a month at Adamah, I lead Avodat Lev and then twice more before I left.
When leading, we were empowered and supported to design and experiment, to make it our own. We learnt and sung many chants comprised of segments from the Shacharit service, other songs were in english, some were songs people had written themselves or learned from friends. We heard poetry, tried different meditation techniques, wrote, walked, danced, went on a couple of spirit journeys. Often we were outside by the lake, around a fire, watching the mist rise from the lake, hearing the early morning sounds of nature and adding to it our song:
We learnt about where food comes from and what goes into creating it; vegetables, fruit and meat. Each year on the farm goats and chickens are slaughtered for food. All of the male goats that were born whilst I was on the farm will be raised and then slaughtered later this year, as is the case with the majority of baby boys born to dairy animals. My cohort participated in a day when nine of the chickens were slaughtered by a shochet. We had challenging conversations about the ethics of raising and eating animals. What is our responsibility as citizens of the world and as Jews to make sure we eat ethically? Can this include eating meat? Is it Kosher to eat factory farmed animals? How much do we even know of where and how kosher animals are raised and slaughtered?
Most days presented new challenging and important questions of some sort. Almost every day during the week we had two classes. We learnt about different approaches to agriculture and environmentalism, food and social justice, Jewish approaches to environmentalism, composting, pickling, cheese making, seed saving, community intention setting, active listening, non-violent communication, oppression and more.
Our days were long and full, deep and rich. It was inspiring to live in such close relationship with the land, with each other and, in our own evolving ways, with Judaism. We celebrated Pesach and Shavuot, mikvahed in the Housitanic River (supposedly the most Mikvahed river in North America…) before bringing in Shabbat, sung together for Havdallah and once performed Kiddush Levanah (the Jewish ritual for the new moon).
Using a wagon-like thing, we pulled compost from the dining hall up the hill to the newest pile of compost in the compost yard and from the oldest pile we took compost that was ready to spread on the field. The peas we planted as seeds on our first day, we harvested on our last. We saw things live and things die and from death come life.
It was amazing to watch and feel so a part of the cycles of life; to see and feel our place as humans as inexorably connected to, and interdependent with the world around us. We learnt about our responsibility and ability to have a positive impact on our environment (human and other) and how Judaism, an earth based religion, calls for this.
It was refreshing to be around a group of people, all of whom were actively looking to grow and learn, to figure out how to build meaningful lives. We shared our thoughts, hopes, dreams and fears. We played, laughed, danced, cried, ate and grew together. I am incredibly grateful for this experience, to be a member of the Adamah Alumni community and very excited that we are about to start building a place for something like it this side of the pond.
By Deana Gershuny
Click if you want more information on Adamah, the farm fellowship Deana attended.