My houseplants are basically my children (most of my life revolves around them), and a lot of that care stems loosely from my Judaism. I want to create a Jewish ritual for myself around watering them, similar to ritual hand washing. My questions are 1) Does something like this already exist? 2) If not, is it sacrilegious? and 3) Any advice on where to start?
I recently went into a flower shop and said, “Please sell me something green that I can’t kill,” so while I find your question beautiful and admirable, it’s a little hard for me to relate. That being said, I spend a lot of time taking care of my human children, and I’m pretty interested in Jewish ritual, so I’m excited to try to help. I also really, really hope that your use of the word “stems” in your question was an intentional pun, which makes me even more eager to “leave” you with some “fruitful” suggestions and opportunities to “grow” your Jewish practice. (See what I did there?)
For a tangible starting point, though, from an expert who knows what he’s talking about, I had to call in some of my own resources. I reached out to Nati Passow, co-founder and executive director of Jewish Farm School, to see if he had any relevant advice.
Passow said, “Traditionally there is no blessing related to the tasks of cultivating plants. This comes up most when we plant seeds and it seems like an appropriate time for a blessing, but traditionally there isn’t one.” So that pretty much takes care of your first question.
As for parts two and three, he goes on to say, “I wouldn’t call the act of creating your own blessing or ritual sacrilegious at all! Some people may take issue with invoking G!d’s name when a blessing is not halachically required [mandated by Jewish law], so if that is a concern for the reader, they could find a pasuk [verse from Torah] or craft an intention without G!d’s name. There are many existing blessings and psukim that relate to water. Perhaps looking at the text of tefilat hageshem [prayer for rain] might be a good place to start. Also, the website Ritual Well may have some rituals that others have created.”
I was also surprised to learn that there aren’t any specific rituals surrounding plants, and this gives you incredible leeway to create something that feels meaningful to you. While your impulse to look at the handwashing ritual makes a lot of initial sense, because that ritual is also tied into blessing and eating bread, you’d have to do a lot to connect those dots. However, since the water is effectively how the plant eats, maybe you could make a connection there.
Perhaps even picking a favorite phrase from an already existing traditional prayer or song could help you set an intention as you’re watering your babies. Here are some for you to Google, and maybe one will resonate: Modeh ani is what people traditionally say when they first wake up, Kol ha-neshama is about the souls of all living things and is a song all about water.
You have many wonderful options to adopt or create to show how much you care about your plants, and I hope you find something that, indeed, stems from Jewish tradition.