by Pamela Frydman-Roza
I remember my mother, Rose (Z”L, zichronah livracha, of blessed memory) tossing hollowed grapefruit halves and eggshells into an open pit in our garden. Our small but lovingly tended flower and vegetable garden was situated behind our equally modest 1950’s Toronto house. I didn’t know it then but mom was composting. She was applying the concept of Ba’al Tashchit or “do not waste” by recycling food into rich earth to help her garden flourish.
When I was 8 years old, my parents and I moved to a tiny apartment during the wave of migration to the Northern suburbs. With no yard, mom adorned the spartan indoor space with plants of all kinds. She was particularly proud of the huge cactus that bloomed each winter. Rose loved nature and brought the outside in. Mom would usher me onto the balcony overlooking a lovely ravine. She enthusiastically shared her love of the natural beauty of the landscape in every season.
She recycled (Ba’al Tashchit) everything from rubber bands to plastic bags, and more before this was an acknowledged and sustainable concept. Food was too precious to waste. We cleaned our plates. Nothing was left to decay in the fridge. She was a role model for sustainable living in so many ways. Shortly after I was married Rose visited my new family home in Montreal. My husband and I were so proud of the decor. Mom was not interested in our furnishings and chose instead to comment that “you throw out (waste) more food than I eat.”
We shared and role modeled Bubbe Rose’s environmentally sustainable ethos with our daughters, Shira & Orlee. Shira and her husband live in a tiny ‘railroad’ apartment in Brooklyn where they avoid material accoutrements. They focus on living sustainably by recycling and biking when possible rather than taking public transportation. They compost food waste in their freezer and carry it weekly to a collection site at a nearby farmer’s market where they buy locally and organically grown produce. Orlee also lives sustainably and loves spending as much time as possible in natural habitats. She is currently working on an organic ‘off the grid’ farm in Washington State. I am involved in collecting surplus produce and donating it to meal sites, pantries and shelters in order to help reduce the rapidly growing number of food insecure people living here in Milwaukee. Rose’s wise lessons on living ‘green’ have been instilled into the thoughts and actions of her descendants.
My mother, Rose (Z”L) had a deep and spiritual love of Hashem’s Creation. She eschewed the materialistic world. On 9 Cheshvan, 5774 Rose, (A”H, Aleyha Hashalom, “May peace be upon her”) was buried on a tranquil hillside enveloped by the branches of mature trees. The end of my year of mourning coincides closely with the month of Elul. This is a time of deep spiritual introspection before the coming High Holy Days. Hashem is particularly close to us and we share an extraordinary divine energy that benefits us in our quest towards spiritual and moral perfection.
It is most fitting that Elul is the time chosen for erecting a headstone over my mother’s gravesite. A year of grieving gives way to a New Year and new beginnings mimicking the cycles of the natural world. In this way we honor Rose’s blessed memory. May we use the holy month of Elul wisely to help create a more sustainable Earth not only for ourselves but for future generations.
Rose would quote Kohelet 1:4, “One generation goes and another generation comes; but the earth remains forever.”