In the largely rural society of biblical times, the people of Israel would celebrate Shavuot by bringing to the Temple the bikkurim, or first fruits, for which Israel was then known — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The oxen carrying the baskets for the festival, which marks both the wheat harvest and the moment God gave Israel the Jewish law, would be garlanded with flowers and there would be processions and music.
In the Jewish Diaspora’s mostly urban communities today, parades of oxen are rare. But in a corner of rural Britain, Jewish farmers who are attempting to reconnect Judaism with its agricultural roots will celebrate Shavuot with an eye to ancient traditions.
“When we were exiled from the land of Israel, we forgot about where we came from,” said the farm’s founder, Talia Chain. “We focused on law books and the city. But we need that relationship with the soil, to make sense of our religion again. We need an earth-based Judaism.”
As she rediscovered her faith, she realized it had far more connections with the environment than she had previously understood. For a member of a generation that is so passionate about the future of the planet, this was a revelation.