Of Calyxes, Children and Ukraine

Followers of  this blog know that I am a crazy cat lady and a tree hugger. Really. Like other nature lovers, I have found my spirituality enhanced during the course of the past two years by noting tiny changes in the trees, plants and flowers I see on my daily walks. Linguistic metaphors connect with physical reality as I watch for the first signs of spring: the hesitant emergence, then retreat (due to fluctuating Maryland temperatures) of rising sap, buds forming, about to open, then suddenly closing again, as if afraid to face a possible last wintry blast.

Among the details I've noticed are the  translucent, seemingly fragile sheaths, called calyxes, of leaves and flower buds. A botanist friend confirmed that these are protective enclosures; a kind of plant membrane, if you will. I had already noticed that it takes awhile for each new leaf on my houseplants to fully emerge from its calyx.  Now that spring is in the air (at least in Maryland), I see the struggle of emerging crocuses, daffodils and tree leaves. How painful -and yet wondrous- this natural process appears, at least from the outside!  A comparison can be made to the struggle for freedom in which the citizens of Ukraine are engaged.*

To a much, much lesser extent, as a mother of recent high school graduates, I can't help relating the flower pulling away from its protective sheath, to my daughters' need to break away from home. In a sense, they have been pulling away ever since they left the womb: each stage of development, while necessary for their growth, took them another step away from me.Yet, like the calyx, which does not drop off instantly, but  continues to nurture the young leaf until it can live independently, parents and other devoted mentors remain reachable, even if only in memory: "should you need us", to quote from the movie, Labyrinth ( one of the movies my family watches frequently).

Perhaps that need to support and to BE supported is why, in Parshat Vayakhel (Exodus 7:17),  the master craftsman Bezalel was commanded/inspired to make the lampstand, or menorah, of one piece of pure gold,

" Its cups, calyxes,and peals were of one piece with it."         -p.560, Etz Chayim Torah Commentary

in order to reassure the people that like a protective calyx, God would always be there for them, always accessible to them, and always part of them. Just as we are there for our loved ones, God is there for us, "should you need" Elohim.


All proceeds from the sale of these particular blue and yellow kippot go to HIAS for Ukraine relief. It's a great gift to honor somebody who has"everything" by helping those who don't.


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