Cover image for Finding God in the garden : backyard reflections on life, love, and compost
Finding God in the garden : backyard reflections on life, love, and compost
Brickner, Balfour, 1926-2005.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Boston : Little, Brown, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 225 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BM723 .B73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Grieving after the death of a beloved daughter, Rabbi Balfour Brickner struggled with his faith while preparing a flowerbed. One day the rabbi found himself writing down the thoughts that came to him as he turned the soil, and observing nature's abundant examples of order and renewal, miracles and beauty, Rabbi Brickner found his faith returning like a garden in spring.

Using the garden as a sanctuary and springboard, Rabbi Brickner considers the lessons to be learned from the tasks of caring for the land, the wonder of a garden in full bloom, and the connections between Biblical teachings and botanical life. "Finding God In The Garden" is a passionate, witty, and provocative celebration of mature religious faith derived through nature, reason, and the joys of everyday work.
-- Explores rational spirituality, reconciling faith with enlightened thought.

Author Notes

Balfour Brickner is a dedicated political and social activist. He lives in New York City and tends to his garden in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

As any gardener will attest, gardening is an act of faith. Digging a hole, plopping a plant into it, splashing on a little water, and leaving it to the elements; well, one only hopes it survives, let alone thrives. Perhaps the same can be said of man. How do the simple, ordinary, and natural tasks of creating and maintaining a garden relate to and inspire mankind in his journey through life? Are there lessons to be learned from the predictable and welcome reemergence of daffodils each spring? Can the tedious chore of weeding provide instruction for separating the necessary from the extraneous in our own lives? Brickner, a Reform rabbi for more than 45 years, contemplates the lessons learned in the garden--birth, death, reproduction, sexuality, patience, hope--and assigns each its spiritual counterpart as he examines the complexities of religious faith. Whether exploring the nature of miracles or the mystery of creation, Brickner, as both rabbi and gardener, provides counsel that is scholarly, eloquent, and eminently down-to-earth. Carol Haggas

Publisher's Weekly Review

Drawing spiritual parallels to the garden is nothing new, but Brickner takes it a step further, using his garden as a platform to expound fairly heavy-handedly on theology and contemporary issues. Brickner, who has been a Reform rabbi for more than 45 years and gardens in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, self-admittedly came late to the passion of this particular hobby. The more I gardened, the more I began to learn about life, about what religion tries to teach and what faith tries to deepen, he writes. Here, he attempts to mesh his pleasure in gardening with his conviction that the laws of nature reflect the role of reason as a way to find and strengthen faith. Many of the gardening parallels deal with grief, loss and healing not surprising, as he shares that he is twice-divorced and lost his teenage daughter in a tragic accident. Brickner is at his best when extracting gentle parallels between gardening and the spiritual life; however, general-interest readers may find themselves bogged down when he expounds on weighty topics free will, premarital sex, homosexuality, Christianity, prayer, physician-assisted death and miracles rather than talking compost and peonies. The use of references imbedded in parentheses occasionally keeps the text from flowing smoothly. Those who love the natural world and enjoy digging deeper into Jewish theology in a logical, reasoned way will find much to ponder here; readers looking for a more intuitive book that blends gardening and faith may be a bit overwhelmed. (Aug. 29) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The rabbi of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue relates his gardening experiences, which helped him overcome the death of his daughter. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 3
I. Eden: The First Gardenp. 10
II. Coneflowers and Sexp. 32
III. When the Rhododendron Diedp. 50
IV. On Compost, Death, and Immortalityp. 68
V. Garden-Variety Miraclesp. 94
VI. Miracle-Gro and the Milky Wayp. 114
VII. A Life Lesson from the Peoniesp. 137
VIII. The Garden Benchp. 152
IX. Poison Ivy, Healing, and Spiritualityp. 167
X. Letting Gop. 187
Epiloguep. 210