Science in the Torah
Don’t Forget to Water the Plants...With Love
According to various studies, plants have an inexplicable ability – more complex than that of human beings – to sense what is happening around them and respond in a sophisticated manner
It is hard to believe that love and attention bestowed upon plants can cause them to grow, but scientists have reached this conclusion after extensive research. According to various studies, plants have an inexplicable ability – more complex than that of human beings – to sense what is happening around them and respond in a sophisticated manner.
Here is an example from The Secret Life of Plants,(1) describing the research of Marcel Vogel, a chemist from California:
“He asked one of his friends, a clinical psychologist, who had come to see for himself if there was any truth to the plant research, to project a strong emotion to a philodendron fifteen feet away. The plant surged into an instantaneous and intense reaction and then, suddenly, ‘went dead.’ When Vogel asked the psychologist what had gone through his mind, the man answered that he had mentally compared Vogel’s plant with his own philodendron at home, and thought how inferior Vogel’s was to his. The ‘feelings’ of Vogel’s plant were evidently so badly hurt that it refused to respond for the rest of the day; in fact, it sulked for almost two weeks.”
In the next stage, after dozens of experiments that proved a connection between plants and their surroundings, Vogel reached the level in which any strong emotions he felt would be immediately mirrored by the plants, even when they were at a distance. The following experiment, reflecting this accomplishment, was performed by one of Vogel’s colleagues:
“Back in her garden, Vivian Wiley picked two leaves from a saxifrage, one of which she placed on her bedside table, the other in the living room. ‘Each day when I get up,’ she told Vogel, ‘I will look at the leaf by my bed and will that it continue to live; but I will pay no attention to the other. We will see what happens.’
“A month later, she asked Vogel to come to her house and bring a camera to photograph the leaves. Vogel could hardly believe what he saw. The leaf to which his friend had paid no attention was flaccid, turning brown and beginning to decay. The leaf on which she had focused daily attention was radiantly vital and green, just as if it had been freshly plucked from the garden.”(2)
This story is reminiscent of a somewhat similar statement in the Zohar:(3) “Every single blade of grass in this world has a guardian responsible for it in the divine realm who tells it, ‘Grow!’”
The Zohar is obviously describing the spiritual force appointed over the plant. However, the term “who tells it” implies that we are not speaking of mere mechanical growth, but of the plant’s careful listening and response to a heavenly voice addressing it with love.
The Sages also reveal that plants experience feelings of shame. The Jerusalem Talmud(4) discusses an agricultural technique called havrachah, which entails the bending and planting of a branch into the ground until it takes root, at which time it is severed from the mother tree and allowed to grow on its own. The Rabbis term the original tree an “old lady” and the new tree, a “child”:
“How does the tree owner know [that the ‘child’ has taken root, in order to sever its connection with the ‘old lady’]? If the leaves of the ‘child’ were turned toward itself, it is clear that it lives on account of the ‘old lady.’ If the leaves were turned toward the ‘old lady’ it is clear that the ‘child’ lives on its own accord. For a person who lives off of his friend is embarrassed to look him in the face.”
Notes and Sources
(1) The Secret Life of Plants, pp. 19-20.
(3) Zohar, in the omissions to vol. 1, #1; Midrash Rabbah, Bereishit 10: 6.
(4) JT Orlah 1: 3.