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Prayerbook Vocabulary Studies
January 18, 2008
© Rabbi Jack Moline

I had originally thought I would talk about "matzmi'ach," which means "causes to grow," with the well-worn example of how grass always finds a way to push up through the smalls cracks of concrete. It is a nice lesson about the persistence of life, but not really to the point.

(However, it remains a mystery to me why I cannot grow grass on my front lawn, but it seems to flourish in the cracks of the sidewalk. I am thinking of paving my front yard with cracked concrete so I can have a lush lawn.)

The real miracle of a seed is not how it finds fertile soil in unlikely places. Instead, it is that misdirection of nature that leads us to believe that soil and water are the cause of growth. They are the media in which growth occurs, but the fact is that the growth all occurs from within. Everything a seed is to become is already contained in its core, in its heart. The shell or husk on the outside is a vessel that holds everything the seed needs to be realized.

The reference to "causes to grow" or "to sprout" in the Amidah is, of course, a description of God. And what God causes to sprout is salvation, previously discussed as coming from the narrow and constricting place to the widened vista of safety and freedom. As in the literal use of the word, it is not the medium that makes for growth, rather that which is within. God is not the metaphorical soil and water, but the inherent instruction that leads to a realization of potential, or, better, the stuff of life, not just the ingredients.

We sometimes believe that the key to salvation, however it is understood, is external. God will rescue us, physically or spiritually, plucking us from danger with a might hand, an outstretch arm and a loving embrace. But the key to salvation is the same as the secret of the sprouting seed. It is already deep within, embedded there by God to push its way into blossoming when the circumstances demand. God has given us everything we need to grow as we must – causing salvation to sprout from within.

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