I love Rashi; learning the parshah with Rashi can sometimes be truly rewarding. Especially when you’re influenced by the Rebbe’s Biurim.

We’re Parshas Eikev this week, and there you can find a somewhat peculiar Rashi on the passuk…

But the land, to which you pass to possess, is a land of mountains and valleys and absorbs water from the rains of heaven (דברים י”א, י”א)

Rashi says…

A land of mountains and valleys: The mountain land is superior to the land of the plain: On the plain, in an area of land that would produce a kor [a measure of grain], one would actually sow only [enough seed to produce] a kor . On the mountain, however, from an area of land that would produce a kor, one could take out of it five kors, four from its four slopes and one on its summit.. [see also Sifrei 11:11]

Let me reiterate, an acre of flat land is fine, but it can only produce, say, a ton of grain. An acre of mountain land is great – five times greater, because it has an acre size top, plus a north side, a south side, east and west, each have a surface area of an acre. In short, what we have here is… A cubical mountain!

Now, while a hill would have a larger surface area than a plain, a mountain with four completely vertical slopes is pretty hard to come by, and also how exactly would you plow a totally vertical slope?!

My first reaction might have been dismissive, but when my chabad training kicked in (question everything, believe that anything’s possible), I knew that there must be something I’m not getting yet. And sure enough, there was.

I’m sure we won’t know the answer for certain until moshiach comes, but I believe that in the mean time, the field of sustainable agriculture can provide a nice solution, at least for me.

They have interesting names such as ‘green roofs’, ‘living walls’, and vertical gardening — and they all provide an elegant answer to the challenge of high-density urban living. The first describes the various methods employed in growing stuff on top of your roof, and like many sustainable solutions, it has several bottom lines; it is a high yield agricultural technique, producing enough high quality foodstuff to provide for many mouths; it has a strong cooling effect for the building, not unlike the human perspiration; and also, due to the proximity of the growing beds, produce doesn’t need to travel far to reach your home, thus saving energy and money expenses. Living walls is based on the same concept, only you use the face of your outer walls to grow your greens.

I’m not going to go into the details of any of these techniques as youtube has an abundance of excellent DIYs.

So if you’ve been following this so far, you might have noticed that a modern high riser can in fact be seen as a square mountain, with its flat roof, and four vertical faces. This feature of the urban environment actually means that the city has a surface area many times larger than a plain of its size, since each building multiplies its own area times five! So essentially, if every city dweller grew his or her own vertical garden, the city should be able to produce all the vegetables and fruit its citizens need.

Some experts even take this idea further to design towers whose sole purpose would be to grow food in them. For me, this approach is slightly too extreme, and may not be as sustainable as integrating agriculture alongside the city’s residents. The benefits of having regular people growing their own food can already be seen in community gardens everywhere in the western world (in developing countries, it is almost always essential to grow your own food). Thus, tending to your own slice of a shared piece of land can help strengthen community ties, save money on food, and of course help keep a healthy environment.




To put these ideas into practice, in our village, Hashem willing, we will use state of the art practices which would be designed and applied specifically to the physical nature of our Village. I believe also, that the village itself should be designed from the beginning based on the knowledge that food will be grown right with us, with an almost symbiotic relationship, so that every aspect of our physical and spiritual life would be integrated holistically, to create a truly balanced way of life.