Healing plants featured at Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Botanical Garden
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Healing plants featured at Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Botanical Garden

The exhibit, “The Healing Garden,” features plants mentioned in the Torah that have healing powers for the mind, body and spirit.

Waterfall and lilies at the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden
(Photo courtesy of Helena Nichols)
Waterfall and lilies at the Rodef Shalom Biblical Botanical Garden (Photo courtesy of Helena Nichols)

This year’s special exhibit at Rodef Shalom’s Biblical Botanical Garden will focus on the healing power of Biblical plants.

The exhibit, “The Healing Garden,” features plants mentioned in the Torah that have healing powers for the mind, body and spirit — such as aloe, almonds and pomegranate, Helena Nichols, the garden’s director, said. Nichols succeeded Rabbi Walter Jacob, rabbi emeritus of Rodef Shalom, as the garden’s director in 2019.

“We do have a frankincense tree — I’m really excited about that,” Nichols laughed.

Helena Nichols and Rabbi Walter Jacob in the Biblical Botanical Garden (Photo courtesy of Helena Nichols)
Previous special, semiannual exhibits have focused on themes such as beer or other sensory experiences from ancient times. Every year, the garden also showcases a litany of plants either mentioned in the Torah or with Biblical names, like the Bird of Paradise.

There are approximately 38 healing herbs set for display, Nichols said. But those looking for “chai — good luck or good omens in iterations of 18 — don’t have to look far.

“This is actually our 36th year,” Nichols said. “And we want this exhibit to be as accessible to people as humanly possible.”

Those who haven’t visited the Biblical Botanical Garden might benefit from a short primer: The garden, which runs along Fifth Avenue on the Rodef Shalom campus, is shaped like and themed after Israeli topography. Features include a Negev-like desert and Galilean waters.

“We have these important locating features, so you can really get a sense of the Holy Land,” Nichols said.

The garden will display signage with quotations — sometimes the same one — taken from the Torah, the Christian New Testament and the Quran, illustrating the similarities between the Abrahamic faiths.

There also will be scheduled lectures from psychologists and herbalists on the theme of healing. Dates and times will be printed in brochures available at the garden and made available on the Rodef Shalom website.

The garden exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. No reservations are necessary. Rodef Shalom will host evening hours on Wednesdays and, for groups of eight and up, offer tours with docents.

All visits to the garden are free. PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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