I guess you could call me a plant eater. Now I don't mean it in the sense that I'm a vegetarian (as I consume all different types of food) but rather I'm a plant eater in the way that a woman might be called "a man eater"…I have a habit of killing plants. I don't want to. I don't mean to. And I always try my best to keep whatever plants I end up acquiring alive for as long as possible – I'm just not very good at it. (Sorry, Eileen, that pretty pink one you brought us has been dead for a while now. It sort of didn't stand a chance in this house.)
Some people just have a natural touch when it comes to helping plants thrive. My mother and mother-in-law are great examples of this. But apparently neither my husband and nor I inherited these green thumbed genes as he's aided and abetted me in the demise of each and every plant we've ever known.
Should I just resign myself to this deficit? Focus on the things I can keep alive (like children and fish)? I mean, is it even possible to go against your nature? If you're born with a certain personality type or demeanor, isn't that just who you are? And shouldn't you just accept yourself and try to do the best with what you've been given?
When it comes to bad traits and habits, even if they're deeply ingrained within our beings, Judaism believes that change is not only possible, but essential. And while overcoming our nature: jealousy, impatience, stinginess, etc., might seem like an uphill battle, we still have to make the effort to improve. In fact, according to Jewish thought, rectifying our shortcomings is one of the main purposes of our existence.
Now it might seem like nothing short of a miracle to ask a person with a bad temper to suddenly start controlling herself, but according to Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, going beyond nature (think parting of the Red Sea) is the exact definition of a miracle, which is why the word for miracle in Hebrew, nisa, is so closely connected to the word for test, nisayon.
And so our lives must be spent overcoming these tests or nisayonot by forcing ourselves to behave correctly, even if inside we want to do just the opposite. Another helpful tip in rising above our nature is to keep in mind that our greatest and most unique traits are often the keys to overcoming our worst ones.
Now, in all honesty plant care-taking probably does not fall into the category of character development, which is fine by me. I have plenty of real things to work on anyway. But since the subject has been broached, if you ever want to send me a present that's green and leafy – just make sure it's made out of plastic.