Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it
and whispers, “Grow, grow.”
– Midrash Rabba, Bereshit 10:6
Translations of this charming thought vary. I bet you didn’t see that coming. Of the two alternative translations I found, though, neither actually mentions angels. Instead, they refer to each blade of grass (or herb) having its own mazal — constellation, apparently — which strikes (or hits) it and tells it to grow.
But it hardly matters now. Like “Play it again, Sam” and “Lead on Macduff,” the misquotes have become the thing. Not that society has always been so tolerant. To wit, here’s what happened to someone who misquoted the line from the Scottish play:
In 1898, a drunk was arrested in London misquoting the phrase.
He was fined 7s., in default ten days imprisonment.
– History House
That zero-tolerance approach to misquotation seems extreme, but we have to draw the line somewhere. (Of course, it’s possible the drunk was arrested and fined for almost smacking a bunch of people with a stick, not for the misquote. Reports vary.)
Anyway, back to the Midrash. I don’t know when the concept morphed from “constellations smiting blades of grass and telling them to buck up” into “grass-whisperer angels bending solicitously over blades of grass and sweetly encouraging them,” but the why seems obvious. I mean, which sells better on a greeting card?
I was thinking of this saying this week when one of my stalled-due-to-the-unseasonable-cold tulips finally grew, grew and produced a bloom.
So, my thanks go out to whatever constellation or angel had a hand in this. Given that we’re still at below-normal temps for the foreseeable, maybe I’ll try my own hand at a little tulip and iris whispering. It couldn’t hurt, right?
And maybe I’ll try my hand at listening for that whisper over me. And be ready to duck, if necessary.