“It’s a beautiful day. Go play in the yard.” One of those things moms say. Fortunate is the kid whose childhood includes many hours digging, climbing, exploring, swinging, schlepping stones, watching worms slither, soaking up the sun’s caress, lying in the grass and feeling the green life pulsing and the breeze whispering through the blades.

A yard. A patch of green. A sense of calm and expansion. Breathe deep, relax and explore. Give a kid some grass, air, a shovel and a stick and they’re off to wild adventures.

Nurture your inner childWe are grownups, busy, efficient and productive, with many important lists on our planners. It’s hard for big people to enter that magical space, where time is suspended and birds are chirping.

Nurture your inner child. Relax. Bond with your children, the experts advise. Yeah, right. Before errand #23 or after task #67? This prosaic advice can frankly sound like more things to have to do. But, pausing at a red light, a question peeks out from the din. Why are we here, running this ragged race all together?

The Torah is purpose, guidance and direction. But meaningful Jewish life can slip into checklist mode if we’re not mindful. How many guests did you invite? Did you write the check yet? Order the matzah? Shopping, cooking, cleaning, learning. Check, check, check, check. Sometimes I feel like a supermom executive. Instead of customers or corporate shares, I manage holiness opportunities (hopefully).

When I get too entrenched in overdrive mode, I think of two special words. Basi L’Gani. “I came into My garden,” G‑d relates, when He describes His creation. Garden? Sounds lyrical. My pulse is already slowing as I imagine the fragrant lilacs.

These are the opening words of an important chassidic discourse, the last one delivered by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. The Rebbe expounded on another chapter each year. What is their message? These great and holy giants tell us: mitzvot and holiness are of infinite importance, but don’t let them become a list to plow through. Go out in the yard. Enter the garden. Smell the roses. Yes, G‑d wants us to do mitzvot, lots of them, but He’s not a big accountant tallying them up in the sky for some shareholders’ meeting. He made this world because He really wants—a garden. A simple place of simply impractical beauty and pleasure. Why? Can you ask why about a rose? Dissect and analyze it and the mystery is gone. It is just one of those things of loveliness, even though the world could seemingly trudge on without it. He begs us to play with Him in His garden, help weed it, and make it lovelier yet.

There is an amazing picture of the Previous Rebbe laughing. Here is a man with an unimaginable load on his shoulders. The man Stalin called “the Number One Enemy of the Soviet Union.” Hiding from the KGB, saving Jews and Judaism from extermination could be pretty grim. Oy. But to see his laughing countenance is to see true unbounded pleasure and joy, of a depth and wholeness of which we can hope only to have a taste; pleasure in G‑d, Torah and the garden about to bloom, as the budding souls of humanity ripen and mature into the delicious fruits they are meant to be.

An incredible memory? Watching the Rebbe put his fingers to his mouth and gesture for a chassid to whistle, louder, louder, louder. With a pure joy and abandon that can’t be captured in words.

Technicians or robots could be trained to pull weeds and plow hedges, but not to add that whimsical, artistic, human touch. I think G‑d wants more than a neat and clean garden, He wants to hear the ringing of children’s laughter. We grownups can bring our inner child to play. To bring our unique, silly and special gifts to the garden, not to be too busy to paint that picture, or sing that song, or tickle that child, or bake that cake for someone, just because.

Technicians or robots could be trained to pull weeds and plow hedges, but not to add that whimsical, artistic, human touchAnd take the time—it actually doesn’t take time, but a paradigm shift—and enjoy G‑d’s resplendent garden. Note, the Rebbe said, not a productive farm with potatoes, carrots and other practical goods; a pleasure garden.

Guests walk into my house on Friday afternoon and comment on the wonderful smell. “Smell? Really?” I think, bemused. I have to pause and realize. “Oh, it does smell good.” I was too busy racing through the list to even notice. Stop and smell the fresh challah; enjoy the texture of the dough. Instead of making Shabbat or Passover with the inflection I usually give it, like “groan, groan, I’m schlepping Shabbat into being, poor me”—how ’bout making Shabbat, like my preschool students when they are busily making a mudpie or a super brick tower: an exciting adventure with many smells, sounds, tastes and experiences coming together. A little playful imagination, frivolous fun, is allowed. Just because.

This year, I’m turning fifty-three, G‑d willing.

Fifty-three. The numbers stand for the Hebrew letters nun-gimmel. Switch the letters and you get gimmel-nun. The Hebrew word gan. Garden.

I think I’m being sent a message. There’s more to life than being efficient and productive. In Basi L’Gani, our two precious Rebbes remind and teach us that G‑d wants us to come into His pleasure garden, and bring our full selves, even our inner child and creative zest. Play. Enjoy. The list will get done too. Or it won’t.

Okay, says the practical stoic doer, with one fleeting glance at my planner before I shove it in the drawer. Maybe we’ll have birthday hats and blowers at my birthday party of the pleasure-garden year. And a daisy on the table. Just because!