This coming Shabbat is a day called Tu B'shvat. It is the day we celebrate one of God's most special creations - the tree - and all of the good we get from them. There is a custom to eat many different types of fruit on this day while thinking about and appreciating where they came from. We can learn a lot from trees. One thing is patience. A tree, which starts from a tiny seedling, takes many years before it grows tall and produces its delicious fruit. So too, we should try to be patient and know that all good things will eventually 'bear fruit' if we're willing to wait.
In our story a kid discovers there's much more to trees than branches and leaves.
The old man watched with a satisfied smile as the cars drove in one by one to the far side of the apple orchard. He loved this time of year when the apples were hanging red and heavy on their branches, waiting to be picked, eaten and enjoyed, and when the folks came from miles around for their yearly outing.
He saw a green SUV, and watched as parents, kids, packages, bags, and a baby stroller came tumbling out. One of the kids, a girl of around 11, caught his eye, not because of her enthusiasm but rather, her extreme lack of it.
"Apple picking. Apple picking. Every year, boring apple picking," Nancy huffed. "What's wrong with the apples we buy in the store? They're perfectly good. Why do we have to make this big trip every year for a few dumb apples?"
"Nancy, can you grab this bag please? Be careful, it has a thermos in it," said her mom.
Mrs. Krieger felt bad that her daughter was feeling so impatient and having such a rough time of it today. She had such fond memories of apple picking in this very same orchard back when she was a girl and hoped to share it with her kids. But Nancy wanted no part of it.
It was taking forever for her parents to get everything organized, so Nancy started wandering around the orchard a little. She just wanted to finish fast and go home to join her friends, who were at the new ice cream shop that had just opened. Free ice cream as much as you can eat, all day, and here she was, stuck surrounded by these ridiculous apples. As she was walking, suddenly she came upon a sight that looked strange to her. She went over to take a closer look.
The old man, the orchard owner, was bending down over a flat of tiny apple-tree seedlings, picking up each one lovingly and placing it gently into neatly spaced holes already dug into the ground. Nancy snorted out loud as she watched him tamp the dirt around each sapling, like they were his babies or something. The man looked up at her and smiled.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" he said.
"Maybe," replied Nancy. "But how long will it be until they're big enough to make apples?"
"Oh to really produce? About 20 years, maybe more."
"Twenty years! Then what are you bothering for? Don't get offended mister, but let's face it, at your age," she paused as she took in his wrinkled face, "it doesn't really look like you'll be around to enjoy them, you know?"
The man smiled warmly again. "Right you are about that, young lady. Nothing lasts forever, does it. Even so, all these apples here that everyone is picking and enjoying were planted by my father and grandfather. They cared enough back then to plant for the future. And look - with a little patience, the future came quick enough, didn't it. I hope these here saplings will provide lots of good fruit for my kids and grandkids, and whoever else might want to come and enjoy them."
Nancy was speechless. Nothing in her eleven years of life had prepared her (not counting the care and love of her parents, which she hadn't yet realized was a gift and not a given) for such a patient and unselfish outlook on life.
"Here, how'd you like to plant one, young lady?" the man said as he offered her one of the saplings. "Maybe one day you'll come back here and your kids can pick apples from 'your' tree."
Nancy took it and felt surprisingly good as she placed it into the ground.
"Oh Nancy, there you are," said her mom, walking over. "I know you're in a rush to get home, so we'll try to hurry thing as much as we can."
"No mom, it's okay," smiled the girl as she glanced at the old man, still patiently planting for the future, "I'm really happy we're spending this time together. There's no rush, after all. Don't all good things and good times, take time - to bear fruit?"
Q. How did Nancy feel at first about the apple-picking trip?
A. She was bored and in a rush to get home.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. Her talk with the old man about trees and being patient made her feel calmer and not in a rush.
Q. What do you think Nancy learned that day that changed the way she felt?
A. She'd been impatient and felt things like apple-picking were a waste of time. The old man's words - and willingness to spend his time and energy planting apple trees he'd never even eat from - made Nancy realize that being patient and looking toward the future were values she could relate to.
Q. What, if anything, do you think a person gains by being patient?
A. One good thing is that it makes life a lot less stressful. Also, by being patient we can experience and understand things we might otherwise miss by rushing through them.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What other lessons do you think we can learn from trees?
A. Trees reach upward - so too we should always strive to grow. Trees give generously of their fruit - we too should be generous. Trees are sustained by their roots - we should feel connected to and draw from our 'roots' too. Trees can look dead and dormant in the winter, but suddenly blossom in the spring - we should know that even when in our lives we feel like we're dormant and getting nowhere, as long as we try to do good, things will eventually bloom. There are many more lessons, try to think of some.
Q. Do you think there is a connection between patience and our degree of faith in God?
A. Faith means knowing God is with us in our lives and giving us just what we need when we need it, even if we don't understand why. Naturally the more we internalize and live with this faith, the more patience we will have to take life as God, in His wisdom, decides to send it to us.