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Something you should know about trees

Friday, 14 January, 2022 - 1:04 pm

My grandparents, Rabbi Gershon Mendel and Bassie Garelik, were newlyweds when they embarked on their life-long mission to Milan, Italy. The Rebbe appointed them to be his emissaries to bring the light and joy of Judaism to Italian Jewry in the winter of 1958, and they were sent off from Chabad World Headquarters with much pomp and ceremony, brimming with idealistic optimism.

Six years later the daily grind was getting to my grandmother. Upon their arrival there they established a Jewish school and those early years were extremely challenging, to put it mildly. Things came to a head and she shared her frustration with the Rebbe in a letter which stated amongst other things, “I feel like my soul came to this world to knock on people’s doors to recruit their children to a Jewish school and get rejected.”

The Rebbe responded with a beautiful letter of encouragement and I’d like to share one paragraph we can all learn from.

“In the literature of Chassidus, such activities are classified and explained under two categories: “seeding” and “planting.” The difference is this: In the case of seeding, as, for example, sowing wheat, the fruits take less time to appear than in the case of planting a tree. The reason is that in the case of the former the results, though many times the original effort, are considerably smaller than in the case of planting.”

“Similarly in the efforts and activities of a human being, there are such that come under one category and/or the other. If, therefore, it sometimes takes longer for the efforts to come to fruition, this is no reason for discouragement; on the contrary, the reason may well be that it is a case of “planting,” where the ultimate results will be infinitely greater.”

Needless to say, this school is today a thriving institution and the pride and joy of the community.

On Monday we will celebrate Tu B’Shevat, the fifteenth day of the Jewish month Shevat which is identified as the “New Year for Trees.” While this date holds the most significance and relevance regarding agriculture in the Land of Israel, it is the message we can learn from trees that should inspire us on this day - because the Torah compares people to trees.

Contrary to a wheat field where one can throw seeds into the ground indiscriminately and expect results very soon, trees demand much attention and patience and the results can take many many years until they finally appear. But fruits are far superior than wheat kernels in so many ways. Children demand tremendous attention and patience and it can take years of sweat, tears and aggravation until we see the delicious results and the same is true of community.

Jewish education and community activism are a labor of love, and with the right amount of effort, patience and belief in the cause we will see the fruits of our labor in due time.



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