"Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children. (Dedicated to the Refuah Sheleima of Shalva Adina Bas Sarah Chana).
There was a man who had four sons. He wanted his sons to learn not to judge things too quickly. So, he sent them on a quest, in turn, to go and look at a pear tree that was a great distance away.
The first son went in the winter,
The second son in the spring,
The third son in the summer,
The youngest son in the fall.
When they had all gone and come back, he called them together to describe what they had seen.
The first son said that the tree was ugly, bent, and twisted.
The second son said, "No," it was covered with green buds and full of promise.
The third son disagreed; he said it was laden with blossoms that smelled so sweet and looked so beautiful. It was the most graceful thing he had ever seen.
The last son disagreed with all of them; he said it was ripe and drooping with fruit, full of life and fulfillment.
The man then explained to his sons that they were all right, because they had each seen but only one season in the tree's life.
He told them that you cannot judge a tree, or a person, by only one season, and that the essence of who they are and the pleasure, joy, and love that come from that life can only be measured at the end, when all of the seasons are up.
Moshe Rabbeinu told the Miraglim (spies) to seek out the land and determine if there was a tree in the land or not. The commentaries all wonder what type of tree Moshe was looking for? Should the plural “trees” have been used instead of the singular “tree”?
Rashi cites the Talmud’s (Bava Basra 15a) explanation that Moshe wanted to know if there was an Adam Kasher – a person like Iyov – still living among them who would protect them from Bnei Yisrael. In essence, he wanted to know if Iyov was still alive. For a leader like Iyov has the ability to influence the environment in which s/he lives. This was Avraham’s hope in finding the Tzaddikim in Sodom – their presence would have guaranteed that in the future, the people would come around and see the light. But once it is determined that the tree is dead – that the influence is no longer possible – then the measure is done and the area is ripe for conquering.
In the Jewish tradition, the metaphor of the tree is particularly poignant. Trees have influence long beyond their immediate presence or life. Trees bear fruit and fruit bring new plants to new places that ultimately carry within them the DNA of the original tree. So long as the DNA of the tree continues to exist – the tree is still very much alive and thriving, protecting and beautifying the very environment it was planted in – and further enhancing it through the bearing of new fruit in new places contributing to an even more fulfilling environmental picture. Even if the original Eitz is Ayin – the forest continues to prove that the tree is very much alive. These new forests are also part of the total measure of the life of the person -- keeping him or her alive for many more generations as his or her influence continues to remain strong.
(I find the message particularly important today, as this morning I learned of the Petira of Rabbi Dr. Armin H. Friedman z”l, the founding Menahel of HALB. Rabbi Friedman came to the shores of the US after living through the horrors of the Shoah. Instead of allowing a withered tree to dry out, he planted a fruit tree in Long Beach 60 years ago that is still sprouting multitudes of forests -- Jewish homes, schools and communities --with the same warmth of Yiddishkeit and staunch commitment to Torah that the thousands of his students who learned in his Yeshiva saw practiced by him. He may have left this world for the world of truth but his tree is very much a “Yeish” (present) and his memory and influence never to become an “Ayin” (non-existent) TNZBH).
Whose total life has been a major influence on YOUR Jewish experience? In what way?
How can you make sure that his/her influence on your life is never forgotten?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.