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Apple Trees are the Fruit of Risk

01/29/2021 12:14:20 PM


I would like to begin by thanking President Kathy Krechevsky for sponsoring The Afro-Semitic Experience service this month from the President’s Fund.  I would also like to thank TBDConnect for sponsoring our speaker Rifat Sonsino.  If you missed Rabbi Sonsino’s talk it can be found on our website.  If you enjoyed these programs, and would like to see more of them, I encourage you to support and contribute to our various funds that allow us to bring these top-quality performers and speakers to our community.

This week it is Tu’Bishvat, the birthday of the trees.  Tonight, I invite you to join our congregants Larry Levine and Elaine Shapiro for our special Tu’Bishvat service. I love that as Jews we take time to show gratitude for trees as opposed to taking them for granted.  Trees do so much for us physically, but they also teach us spiritual lessons.  One spiritual lesson is found in the Talmud where Jews are likened to an apple tree.  

“Why were the Jewish people likened to an apple tree? It is to tell you that just as this apple tree, its fruit grows before its leaves, so too, the Jewish people accorded precedence to “We will do” over “We will hear.”- Shabbat 88a”

The end of this teaching is a reference to Exodus chapter 24 verse 7 “And he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the hearing of the people; and they said: ‘All that the Eternal has spoken will we do, and we will understand.’ 

This verse from Exodus bothers the rabbis because to them it seems to be out of order.  Most people, the rabbis of the Talmud feel, need to understand before they do something, not the other way around.  Perhaps this is true of human instinct, that we seek understanding before doing.  However, spiritual growth is found in doing and trying that will lead to understanding.  What I learn from this is that deep down, the Jewish core is one of taking risks. 

I use a simple formula for risk-taking:  On the one hand I have the status quo. On the other, I have the results of taking whatever the risk is at the moment.  If the gain outweighs the loss of taking the risk, it is worth trying; if not, then perhaps the status quo is better.  More often than not, I find the risk is worth taking and will benefit me if not in the short term, in the long run.  This is the lesson in spiritual growth we learn from the the apple tree.  The apple tree takes the risk of growing fruit before it grows leaves.  This Tu’bishvat let us be mindful that every time we eat an apple, it is a reflection of the Jewish spirit of risk-taking and that taking risks is an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Sat, March 6 2021 22 Adar 5781