Tu B’Shvat in the Modern Age
Does a tree and flower still have a message for a high-tech expert armed with a mobile phone, a laptop computer and the latest-model car equipped with all the latest gadgets?
Side Effects of Progress
Progress, along with all the good and wonderful things which it has given us, also has a negative, destructive side.
Modern man has become lazy. Everything comes to him easily. If the time to travel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv once required going on a backbreaking journey on a donkey for three days, today it just takes fifty minutes in a car.
If once communicating with a friend on the other side of the ocean required sending a letter that reached its destination after two weeks at best, now all he has to do is pull his mobile phone out of his pocket and dial the number he wants, or just send an e-mail.
If once to eat chicken for lunch, one had to take a chicken to the ritual slaughterer, pluck its feathers, salt it and clean it, etc., today all one has to do is to buy a frozen chicken at the supermarket and cook it. If he’s too lazy to do even that, all he has to do is take ready-made food out of the freezer and pop into the microwave for a few minutes.
This way of life gets a person used to laziness. He gets amazing things almost without having to work for them, If, G-d forbid, something isn’t to his liking, he starts to complain and whine.
Our comfortable lifestyle also creates another, more serious problem, which is impatience.
In the past, things took a long time. One had to patiently wait, and learn to stay calm and cool. Today everything happens so fast, and everything is done on the fly. A person who grew up in the generation of cell phones, Internet and microwaves, suffers from impatience. He has no patience to wait more than thirty seconds.
What should he do when there are important processes which take more than a minute? Long processes that still require time to develop, to grow, to be built up?
Modern man finds this a problem. He gets upset, angry, frustrated and disappointed and begins to complain and cast blame. It is difficult for him to understand that not everything works at the pace of a microwave.
Communication in Thirty Seconds
Education of children, for example, is a process that doesn’t happen in a moment. This is an investment of years, daily nurturing, patience and forbearance. Although many of us would prefer it that way, we still cannot put our child in a microwave, enter the appropriate code, and have him come out in 30 seconds mature and well behaved. Unfortunately, raising a kid works differently.
Relationships and connections between people are also slow processes that require nurturing and investing. A deep, healthy marital relationship is not something built in a moment between a man and a woman. One has to invest time in, think of, listen to, support, praise and encourage one’s spouse. Whoever isn’t willing to do this, whoever wants to see immediate results right now, will find it hard to create a deep and strong connection with his spouse or other people.
Building one’s personality and character is also a process that takes time and investment. Envy, pride and greed are not traits which vanish in a moment. To acquire a pleasant disposition, alacrity, humility, inner joy, etc., work and investment is necessary.
Do we have the time and patience to make the required investment?
The idea of our people’s redemption is a slow process. Our sages tell us that “Israel’s redemption will take place slowly.” We were told that there will be ups and downs, difficulties and setbacks in the process. But when it seems like it is happening, we forget all those things.
After two thousand years of exile, we finally are in our country. There were those who were convinced that this is it, the redemption is at our doorstep. But over sixty-five years have passed, and things have not turned out as we wanted. There are still wars and terrorism, problems and crises.
There are things that we need to deal with, and not everything works out in a moment. But people do not realize it, and they begin to lose patience, whine, get upset, despair and cast blame.
Why? What happened? Did somebody promise that within five minutes (or even fifty years) everything will work out exactly according to your dreams and expectations?
The Holiday of Trees
For good reason, the Redemption is compared to a plant. "Make the sprout of David Your servant quickly flourish", we say in prayer every day. We can learn many things from the simple little plant, from that little seed that breaks through the earth and slowly but surely inches it way up.
It does not work with a stopwatch, it is not trying to do everything in a moment, and it is also not occupied all the time with the question "What will be?", "How soon will it end?", "Why aren’t they doing their job properly?"
It cares about only one thing — to grow.
It advances calmly and patiently. Step by step, aiming upward and never giving up.
If a storm hits and threatens to uproot it, the plant will bend its head and its roots will grasp the ground firmly until the storm passes.
It will eagerly drink up every drop of rain showered on it from above, and will use it for one thing — to grow.
Without keeping records, without making plans, calmly and patiently.
Maybe we should try, on the oncoming holiday of trees, to go out into nature, breathe the air, absorb the fragrances, and reflect and listen. Let's look at the little flower, caress its leaves, and listen to what it has to teach us.