| The Talmud relates that one day Choni HaMagel (1st century BCE) was traveling on the road when he encountered a man planting a carob tree. How long does it take for this tree to bear fruit? Seventy years. Are you certain that you will live another seventy years? I found ready grown carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted these for me so too I plant these for my children. People often start projects but due to fear, procrastination, or general lack of interest, they don’t complete them. Sometimes there’s a bigger challenge: would you undertake a task that you know you wouldn’t finish and therefore would never partake in its fruits? Would you plant a tree even though you knew you wouldn’t reap the benefit of your labor? This week’s Torah reading gives us perspective in answering these questions. Then Moses separated three cities on the other side of the Jordan to the East of the sun. (Deut. 4:41) When someone mistakenly kills another person, the unintentional killer immediately flees to a city of refuge so that he will be protected from the angry and potentially violent relatives of the deceased. Moses designated the location of these three cities, which were on the East side of the Jordan, even though they didn’t take effect (i.e. provide refuge) until the Cities in the Land of Israel would be set aside (when the Jews would enter Israel). Moses had the opportunity to do a Mitzvah (setting aside the cities) and said, a mitzvah that is possible to fulfill, I will fulfill—even though I will not get to see the fruits of my labor. We learn an important principle from here, one which applies in many situations. Sometimes when people think that they will not be able to finish a project, they are reluctant to start. We see from Moses and the story above (the man planting the carob tree) that even though one might not finish a project in his lifetime, that’s not a reason to refrain from starting it and accomplishing as much as possible. There are many meaningful causes and projects that require patience, but the real fruits might only come years or even decades later. Moses is our paradigm for beginning whatever we can, even though others might get the credit for completing it. This is especially applicable to all of us in the Jewish community. We live amid a culture that expects fast results. Not too long ago if one wanted to research a topic, even something as mundane as a diet, (s)he went to the library and found books and articles on the subject. Today we simply consult Google. People used to fix all types of motors and appliances whereas today it is sometimes easier to simply buy a new one online or locally on craigslist. Things like friendships, community building, and other meaningful activities take time and we get frustrated when they don’t happen right away. Nevertheless, we must realize that we have a responsibility as Jews to help plant seeds. We might not see the results right away but that doesn’t enable us to shirk our responsibility to plant the seeds for the next generation of Jews. Our parents and grandparents did so for us, and we—just like the man who planted the carob tree—need to do it for our children, grandchildren, and all those in the community who follow us. Good Shabbos.
(Sources: Taanit 23a; Rashi 4:41; Kli Yakar; Growth Through Torah)