May 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

One night just before Tu b’Shevat, our five-year-old son Gavriel asked for an apple. My wife cut up the apple into pieces for him to eat, but he insisted that she cut out the seeds. When my wife did so, Gavriel excitedly filled a plastic bowl with water and placed the seeds in the bowl.

Gavriel informed us that his teacher had taught them about the seeds in the fruit that can be planted to grow new fruit trees. He was intrigued and excited by the idea and decided to plant an apple tree in a plastic bowl in our kitchen. Best of luck!

This year, Tu b’Shevat happened to coincide with the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Someone posed a challenge to explain a possible connection between the two days.

I suggested that planting a tree requires foresight, a sense of vision and tremendous patience. Digging a hole and taking a few seeds and burying them in the hole seems to be an exercise in futility. In fact, those seeds will begin to rot in the ground before any growth occurs. But the planter has a dream of the tree that will one day grow. He envisions the luscious fruits that will one day emerge and the many people who will enjoy them. Martin Luther King had a dream of the future, at a time when the fulfillment of that dream seemed unrealistic. Planting trees and producing fruits similarly requires a dream and a vision.

Subsequently, the connection deepened further: The night of “Tu b’MLK” day there was snow forecasted. Our children were excitedly anticipating a school cancellation, or at least a two-hour delay. To their chagrin, the temperature had risen overnight, and the snow had turned to rain. Martin Luther King famously said, “I’ve been to the mountaintop… I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

That morning, our children felt like they had been to the mountaintop and yet were barred entry from the Promised Land. Their hopes for snow were fulfilled, but it wasn’t enough to accomplish what they were hoping for.

Although regarding my children’s snow day situation and their dashed dreams, I’m being slightly facetious, the truth is that one cannot give up on their dreams when they aren’t fulfilled immediately.

A friend who was going through a challenging time remarked, “I know they say that whenever one door closes, another door opens. But these hallways are impossible!”

While it’s important to have dreams and a vision of what could be, one must also have a great deal of patience for his dreams to be fulfilled. They may very well ultimately be fulfilled, but not immediately and not even in the manner in which he first planned and hoped.

When Klal Yisroel left Mitzrayim, they had one destination in mind—to enter Eretz Yisroel and settle their familial land. However, they wouldn’t arrive there until they had spent four decades in the wilderness, dealing with challenges, vicissitudes and daunting odds. They had to contend with thirst, hunger, fatigue and doubt. There were many points where they were ready to give up and head back to Mitzrayim. The men who left Egypt largely never saw the fulfillment of that hope. But despite it all, the nation plunged ahead, following the clouds before them. Eventually they arrived and fulfilled their national dream. But it wasn’t in the manner or based on the route that they had planned.

We all have promised lands that we strive to reach, though we aren’t promised that we will get there. But the road to fulfillment of our dreams is often through the deserts of life. The road isn’t paved and straight, and there are many sharp turns and unforeseen bends. One who expects smooth and easy sailing will likely become despondent by the arduous journey. But one who maintains that sense of vision and knows that the difficult and serpentine terrain is the route home, will be able to stay the course, and enjoy the fruits of his labor along the journey home.


Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is a popular speaker and author. He is a rebbe in Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, and an experienced therapist, recently returning to seeing clients in private practice as part of the Rockland CBT group. For appointments, Rabbi Staum can be reached at 914-295-0115. Looking for an inspirational and motivational speaker or scholar in residence? Contact Rabbi Staum for a unique speaking experience. Rabbi Staum can be reached at [email protected]. Archives of his writings can be found at www.stamtorah.info.

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