Short Stories and poetry

Jamie Glaser | Jonah's Seed

Jonah's Seed

Jonah is five. He lives in Israel. It is almost time to celebrate Tu B’shvat, the Birthday of the Trees. Jonah is very excited because every year the kindergarten class goes to the nature reserve to plant trees for the holiday. Jonah hopes he gets to plant an almond tree. Almond trees bloom first. He likes to be first. When his Ima picked him up from school he talked excitedly about tomorrow, the day the class was going to plant trees. I want an almond sapling. A sapling is a baby tree. Almond trees bloom first, I like being first. His Ima smiled. I know you do, and I hope you get what you want. But if you don’t there is a reason. Adonai knows what you need.

The next morning Jonah skipped excitedly into his kindergarten classroom. When he reached the door, he was confused. There were no saplings lined up to plant. Maybe they are outside, he thought. Boker tov, chaverim, said Morah Anya. Boker tov, Morah the class responded. Jonah raised his hand. “Where are the trees?” he asked. She smiled. I’m glad you asked, she responded. She opened her desk drawer and took out three bags each one with a different word on them. His classmate Shira asked, Morah what do the bags say? Another good question. Each bag contains seeds. The first bag is labeled nikud, almond, this one says Teena, fig and this bag says zahyeet, olive. Seeds? Thought Jonah, I thought we were going to plant trees. This year, Morah Anya interrupted his thoughts, instead of planting saplings, we are going to plant seeds. Three, in fact. To give us hope that at least one will germinate and sprout into a tree. Sometimes, it’s good to see something right away. Like when we plant a tree. But sometimes, it’s good to wait. Waiting gives us hope that we will see the results of what we did. Waiting is hard. Especially when you are young. But I promise you, yeladim, when you finally get to see what you have been waiting for, you are rarely disappointed. Why did Jonah feel disappointed? He didn’t want to wait for a seed to grow.

Morah gave each student three seeds. Jonah really hoped for almond seeds. An almond seed would grow fast and he liked being fast. Morah gave him his seeds. For you, Jonah, Zayteem. Olive seeds. Do olive seeds grow really fast? He asked. She frowned. Well, Jonah, an olive tree takes about four years to grow. But they are not fully grown until they reach seventy years old! Seventy years old! Jonah thought. My saba is seventy years old! Jonah couldn’t imagine waiting that long for anything. At the Nature Reserve Jonah held the three seeds in his hand. Echad, scteim, shalosh. Good, he still had all three. Ok, yeladim, Morah Anya announced, everyone chooses a partner. Each pair will receive one shovel and we are going to dig a hole for the other person to plant their seed in and your partner will do the same for you. Helping one another and sharing is a mitzvah.

Jonah paired with his friend, Eli. “What kind of seeds do you have?” he asked. Almond, Eli replied. Lucky, Jonah said. I have olive. I have to wait a long time. Jonah and Eli dug holes for each other’s seeds. Shalom chaverim, he told the seeds. See you some time.

When Jonah arrived home his grandpa was over helping his Ima bake a date cake for the holiday celebration tonight. Tonight was Shabbat as well as the Tu b’shvat seder. How was school? His grandpa asked him as he gave him a hug and a high five. Pretty good, he replied, we planted seeds at the nature reserve. For Tu bshvat. Seeds? Asked his saba. Not saplings? Oy. “I got olive seeds. I have to wait a long time to see a tree. I don’t like waiting.” Jonah’s saba looked at him. Jonah, what if I told you that you don’t have to wait to see a great big olive tree? You know a way to make my seeds grow faster? He asked, excited. Lo, said his saba, not the seeds, you planted, the seeds I planted. You planted olive seeds? Yes, he replied. A long time ago, when I was just about your age. You were my age once? Asked Jonah. His saba laughed. Yes, a long time ago! Layli, he called to Jonah’s mother. Jonah and I are going to the nature reserve. We’ll be back soon. Ok, she replied, when you get home the date cake should be baked and it will be time for Shabbat and to celebrate the holidays.

Jonah’s grandpa drove until he reached the nature reserve. I was here today! Said Jonah. With my class planting our seeds. His saba smiled, I know you were, he said. Follow me. After a few minutes Jonah and saba reached the biggest and twistiest tree Jonah had ever seen. Is that an olive tree? Yes, Jonah this is the tree that I planted with my abba when I was five, just like you. Saba, was it hard to wait for your tree to grow? How long did it take? Did you eat the olives? Saba laughed. Yes, we ate the olives. The tree started blooming when I was about ten years old. Then, as I grew the tree grew too. Just like you will grow as your tree grows. Monday you will go back to school. You will learn about new things. Purim, Passover, Shavout as well as science, math and reading. Sometimes you’ll think about your tree, sometimes you won’t. But it will be there, growing. When you’re happy, it will grow. When you’re sad, it will grow. When you celebrate your birthday, it will grow. Everyday it will grow, just like you. I think I know why your teacher gave you seeds, instead of trees. Why? Asked Jonah. Seeds make us wait, and like all good miracles, they take time. Do you know when it was the hardest for me to wait? When? asked Jonah. When I was waiting for you to be born, replied saba. Every day I would call your ima and abba, and ask, is my grandson here yet? Really? Jonah laughed. Yes, and you know what my boy? You were a miracle worth waiting for. Like Ima’s date cake! Race you to the car saba! They reached the car laughing and panting. Jonah Epstein you are great. And fast!

On Monday Jonah arrived at school and his class was lined up by the door ready to go outside. Jonah followed the line and wondered what they were going outside for so early. When they reached the school’s courtyard, there were three saplings. One almond, one fig and one olive. The rabbi smiled, waiting for the class. “Shalom yeladim” he greeted them. Shalom Rabbi the class responded. Morah Anya told me that the kindergarten class did a great job on Friday planting seeds. There were even some very patient souls who planted olive seeds. Jonah smiled. That was him. The rabbi continued. Waiting is hard. It takes a long time for a little seed to grow. So I thought it would be fun to plant trees that we can see today! Let’s welcome and sing Yom huledek sameach to our three new saplings!

The class sang, played with balloons and had a snack of fruit that grows on trees. The olives were especially tasty to Jonah. This tu bshvat he had seen three sizes of trees. One little, his seeds, one medium sized, the saplings, and one great big tree, his sabas tree. Waiting is hard. But it’s worth waiting for things that are great!
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