Short Stories and poetry
Jamie Glaser | Tessa and the three Ts save the Honeybees

Tessa and the three Ts save the Honeybees

A practice loaf, try a piece.
Tessa excitedly grabbed a slice of the sweet bread from the kitchen table. Do you remember why the challah for the New Year is round and not long? Of course she did, her rabbi explained it to her Sunday school class last week. And her rabbi is also her father, Rabbi Jacob Greenberg. He taught Tessa about all the Jewish holidays, but Rosh Hashanah was her favorite.
Challah is round on Rosh Hashanah, because the year is round, and the challah is round to represent the round year.
Tov meod, very good her mother replied, as Tessa beamed.
Ima, when I grow up I am going to be a rabbi like Abba, or maybe a preschool teacher like you, because I like little kids or maybe, maybe, a biologist because I love nature. OR, I could be all three! Her mother smiled at her.
Such big aspirations for such a small girl of six. But what you don’t yet have in age you make up for in heart.
Ima, what is an aspiration?
A dream replied her mother.
Oh, she replied, those I have PLENTY of.

Tessa sat next to her friend Anna Ross as her class settled down for the science lesson given by Morah Elaine. Tessa loved all of her teachers but Morah Elaine was her favorite because she loved science and cared about nature just as much as Tessa did. Boker Tov yeladim, Morah Elaine greeted the class.
Boker tov, Morah they replied. Joey Engle raised his hand.
Yes Joey?
Morah why do you have all that bee stuff?
Great question, she answered. It is because today we are going to learn all about the honeybee and why they are such an important part of our world. But first, I have a question for the class. Raise your hands, and when I call your name, I would like for you to tell me one of your favorite fruits or vegetables. Joey raised his hand. Yes, Joey.
Vegetables are yucky but my favorite fruit is strawberries especially when they are in fruit roll ups! The class laughed. Anna raised her hand.
Apples, she said seriously. And lettuce, for my rabbit. Tessa raised her hand. Cantaloupe, she offered, we eat it a lot at my grandma’s house. The class offered their favorite fruits and vegetables as answers for Morah Elaine until everyone had had a turn. Do you want to know what one of my favorite veggies are? She asked. Brussel sprouts!
EWWW, the class exclaimed. She laughed.
They are delicious when my husband grills them I promise you! But anyway, she said, the reason I asked you all this question is because if you have a favorite fruit or vegetable, you can probably thank a honeybee! Honeybees are very important pollinators in the world and without them, we would not be able to enjoy the many delicious products that we do. However, and unfortunately, lately, the honey bees habitat is being destroyed. Class, follow me, as we are going to go outside into the courtyard and meet a special friend of mine.
As they reached the courtyard, Tessa saw a woman dressed in the most unusual outfit. She had on khaki pants and a khaki shirt and a funny hat that had a net that covered her face. Next to her was what looked like a beehive. As she got closer she realised that it was a beehive. Yeladim, meet Morah Julia and her hive of honeybees. Julia, I will let you take it from here.

Boker Tov friends, smiled Morah Julia. Thank you so much for inviting me and my bees to your school today. I am very happy to “bee” here, for my bees and I have a special message for all of you. My bees are very busy and important little insects and they produce wonderful honey which you will all get to try this morning, as well as dip apples into later this month. However, we also want you to do something for us. Please tell your friends, family, neighbors, anyone who is willing to listen that they need our help. There are other ways to help as well. One is asking your mom and dad to purchase produce that is not grown with the use of pesticides. Alex raised his hand.
What are pesticides? He asked.
Great question, replied Morah Julia. Pesticides are chemicals that we spray on plants to keep bad insects from harming them. But unfortunately, these chemicals are also harmful to good insects, such as the honey bee. By buying produce and other foods that are produced without the use of these harmful chemicals, we are supporting the survival of these important creatures. Tessa raised her hand.
What are some other ways to help, Morah? Can we make a home for the honeybees, so that they have a place to live? Morah Julia smiled.
Absolutely. How many of you have a garden at home? A few students raised their hands. Joey piped up.
I don’t have one because I live in an apartment. Just a little herb garden my mom has in the kitchen. But our school has a HUGE one that Morah Elaine grew!
That’s right, Joey, Morah Elaine said, and thank you for reminding me to go out and purchase some honey bee friendly plants for the fall season. What would our bees do without you guys? After science class Tessa walked back to the classroom with Anna and Miriam.
Do you guys have gardens?
We do, said Miriam. Sort of. We don’t have flowers, my dad just grows tomatoes and squash and cucumbers.
We have a few flowers, said Anna but I don’t think they are bee friendly because I never see any flying around. Do you guys have one? She asked Tessa.
My mom grows roses, replied Tessa but I don’t think many bees visit us either. Hey, wouldn’t it be really cool if ALL of our school had their own bee garden? Because the school has like 100 kids plus a lot of teachers too, that would be a lot of, uh, habitat for honey bees, then they wouldn’t be as in danger. But how can we make that happen?

After science class was Tessa’s second favorite class of the week. Judaics. It wasn’t that she particularly liked studying religion. It was just that it was the only hour of the week when her Abba, the Rabbi visited her class. As he entered the classroom, Tessa obeyed Morah Linda’s rule, ran up to him, gave him a quick hug, then settled back into her seat as her Abba got ready for class.
Today his materials were kind of funny. Just three large note cards all with the letter T on them. She quietly giggled. They already knew their alphabet. In English and in Hebrew.
Boker tov, class.
Boker tov, Rabbi they all responded.
Today we are going to talk about a very important letter for the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah, as well as Yom Kippur, later on. He smiled. I don’t know if any of you all know this, but what letter is this? He tried to hide a smile.
T! They all chorused.
Yes, he replied. In my hand I have three Ts. However, today we are not going to talk about words that the letter T begins with in english. We are going to talk about three words in hebrew that begin with the letter T that are very important concepts in the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. He held up the first T card and turned it around, It said T'shuvah, Now does anyone know what T'shuvah means? He asked the class. Of course Tessa did but she remembered her discussion with her Abba about letting the other children in the class answer too. But this time nobody raised their hand so she did.
Yes, Tessa.
It means to turn!
Yes, he replied, to turn to what?
Um, away from bad things and towards G-d.
Tov, tov, he replied. Tshuvah means turning. All year long we sometimes turn towards the selfish things our hearts want to do. Sometimes we are lazy and sometimes we just don’t care. T'shuvah reminds us to turn from sin and towards good deeds. He smiled. Now I know everyone can help answer this question. ‘What are some good deeds we can do to help the world around us? Joey raised his hand.
Not yell at our parents and brother!
Yes, that's excellent, the rabbi replied. Trying to be kinder to those we love is an important thing for all of us to do in the upcoming year. Hannah raised her hand.
Pick up garbage?
Yes the rabbi replied picking up garbage and helping to make the earth a cleaner place is definitely a good deed, or a mitzvah. Tessa raised her hand, she just had to answer this one. Yes, Tessa? Saving the honeybees! She exclaimed. The rabbi’s eyebrows raised. He had never heard his daughter talk about honeybees before though she often talked about helping to save the planet.
Yes, he responded, surprised. Helping all of G-d’s creatures is an excellent way to practice Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world. Tessa smiled back. She wanted to say a lot more but Judaics was only for one hour and she knew she should probably just tell Abba and her Ima more at dinner tonight. Then tomorrow she would talk to Morah Elaine and her home room teacher Morah Linda. Morah Julia and her hive of honey bees had inspired her to take actions!

Dinner that night was perfect, because her mom had made pasta and salad. Not only was pasta with tomato sauce one of her favorite dinners but tomatoes were also one of the plants that honeybees help pollinate. So were the cucumbers in the salad, though Tessa could live without cucumbers. She looked up.
So, guys, she started. Great meal, Ima.
Thank you honey, her mother replied.
You’re welcome. I’ve noticed that some of the foods that we are eating for dinner tonight are very special because,” she paused for dramatic effect “ they have been pollinated by honeybees! Honey bees, she continued, are very important insects. Not only do they pollinate cucumbers and tomatoes but they also pollinate my favorite fruit, cantaloupe. And Joey’s favorite fruit, strawberries. Plus a lot of beautiful flowers. Plus, she added, almost out of breath, they are really losing a lot of habitat. I learned today that habitat means a place to live. And EVERYONE needs a place to live, she added, especially animals that are SO important. Rabbi Greenberg scratched his chin.
Tessa, he said, you have really opened up my eyes to some information that I was not aware of.

Well, thank you, said Tessa but you can thank Morah Julia for that. She’s sort of the bee lady. She came to our science class today right before Judaics class. That’s why I added saving the honey bees as one of the good deeds we can do for the world.
Well, her mother added, I think helping to save the honey bees is a great deed and I think I know one way we can help.
Tessa’s Ima didn’t bake very often, she was usually too busy and didn’t want her family to eat too many sweets. But tonight she had made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Besides being delicious, they were giving Tessa an idea.
Ima, she said, after finishing her cookie, I remember last spring we had a bake sale to help buy supplies for our kindergarten classroom. We sold a lot of desserts and got to buy a lot of awesome things for our room, even a goldfish! Do you think if we have another bake sale we can raise more money to help honeybees? Her mother smiled.
Yes, Tessa, I think that is a great idea but I think I have another idea that would benefit honey bees more. Should we sell honey? That is a great idea, she replied but how about we sell plants that honeybees like to visit? Tessa’s eyes lit up! She remembered talking to her friends about having gardens in their yards but none of them had habitat for honey bees including her own backyard
That night Tessa did some homework. Kindergarteners don’t have homework so of course Tessa didn’t HAVE to do it, but she used her parents computer to print out some pictures of plants that honeybees like to visit, complete with their prices. Her Ima called this a catalogue and said that it would help her class figure out how much to sell plants for so they could raise a little bit of money to donate to Morah Julia so she could further help honeybees in her organization, Wild Honey Inc.
Wednesday was not a science class day so Tessa asked Morah Linda before recess if she could take her to Morah Elaine’s office to talk to her. She was feeling nervous but also very excited. She just knew Morah Elaine would love the idea! She knocked on Morah Elaine’s half open office door with Morah Linda standing behind her, smiling.
Tessa! Morah Linda greeted her. Shalom! You’re skipping recess to see me, this must be important. Tessa giggled, then straightened her back and tried to look serious.
Morah Elaine, I want to thank you for having Morah Julia visit us yesterday. It was one of the best science classes I’ve had yet!
Great, her teacher replied, so glad you enjoyed it.
I was thinking, she looked at her shoes, then looked up. We could have a fundraiser? To sell plants for honeybees to help them have habitat?
Tessa, her science teacher replied. I think that’s a wonderful idea. Tessa beamed. You do? Yes, we will have to work out all of the details with the rabbi and set a day and time to do it but I think we could make it work. Tessa handed her the catalogue. Here, she added this is an um, catalogue that tells us how much the plants for the honeybees cost and may help us how much to sell each plant for. I think a lot of people at this school have gardens. But I don’t think many people have a honeybee garden. I hope this sale will change that! Tessa, Morah Elaine smiled, may I be your first customer? I need to use your catalogue to find some great plants for the honeybees in OUR schools garden as well. Yes, Tessa replied excited that she was helping. I promise I will return it to you by the end of school today or give it to your Abba if I see him first. Thanks Morah Elaine, Tessa said with your help and with the other teachers and kids helping , this fundraiser will raise a lot of money to help the honey bees.
I’ve got a secret, Tessa smiled as she and Anna sat on the tire swing outside. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you! I was late to recess because I was talking to Morah Eliane. Last night my Ima and I went on the computer and found a catalogue to buy plants that honeybees like. Then this morning I showed it to Morah Elaine, and asked her if our school could have a fundraiser to sell honey bee plants to raise money FOR the honeybees! Wow, exclaimed Anna, that sounds fun, I remember Morah Julia told us that her special bee company could use donations to help buy, um, bee stuff! But why flowers? Can’t we just sell cake like last year?
True, said Tessa, cake is awesome and I may try to convince my Ima to sell her honeycake but I think the reason we are selling honey bee plants is because if people buy them they can have a honeybee friendly garden in their own backyard.
Friday afternoon two weeks later was the big day. After lunch in front of the school, Morah Linda’s kindergarten class set up a table with various plants that are honeybee friendly as well as some slices of raisin challah and honey cake. A few jars or Morah Julia’s bees honey sat on the table as well. The class became very good at creating slogans, or sayings to tell how important honeybee habitat is. They came up with signs that said “Bee kind, plants honeybee plants!” “Let your T’s save our Bees! Tzedakah, please!” “This honey is the Bee’s Knees” Morah Linda came up with that phrase. The sale was a big success and afterwards Tessa was beaming, carrying a jar of honey in her hand. Ima and Abba let her buy one. “Ima, how much did we raise, she asked after school. Miriam and Anna were at their kitchen table, dipping apples into Tessa’s honey from Morah Julia’s bees. They were getting quite sticky. After a few more slices and two slices each of honey cake, Tessa’s Ima said, ok ladies, we don’t want to spoil our dinner. Ready for some manual labor? What’s that mean? Asked Anna. In this case, Ima smiled, it means helping to plant our plants in the garden! The girls cheered.
Better hurry and get those plants out before Shabbat! Tessa turned around. Her Abba had come home. He was too busy in the office to stay at the sale for long but bought some honey cake to take with him while he worked.
Abba the sale was a big hit! Tessa exclaimed.
Beeeautiful, he replied. Naomi, he asked, what's our grand total?
She smiled. This amazing kindergarten class raised 543 dollars and fifty cents for Morah Julia’s hive! Plus now many gardens in our community will have some nice plants for the honeybees to come visit.
Rabbi Greenberg smiled mischievously. Now Tessa can have that pet she’s been asking for. Honey bees. Hey, I bet more than one will visit.
Tessa giggled. Abba, she replied, I still want a kitty. Seriously.
The girls spent the rest of the afternoon planting in Tessa’s family's garden. Miriam invited the girls to come to her garden on Sunday to plant the plants her family had bought.
Soon enough it was Rosh Hashana. As always Tessa joined here family for the concluding service of Rosh Hashana after the children’s service. This was her favorite part of the service because her Abba always invited all of the children up for a special blessing. She sat between Miriam and Joey who was trying to adjust his bowtie. This Rosh Hashana was extra special because Tessa and Morah Elaine got to stand up on the Bima and announce the grand total for the honey bee fundraiser. Finally the big moment arrived. But first, her Abba had to talk for a hundred minutes!
Shana Tova, he greeted the congregation. Every year the Jewish people are asked to take the month of Elul and really reflect on the past year and what they can do differently next year, to improve themselves and the world around them. Traditionally the individuals that are asked to participate in this are “adults” people who are over the age of 13 who have recieved their Bar or Bat Mitzvah. However, in my twenty years as a Rabbi I have had the priveledge of knowing many young children who’s enthusiasm for Tshuvah have challenged my faith. This year I have had the priveledge of seeing that in my own daughter, Tessa along with Morah Linda’s Kindergarten class. I have so many people to thank this evening. First of all I would like to thank Julia Frankel for her wonderful organization, Wild Honey Inc., which inspired this beautiful act of Tzedakah amoung our grade school students, parents and teachers. I’d like to thank Morah Elaine for her enthusiasm as a science teacher and always encouraging our students to pursue what they are passionate and excited about. I’d like to thank Morah Linda for her willingness to incorperate this project into her lesson on Tzedakah for our kindergarten class. And lastly, I would like to thank the students, the youngest members of Rose Lerner Grade School the kindergarten class for your amazing leadership in creating this wonderful project and helping to bring about awareness to something that many of us, myself included didn’t know was so important. This also includes all of the awesome parents of these kids, who spent many hours baking, selling, counting and leading this fun event. Now I would like to invite Elaine Cohen and my daughter Tessa to announce the grand total raised for Wild Honey Inc!
Finally! It was time to do the most awesome part of the day. She felt nervous, but looking at her wonderful science teacher and Abba, she found her voice as the Rabbi helped adjust the microphone so she could speak into it. Hi! She greeted to congregation. My school raised 543 dollars and fifty cents to help the honey bees! Todah Rabah! Then she quickly turned to sit back on the steps.
As Tessa balanced her paper plate on here lap trying not to spill honey on her new tights with honeybees on them! She remembered the wonderful insects who made the honey. She was very glad that she could help them just a little bit because they help the world, a lot. Hey said Miriam, tomorrow morning do you want to come over and see our new garden. It’s very honey bee friendly! I’m trying to teach my little brother that bees aren’t scary, they’re nice and they help plants grow. Yea, said Tessa, that would be sweet. Sweet as honey.

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