Growing up in the cold New York winters I always wondered at the dichotomy between planting trees and harsh winter weather. I would imagine that in Israel where trees are actually planted on Tu B’shvat it must already be springtime. But alas, upon coming on aliyah I realized that also in Israel it’s the height of winter. Inevitably, I accepted that this is the exact timing that’s meant for planting trees.
Truth be told, if an alien landed in Israel on Tu B’shvat he would think that we’re nuts (which is completely appropriate for Tu B’shvat of course…). Everyone is ceremoniously planting trees in the cold, hard and seemingly barren ground. These conditions are certainly not optimal circumstances that one would associate with growth and blooming.
It simply doesn’t seem realistic. Yet we plant. We plant because we believe.
Planting is an act of faith. Placing a sapling in the frozen ground and expecting it to flourish and sprout takes faith and belief. The faith stems from an inner knowledge that this sapling will become a beautiful tree, even if we don’t see it at the moment and it seems completely unrealistic. Faith and belief means trusting beyond what we see. That opens endless options for change and growth. The sapling may seem weak and vulnerable; based on that the odds don’t look promising for its development. Undoubtedly, if we took into account only the probabilities based on what we see, no tree would be planted.
And yet we plant. Year in, year out, because somewhere deep down we believe. In miracles.
Most of the Jewish holidays celebrate miracles that occurred in the past. On the other hand, Tu B’shvat is about miracles that are yet to occur.
On Tu B’shvat we commemorate something that hasn’t actually happened yet. It seems unrealistic and naïve. Yet we believe and celebrate the beginning of the tree’s ‘life’ confident in the knowledge that it will flourish despite the seemingly harsh circumstances from the outset. Indeed, every tree that grows and bears fruit is a miracle. Our part in the miracle is to believe. Believing is not being naïve; it’s being aware that there is much more than what meets the eye and knowing that the sky’s the limit.
This concept can be applied to the dynamics with our children. Reality often brings on challenging situations with challenging behaviors. There’s no denying that. Like there’s no denying that the sapling is freezing in cold barren ground. Yet knowing that these bleak circumstances don’t hinder its development, and will even boost it, enables us to believe and expect that in the end it will flourish.
Similarly, we can look beyond a child’s behavior, and know that there’s a lot more than what he’s showing us. Challenging behavior often leads the child to be labelled and defined accordingly. Unfortunately the ‘label’ is mistakenly accepted as absolute, but that’s not necessarily so; we don’t have to buy into it. We can have faith and believe that there’s a lot hidden behind those ‘labels’. This belief can be attained by focusing on the positive attributes that he has, and will undoubtedly continue to develop. That’s the key. With that key we can reach for the stars. That’s being realistic!