Ronnie Katz Gerber
Communications Chair, Hadassah Los Angeles Metro Region

Sensational Succulents, Shmita and Hadassah

Photo courtesy of Hadassah
Photo courtesy of Hadassah

What did I learn on zoom today? I learned that Shmita exists. I did not know that. I learned that it’s about the harvest of fruits and vegetables during Tu B’shevat. I know that Tu B’shevat is about a ‘Thanksgiving’ for Jews and that it is celebrated by a seder and feasts, especially in Israel. What I didn’t know was that the fruits and vegetables at this feast and for this whole seventh year of Tu B’shevat’s anniversary, the crops are not eaten or gathered. The land lays fallow for the seventh year to regain its strength and powers for a more fruitful bounty/ power over the next six years.

Interesting, no? A country to intentionally leave agriculture unharvested throughout the land. No plowing, sowing, feeding, pruning, watering. No tending to the crops. Unheard of.

So, the question arises: how do we feed our people?! We gather and store and prepare during the sixth year for the seventh. And think. Nothing was planted in the seventh year so the crops of the sixth year must suffice here again. Year six better be a banner year.

And here’s the best part. Israel is a natural desert. There is the Mediterranean and the Gulf and the Jordan River, but the inlet of land we inhabit is dry and tough—and they say much like a woman. Sweet, strong, and beautiful once cared for lovingly and mindfully. Women are a strong, adaptable, clever and a beautiful necessary specie. Likened to succulents we have much in common. We don’t need the care of a rose bush, a strawberry, or an avocado even.

Potatoes are known to need assistance and tending regularly. Pruning edible vines and trees and plants takes a troop of caretakers. Weather notwithstanding, the ground needs just the right amount of nutrients and water. Women GROW! We are flexible and find how to persist and glow from within to help others to thrive. It’s our nature. Like the succulent, very little goes a long way to make a beautiful garden and keep the earth rich and bellies full. During Shmita much of the veggies and fruits are imported and therefore more expensive and rarer. A good woman is hard to find. And worth the struggle and wait.

Adira, the younger women’s Hadassah group here in the South Bay area of Hadassah Southern California, recently offered a zoom program about succulents. Or so I thought. We registered and paid a small fee to pick up out portable succulent pieces and hopefully learn more about succulents, Israel, Hadassah, and planting in an hour’s zoom call. There were about sixteen of us. Debbie Rauh, Karin Miller and Lemore Warzman, the new President of Adira, planned the event and organized its execution. Well done. Rebbetzin Sara Mintz spoke about Shmita with energy and interest. Shairi Wallace was our floral instructor so we could all feel successful in potting our little portable succulent gardens and make them pretty and strong, so they thrive. Even those of us with black thumbs thought this just might work.

But the program was more about the resilience of Israel. The cleverness of a whole nation to protect its edible crops, the strength of women who help make it happen. Somehow Debbie wrapped this up into a profound earthbound moment that had fun, story and moral, and relevance, let alone belonged to the Jewish calendar for eons.

Of course, I am a woman and I represent not only others of my sex but Hadassah, a worldwide organization that is based on the concept of “Women Who Do” for Israel and Jewish causes throughout the world. Hard to do. Doable. Worth it.

About the Author
Ronnie Katz Gerber is currently Communications Chair for the Hadassah Metro Los Angeles Region. A retired English and drama teacher for one of the largest school districts in California, she has written, directed and produced a handful of curriculum-based plays for her students and received a Los Angeles Awards nomination for her educational outreach through the arts. She has now turned her attention to columns, articles and short stories. Ms. Gerber is active in the community doing volunteer work and also spends her time pursuing her avid interest in travel. She has visited most of Europe, Russia and Africa, China and a bit of South America as well. Most springs, she hosts foreign exchange students for a month while they take an American culture and language crash course at a local university. As a result, she has spent time with them and their families abroad. Her family, especially her grand girls are the best activity of any day.
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