“TIMING IS EVERYTHING.” My first lesson on timing I picked-up from a guava tree in my childhood home- Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan.
The guava tree on the way down to the swimming pool is some 50 years old, and its height—unlike the heights of the generations of children who walk past it—barely changes over the years. And another thing that does not change is each year, the tree is adorned with smooth yellow fruit, sweet and juicy.
The guava tree on the way down to the swimming pool stands to the right side of the path as one walks from the kibbutz entrance road to the swimming pool. Unlike the fruit trees hidden from view within the gardens of kibbutz members, the guava tree on the way down to the swimming pool is exposed to a non-stop stream of potential consumers vying for its coveted fruit.
And this is where “timing” comes in. A youth with a yen for guava walks briskly down towards the swimming pool, his bathing suit and towel clutched in his hand. Or perhaps that same youth, now even hungrier, goes up from the pool, after he has swum and tanned his back. From afar he espies the guava tree towering over the path. He stops when he reaches the tree and avidly scrutinizes its branches. If he should chance to espy a ripe yellow fruit, he immediately reaches out to pluck it and eat it with gusto.
However, dozens of other kibbutzniks have already walked past the tree and they too stopped and sought ripe guavas, so the chances of finding a yellow prize waiting only for him and no other are infinitesimally small. But perhaps, hiding for him among the green leaves, is a fruit that had only just started to ripen? This, too, leads to a question of timing: would it be wiser to pluck it immediately, while it is of dubious ripeness and perhaps not good to eat, or to wait until the next day and take the risk that some other seeker of guavas will pluck it from the tree? In other words: Is it better to have an under-ripe guava in the hand, or two on the tree that will be perfect in another couple of days but risk the chance that it might not reach his own mouth?
The timing of guava picking involves other considerations. For example, the ethical issue: If a kibbutznik picks the fruit while it is still green, bites it and then, disappointed in the result, tosses away, then neither he will enjoy the guava nor will anyone else. But if he waits until the fruit is ripe, perhaps some other kibbutznik will benefit instead of him. So the question arises: Should the kibbutznik relinquish his slim chance of satisfying his own yearning for a guava and thereby allow another kibbutznik to do so instead?
When I left the kibbutz at age 28, I experienced a trauma that is very common among those who leave a kibbutz: that is needing to use actual money to buy fruit and vegetables for my personal consumption. “Wait, you’re telling me I have to pay money for tomatoes?!” In time I overcame this outrage, albeit with some difficulty. But until this day, every time I encounter guavas, I am reminded of the life lessons I learned on timing and on community spirit— gathered from the guava tree on the way down to the swimming pool. Shana Tova!