A Story for Shevuoth
I was on my way to The Land on an assignment to report on some new agricultural kibbutzim. My flight had yet to be announced as one delay had followed another in the uncertain weather. It was obvious that there was going to be more delay and I was very tired.
I watched with absent gaze the intermittent flow of people from the arrival gates in the terminal and the queues of departing passengers at other gates. The cover of a magazine left behind by another traveler caught my eye. It listed in bold invitation the things to be found inside: Diet Your Way to a New You,” “The Summer Body Beautiful,” “Talk to Your Plants. ” I glanced at the potted plant which stood at the corner of the passenger area where I was sitting. “I’d be more interested if I thought it had something to say to me,” I mused to myself. “I wonder if plants talk back.” I yawned and shut my eyes. It would be a while.
At once there appeared before me a tiny but wondrous plant. It was in the hand of the gardener who had only just chosen it from an endless and somewhat weedy field. He planted it carefully in a place prepared for it and, as I watched the plant, it sent out shoots and runners. The gardener carefully removed them from around the root and the growth was forced into one vigorous shoot from which branches and leaves soon began to grow in increasing profusion.
It was a green, fragrant and lovely plant and the gardener worked with it intently and purposefully. He pruned and watered. He fed the soil and gave it space to grow, pulling out the weeds that crowded in upon it. He wanted a hardy plant, one to withstand the weather, so he set it out to face the seasons. It endured the heat of the sun, the storms of winter, the season of drought. And the gardener was attentive to the pruning of what was left when the wind and storm had done their work. He never failed to nourish the root and with patience he waited and watched the plant.
The root was strong, and ever in the season of gentle rain the fragrant leaves came forth, each green leaf bearing the likeness of that first growth for which the plant had been chosen. The gardener spoke often to his plant and it murmured lovingly in return, rejoicing in its own beauty. It stretched itself and grew under his care.
But at last a season came when in the crown of the plant the strongest shoot began to take a form unlike the leaves. The swelling became a bud, and then a blossom appeared drawing substance and vigorous life from the root as had the leaves. But though its beauty adorned the plant, the plant said within itself, “My beauty is dimmed because of it.” And when the blossom sent forth a compelling fragrance, like that of the leaves, but sweeter still, which drew a swarm of life to it, the leaves said among themselves that the new fragrance masked their own. “Now the gardener will not delight in me,” said the plant. And it was half true. The gardener was intent upon the consummation of his work and watched the blossom till, full-blown, it faded and the seed formed.
The plant struggled against its burden. The branches and leaves cried out, “You are unlike us. It is our form and shape and fragrance that the gardener loves.” A shudder passed through the plant and it fought against that which it had borne. At last the withered blossom, spent and heavy with seed, fell into the hand of the gardener.
The plant shook itself and sent forth new leaves. “I am beautiful the way I am,” it murmured and spoke lovingly to the gardener. But there was no answer.
I woke with a start at an intruding sound and jumped up to take my place in the line of passengers waiting to depart. Yet the image remained before me: the fruit in the hand of the gardener. The gardener had cherished the plant and labored over it so tenderly and long. “For the sake of the seed,” I said. “It was for the sake of the seed.”