About a year ago, I purchased two potted lemon trees. For months I marveled over the trees’ phases of life. The beautiful white flowers, many visiting hummingbirds, and luscious fragrance of beginning blooms. Over time, I noticed dozens of green buds emerging from the branches. Finally! Our lemon tree was producing fruit. And yet, day by day, my family would wonder, “When will these green buds ever turn yellow?” We even thought, perhaps, we purchased the wrong trees. Did the nursery accidentally switch our desired lemon trees for limes?
And yet, just recently, we’ve noticed shades of color wane from the vibrant green. The slightest tinge of yellow emerging from the viridescent hue. I couldn’t help but laugh with surprise and wonderment. And it occurred to me. Change doesn’t transpire overnight. It almost never does. The process may take days, months, even years. But noticing the change in someone or something—that sometimes catches us off guard, a miraculous pivot we never thought possible.
Rabbi Israel Salanter was known for the following piece of wisdom: “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town, so, as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize that the only thing I can change is myself. And suddenly I realize that if, long ago, I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family could have made an impact on our town. The town’s impact could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world.”
In other words, start making small changes in yourself. Day by day, you might not recognize anything different. But overtime, you will be astonished by the fruit you have produced and the glorious influence of your actions.
Turns out, we had lemon trees the entire time. I just lacked patience in watching it grow. Let’s not make the same mistake when it comes to our own abilities. Rather, with a little poise, humility and determination, just think of the transformations we might be blessed to witness.
Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tovah
In partnership with The Jewish Journal, you can also find Rabbi Guzik’s blog post HERE.