It started out as a small little straggly weed.
I wanted to pick it each time I went up the porch steps, but each time decided to pick it later.
Later turned into a year, and the straggly little weed turned into a little tree-like thing.
Already too big and rooted to just pluck up, we let it grow.
This past Shabbos I went outside to sit on the porch and noticed the small straggly little weed had grown into a small tree and the small tree had clusters of figs forming on its extended eight branches.
“We have a fig tree,” I said out loud to no one, to everyone, to G-d, to myself. “A real, live, fruit-producing tree.”
I can’t remember the last thing I was so excited about. Who ever imagined a fig tree could do this to me?
I’m not a gardener, or a planter. I think I once took home two marigolds as a class project. And two houseplants I bought because “every home has to have a least one,” and that’s it.
This fig tree is much more than a fig tree.
It’s because I know that even if I bought 1,000 fig tree seeds and planted them, ensured perfect heat, light, cold, water, and hours of darkness, I know in my heart of hearts that just as with growing children, there’s no guarantee even one fig tree would grow.
So the joy, the ecstatic joy was because I felt G-d had sent that tree for me. As a sign that, though I may not see it now, my efforts will bear fruits.
And there I am standing early Shabbos morning on my sun-soaked porch relishing the fig tree when, suddenly, the neighbor next door catches me red-handed in my joy.
“Good morning,” she calls from her upstairs porch. Not “Good Shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom,” because that would mean that she somehow got used to religious people, and that would mean that some seeds blew over there and planted themselves. And that would feel dangerous.
“Look at the tree,” I say. “It actually has fruits!”
She listens and looks from behind the eerie array of wire-art metal chickens and crows perched on her porch.
She doesn’t really know what to say, we’ve only spoken about five times over the course of three years.
Once, when we moved in, she gave me a tour of her house when I went to borrow salt.
Once she asked if I knew anyone who could bring over some kind of gigantic monster costume she’d ordered from America for Purim.
Another time was to ask who we thought was wrong, her or the neighbors, about where they park their van.
Once she wanted to know if I knew of a place for a runaway friend she was helping. And I’m sure there was another time.
This time, actually.
So I go on about how I never planted this tree, and the miracle of how it just appeared. And she says, “A person has to be careful where they throw things. You never know where they’re going to land.”
I laugh, and agree.
I take my husband out to see the fig tree. I ask him, “What do you think about this, a full-blown fig tree?”
I show him the fruits. “What do you say?”
“It’s a shame we can’t eat the fruits for a few more years.”
I take a son out and ask him what he thinks. He says, “I want to make a fig pie out of them. This is what they used to serve as a delicacy to kings,” he tells me.
Another son says, “It grew because I told it nice things every day. I told it, ‘You’re a beautiful tree.’$$SEPARATEQUOTES$$”
“Don’t eat it,” my daughter warns. “It could be poisonous.”
“Okay,” I say, just listening.
Hearing the souls of my family.
For the last few days I keep picturing the branches and the figs, the way the sun shines on the five-fingered leaves, and every couple of hours or so I go outside to see it, to look at this miracle, this tree, this tree of life.
The fig tree.