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Theme Section: A Seed Sprouts — 8 True Stories

A seed dropped into loamy soil, covered with dark, fragrant earth A word, a deed, an image, dropped into the fertile field of a heart A month, a year, a decade passes Tiny green shoots peep out of the ground Nestling inspiration takes root, tendrils stretch toward the sunlight—and grow upward

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

My Little Black Book

Miriam Klein Adelman

“Do not destroy a fruit-bearing tree … because a man is a tree of the field.” Mrs. Lesser (nיe Diamond) taught us those lines from Devarim in Chumash class 35 years ago. Of all the lessons she imparted in four years of high school — besides for ma hakoshi shel Rashi? — this is the one that stands out most in my mind.

As the Jews go forth to war, the verse explains, they are enjoined not to wantonly destroy the fruit-producing trees of the enemy. The deeper meaning, Mrs. Lesser taught, is that every human being is like a fruit-bearing tree. As long as the individual has the capacity to accomplish, whether they’re actually producing now or not, we don’t tear down, we build. We should not destroy any quality in ourselves either, she emphasized, even if it is the fruit of the enemy, the yetzer hara, because each middah can be utilized in the service of Hashem. And Mrs. Lesser lived by the words she taught. 

Smoothing and resmoothing the folds on the black accordion pleated skirt I had carefully chosen to wear with my circa late-70s cowl-neck sweater, I sat opposite Miss Diamond on a straight-backed cane chair in her parents’ living room. In my damp palms, I clutched a little black book.


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