Carob tree

Carob tree

Choni Hame’agel, a Talmudic figure, once met an old man planting a carob tree.

“How long will it take to grow?” he asked.

“Seventy years,” the man answered.

“Do you know that you will live another 70 years?” Choni inquired.

“Just as my ancestors planted for me,” replied the man, “so too, I plant for my children.”

This week, my daughter graduated from high school. Not just any high school, but Beatrice J. Stone Yavne High School, the same high school I graduated from 29 years ago. True, the building is new. We were at the older South Taylor Road building in Cleveland Heights, whereas my daughter and her friends are at the newer South Green Road building in Beachwood. True, we had royal blue plaid uniforms (same as St. Ann’s, except ours had to cover our knees) and today’s Yavne grads have smart looking gray pleated skirts. True, they have “phone carts” to stash their cellphones. We had a good old pay phone (call collect, don’t accept). But there’s so much in common.

We had many of the same teachers. My class picture of Yavne 1992 hangs in her hall. The mood, the feel, the spirit of Yavne is the same for her and for me.

The passage of time plays tricks on our minds. Did that event happen last year? Or five years ago? How long has it been since my neighbor got married? Two years? Or seven? When I tell my kids that I remember the day my parents bought our first microwave, they are shocked. Even its digital clock was novel. My brother used to sit in front of the metal box and wait for it to read fun patterns, like 12:34 or 11:11. I think it’s been 20 years since, but when I do the math, it’s more like 40.

We were going through an old photo album my sister-in-law made for my husband and me when we were engaged. In addition to pictures of the two of us growing up, she included mementos, like my high school graduation program and my acceptance letter to seminary in Israel. We lifted the plastic to read the letter and my daughter gasped: tuition for the year in 1992 was $5,700. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s less than half what it costs today.

But then I think: my parents planted for me. And I will plant for my children. Is Jewish school expensive? Yeah, that’s an understatement. Is kosher food expensive? Yup. Is a year in Israel out of most of our budgets? Yes and yes. All these high-ticket items are investments into our Jewish identity, into our survival as a people.

And as my daughter graduates, after 15 years of Jewish education, kosher food and weekly Shabbats, and prepares for her year in Israel, I am overwhelmed with the strains of “Sunrise, Sunset”:

“Is this the little girl I carried

Is this the little boy at play

I don’t remember growing older

When did they?”

So I will plant, and I will invest and I will keep making financial sacrifices to give my kids what my parents gave me. Because those dividends will grow and grow beyond what I can see and what I can understand.

And one day, God willing, they will plant for theirs.

Connect with Ruchi Koval on Facebook at ruchi.koval and on Instagram @ruchi.koval.


Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

How do you feel about this article?

Choose from the options below.