Friday, August 18, 2006

The Chosen

Are you chosen?
Are we?
For what?
By whom?
Have you ever revisited an activity from your childhood with adult eyes?
Have you ever searched for something and discovered that it was right under your nose?

I was camping in the woods of Western Washington State with my son Avrami yesterday, where we took a long “hike” down an old trail. He was so overwhelmed by the beauty and and newness of it all that he had told me upon arrival, “Abba, I just want to camp and cook out and hike and find things and see things all at once!”

We walked in brisk early morning air, with faint hints of sea breeze wafting from the Puget Sound, looking at interesting, gnarly old trees, insects, and so on. This walk felt so familiar, something I did umpteen times in woods as a child.

Suddenly a particular shrub jumped out at me, striking me as something particularly familiar... Of course, this is a huckleberry tree. This is what my own father showed me how to identify in some forgotten dreamlike memory. But where are the berries? Have we missed the season, or is it too early?

Having made the ID, Avrami now joined the search for ripe huckleberries. Tree after tree was found, none of them with fruit.

Finally, as we neared the less-overgrown coastline, to our great enthusiasm, we started to find ripe huckleberries. Avrami got lost in the moment, a moment of wonder and delight. He helped me do the same.

The word “fruit” comes from the Latin for “enjoy” (as in Spanish disfrutar) but some suspect that it comes from the Hebrew cognate, peirot. When you eat a fruit for the first time in the season – all the moreso the first time ever – it gets elevated by 2 brachas - “borei pri ha-ayts” (”creating the fruit of the tree”) and “shechianu” (thanks for bringing me to this wonderful seasonal moment). That tradition made the disfructation sublime.

Here’s the punchline: when we returned to camp, we discovered that our tent was literally surrounded by huckleberry bushes, each one bursting with ripe fruit. Had we opened up our eyes, we would have had them for breakfast.

So we enjoyed them for lunch.

The Torah which teaches how to elevate an experience with a bracha calls the bearers of this wisdom “chosen”....for what?

Shabbat Shalom.

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