Last week, my husband Israel and I were driving through our hometown of Efrat when we noticed how heavy the town's trees were groaning from the weight of the colorful fruit on their branches.
As we drove, passing tree after tree, burdened with fruit, Israel observed, "We could feed the whole town on this fruit."
Hmmmmmmmmm, great idea. We would feed the town! I mean, it seems ridiculous to have fruit trees everywhere with no one picking its delicious fruit.
Throughout Efrat, there were squished fruits that had already fallen to the ground fully ripe. If we weren't going to pick them, we could have planted anything else. But here we had the opportunity to feed the needy and everyone else in town that wanted to benefit from our local harvest.
So, I went home and called one of the women in charge of the weekly "Food Bank" Hazan Et Hakol to ask if she'd like to include fresh fruit in the food baskets that they distribute every week. She was thrilled.
I emailed my fellow Efrat/Gush Etzion residents and invited whoever wished, to join us in harvesting the delicious fruit all around Efrat.
My husband and I drove through the streets and surveyed the area, made a list of the locations of the fruit trees (mainly mini-plums) and sent the list to the harvesting volunteers.
We had quite a number of families, and especially children, harvesting the tasty purple plums and others picking apricots, lemons and almonds.
Everyone worked with a real joy, and some of the kids seemed sincerely amazed that you "eat" the fruit from trees, instead of little plastic boxes from the supermarket. When I told them that harvesters may eat of the fruit while they're working, the fun really began. Yumm!!
We had harvesters of every age, and yet there were fruits waiting for everyone.
I asked everyone to drop their fruit over to my house by 7:30 PM, so that we could take tithes on them - terumot, maasrot, maaser ani (hopefully I didn't forget the name of any of the tithes, but no worries, the rabbi knew them all).
By the end of the evening there were boxes and bags all over my porch.
When everything was accumulated on my porch, we had 86 pounds of plums, 2.75 lemons. 8 pounds of apricots and a bag of almonds.
It sounds like a lot in print, but we could also have used ten times the amount. Next time. IY"H. :)
My thanks to all the kind-hearted folks who participated in the harvest (some of their photos are shown throughout this blog); to Rabbi Avraham Oren who came over, explained the entire tithing procedure to me, and then took tithes on the apricots, plums and lemons; and my thanks to Rabbi Reuven Rosenstark who took tithes on the almonds.
I can't wait to give all our fruit to the Food Gemach in the morning. But more than that, I can't wait until we have another harvest day for the benefit of others.
It was such a great feeling to pick our own fruits, munch a few along the way (thereby enjoy "the fruits of our labor"), and know that we are benefiting from our own produce.
Friends, if you live in a town with fruit trees, pick them, eat them, say a blessing over them!!
Note #1: we didn't have any ladders during our harvesting, so there are so many more luscious fruits higher up on the trees. Treat yourself before Shabbat and harvest fruit for your table.
Note #2: Rosh Tzurim's Cherry Festival is June 17. What a fun day! Well, we had our own Fruit Festival - Fruit for All. No charge, gorgeous trees, nice company and a great cause.
Thank you, Hashem, for being able to pick the produce of my own town. Hooray.
Movie clip to come, IY"H.
** "Here's to the fruit of the earth, drink to this bountiful land..." - from a Bible Arts song from the show "Ruth & Naomi in the Fields of Bethlehem", performed by Raise Your Spirits Theater
Enjoy the harvest. http://www.voices-magazine.com/index.php?page=inside_page&id=198
(CAUTION: Parents, please be responsible for your children. Children, please do not climb a tree beyond your ability. You are responsible for your own safety, so keep safe.)