Rosh Hashanah Seed Sermon 2013

Good yontif, Shanah Tova one and all!

As you see, I have before me a plastic cup full of soil. Soon, after I share this story, you will see why.

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor. Instead of choosing one of his children, he decided to do something different. First, he called all the young executives in his company together. Then, he said to them, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – one very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, nurture it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the gardener of the one I choose will be the next CEO.”?One man, named Jim, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil, compost and he planted the seed.

Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, all the others were talking about their growing plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure. Six months went by — still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues; He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil and hoping. He so wanted the seed to grow. A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for judging.

Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be just honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the boardroom. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him! When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed to take my place!”

All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the Financial Director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure; he’s going to fire me!” When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told him the story. The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Behold your next Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed; how could he be the new CEO? ?Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me vibrant plants. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. There is something of value in what you did. Your first seed did not grow, so you found other seeds and planted them. Now we have a glorious array of interesting plants in this room. Each of these plants will mature into something beautiful, fragrant and/or eatable. None of you will be fired today since you each demonstrated a resourcefulness that I appreciate. However, had I not tricked you first, I would have fired the lot of you, right now, on the spot! But I caution you all, do not lie, or be dishonest in any of your dealing in this firm ever again. Jim, your new CEO was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my dead seed still in it. That is why he will take over for me.

Like the CEO, who gave instructions, G!d gives us teachings that allow us to cultivate our inner seeds. We were planted on Earth to grow as individuals with unique personalities and traits. Just as the CEO knew that most of his executives would not follow instructions, he nevertheless was not punitive towards them; he forgave them, but admonished them to act honestly in the future. These lessons echo strongly throughout the entire HHD liturgy. G!d instructs us but does not expect perfection. We will fail but G!d is forgiving. Our goal is to return to G!d’s path by exercising honesty, integrity and loving kindness to ourselves and others.

Well, we are not looking for a new CEO here, but I do have some seeds for all of us to plant:?* [wave seed packets around for all to see]. Each person will receive a plastic cup with soil and some UNBOILED, fresh seeds to take home and plant as soon as yontif is over. Our seeds, developing into little seedlings, are symbolic of our embryonic thoughts of personal improvement that will root over the next 10 days. I encourage each of you to return with them on YK so we can see how they have sprouted and grown. And for those brave folks willing to be open and share, we will examine what the plants represent to you metaphorically, what middot, what soul-traits they represent, what personal traits were engender or improve upon during the 10 days of reflection between RH and YK. It will be interesting to see how our “seeds”, our own “inner-selves,” ripened with new-found or perhaps just improved upon self-awareness.

If you need a hand in beginning this seed-planting process, I can offer some suggestions. Some people may plant seeds to develop a more personal relationship with G!d Some people may plant for improved poise in handling the challenges of life that befall us unrelentingly. Some may strive for moderation and contentment; gratitude, patience, and compassion. Some people may plant the seed of humility and ego reduction or reconciliation and forgiveness. We will have so much to discuss on YK. I look forward to learning about what you planted and what you hope to reap in the coming year.

Lastly, I urge all of us, to learn from the example of Jim, as you plant, be brave, honest and true to yourself. May G!d help us in this task, and may we each be granted a year full of G!d’s bountiful blessings, a year of good health for ourselves and our loved ones, a year of joy and gladness, a year of minimal pain and suffering for us and all human-kind, and may each of us be blessed with all things wise and wonderful. Shana tova oo-metucha.
You can pick them up in the other room where we will blessing and eating our apples and honey.