There was a farmer who every winter went to an agricultural convention. At the convention, he explored new methods for improving his crop output. He tried to discover new methods for efficient irrigation, hew hybrids that produced better produce, and new farm machinery. He expended all this effort so that he could be assured that the coming year’s harvest would be successful, if not better than the last year’s.
One year, while attending the convention the farmer decided to unwind by taking an evening off to enjoy the local nightlife. After a heavy night of indulging in the local beer, he became very drunk and unwell. After being hospitalised, the doctors discovered that his drinking had triggered a very serious ailment that would require long term care. He was moved to a hospital near his home, and his lengthy treatment began. Months went by, and the farmer’s health dramatically improved. He was finally discharged from the hospital and returned home.
But what he found at home caused him great anguish. He surveyed the entire acreage of his farm. Here he was, halfway into the growing season, and much of the land remained bare. Apparently, his instructions on when and where to plant had not been followed. Any dreams of a successful harvest were dashed. The farmer knew that he could do nothing by that point in time. Starting to plant now would not help. It was too late for that. All of the new techniques he had learned about and all of the machinery he bought could not help. All of the preparations he had made for this season were for naught.
The period of the Jewish year from the beginning of the Jewish month of Ellul (at the beginning of August) extending all the way through the festivals is dedicated to introspection and self-analysis. What have we done this year? How have we lived our lives? Have we lived up to our own expectations?
This period is a time to plot our course for the rest of the year. It is a time for repentance and assertive action; it is a time that we cannot let slip away.
This is the planting season. If we do not plant our seeds, if we do not make a firm commitment to grow and develop and refine ourselves this Rosh HaShannah, we will have missed out on a great opportunity. We could end up going through the motions, coming to Shul, hearing Shofar, fasting on Yom Kippur and simply miss the point.
So many people go through life on one level, happy just to be who they are. Some talk about ambition and goals, but rarely about self improvement. We can be distracted from true growth and development by the bountiful pleasures the world has to offer. Just as the farmer find comfort at the bar, so too we may often use the physical world as a form of escapism.
Yet when reality hits hard, we see that we have only damaged ourselves. Halfway through the growing season, our fields are bare. By taking advantage, we can hope and pray that we will all be the recipients of a bountiful harvest.