The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Honi Ha-Me’agel Sleeps for Seventy Years
A long time ago, there lived in Israel a man named Honi Ha-Me’agel. He was a very wise man. One spring day, Honi went for a walk. “What a lovely sunny day it is today,” he thought to himself. He noticed that there were people in the fields planting vegetables and fruit trees. As he passed by a pretty little house, he saw an old man planting a tree. “Why would such an old man be planting a tree?” he wondered. “It takes a very long time for fruit trees to grow, and planting is hard work. He might not even be around when the tree is big enough to give fruit.” Then Honi said aloud, “Excuse me sir, but what kind of tree are you planting?” “This sapling is a carob tree,” said the man. “I love to eat carob on Tu B’Shevat. In about seventy years, this tree will produce carobs good enough for eating.” “Do you think that you will live seventy more years and be able to eat the carob fruit,” asked Honi. The man looked surprised. “Oh no! But I remember seeing carob trees growing when I was a little boy. I ate some of those carobs on Tu B’Shevat. They were so delicious! Those carob trees were planted by those who wanted to leave a gift for younger people. I am planting this tree as a gift for the people who will be living seventy years from now. Then they can enjoy eating carob on Tu B’Shevat, too. Just as my parents and grandparents planted trees for me, so I plant trees for my children and grandchildren.” “That’s a very smart thing to do,” said Honi, and he continued his walk. After a short while, he began to feel very tired. “I’ll just rest for a few moments,” he thought, as he sat down on the ground. “Maybe I’ll close my eyes for a while. I’ll eat my lunch when I wake up.” Honi stretched out on the ground, closed his eyes and fell into a deep sleep. While he slept, a wonderful thing happened. A rock appeared nearby. It grew bigger and bigger. After a while, it began to surround Honi. Then it grew into the shape of a tent, with Honi inside. The tent protected him from the wind, from the rain, from the cold, and from the hot sun. Honi slept very comfortably inside the tent. He slept on and on for a very long time. He slept for seventy years!
One day, the tent that covered Honi began to shrink. It grew smaller and smaller until it did not cover him anymore. Honi woke up. He looked around. He stretched and stretched. “What a good nap I had!” said Honi, his arms out wide and his mouth yawning. “I must have slept for a long time.” Honi noticed a man picking carobs from a tree nearby. This man was not the one to whom Honi had spoken earlier. Honi stood up and walked over to the man. “Did you plant this tree?” he asked. “No,” answered the man. “My grandfather planted it seventy years ago.” “I can’t believe it,” Honi said to himself. “I must have been sleeping for seventy years!” “I’m going to plant a carob tree also,” said the man. “See, I have a sapling all ready to plant. Someday my children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy carobs just as I do.” Honi remembered the words of the old man. “Just as my parents and grandparents planted trees for me, so do I plant trees for my children and grandchildren.”
(Story excerpted from Lively Legends-Jewish Values, Miriam P. Feinberg and Rena Rotenberg, A.R.E. Publishing, Inc: Denver, Colorado, 1993, pp.47-58)
Grace Ragues Maisel, Samantha Shubert, A Year of Jewish Stories: 52 Tales for Children and Their Families, UAHC Press: New York, 2004, pp. 84-107
Resources for other stories about the environment, animals and health
Jules Harlow, Lessons from Our Living Past, Behrman House Inc. Publishers: New York, 1972
Malka Drucker, The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays, Little, Brown and Company: Boston, New York, Toronto, London, 1994, pp.64-76
Barbara Diamond Goldin, The Family Book of Midrash: 52 Jewish Stories from the Sages, Jason Aronson, Inc.: Northvale, New Jersey, London, 1990