For some, plants that grow in the cracks of the sidewalk are weeds. One year I was greeted with something unexpected. In the herb bed that curves around my front entry I had planted parsley seeds. Not nearly as many sprouted as I had planted, but as the season unfolded, I was greeted by guests. One then another, two parsley plants sprouted in the cement cracks on the stairs leading up to my front door. And so began my query: How well would they do in that location? Could they thrive there, with the traffic going in and out each day?
They were a surprise. The two grew with the season and hung on even as winter began to show its icy fangs, way beyond expectations. They were a testament to the tenacity of freedom.
In Chicago, planting trees on Tu BiShevat is simply not possible. Children often plant parsley seeds instead, with the hope that their shoots will grace the Seder table as karpas. This is a challenge, because parsley needs a good 80 days from planting to harvest, and Pesach is just 60 from Tu BiShevat. Nevertheless, the planting of these seeds of freedom provides excitement, and more importantly, educates that there is preparation for freedom, and that change comes just a bit at a time – sometimes even barely noticeably – all the while giving our children a preciously needed connection to the earth.
Parsley is quite hardy, but it isn’t that easy to sprout. It takes a good three weeks for the seeds to germinate, and even then, many seeds sowed may yield only a few plants. In that way it is highly symbolic of the freedom that it represents: How many tries it might take before we find freedom. How many seeds we might plant before we finally see fruit from our labors. And yet once sprouted, the need to maintain that freedom is so steadfast as to withstand all manner of obstacles.
Karpas graces our table of freedom as a symbol of springtime, and as we bite into its wetness, we recognize the irony that while we fight for freedom as the parsley fights through the cracks in the concrete, that freedom is delicate, like the thin, wavy leaves on its delicate stalks. It is a metaphor for the ever-present solidity of the earth, whose balance is so fragile.