The Star in the Apple - A Story for Rosh Hashanah
Once a bird was feeding in an apple orchard. When it had eaten its fill, it flew off, holding an apple seed in its beak. As the bird was flying high over a forest, the seed dropped from its beak and fell to the ground. The apple seed landed in the midst of a forest of oak trees and lay there during the winter. In the spring the sun warmed the earth, the rain gave moisture, the seed sprouted and the sapling of an apple tree began to grow.
It was unusual for a solitary apple tree to be growing in the midst of a forest of towering oak trees. In fact, one would have expected that the boughs of the oak trees would have blocked the light of the sun and stunted the growth of the apple tree. However, there was an opening in the canopy of the oak branches through which the sun’s rays shone on the apple tree and gave it the light of life. As it grew, the apple tree could see a patch of blue sky during the day. At night the patch was black and starlight twinkled through it.
The apple tree, the only one of its kind in this oak forest, was lonely and sad. One night the apple tree prayed: “O God, please, let the stars fall through the patch and come to rest on my limbs so that they can shine inside me and brighten my life.” During the night the apple tree kept looking at its branches. But no stars fell.
The second night the apple tree prayed again: “O God, please, let the stars fall through the patch and come to rest on my limbs so that they can shine inside me and brighten my life.” But no stars fell.
The third night the apple tree uttered the selfsame prayer but after two sleepless nights the apple tree nodded off to a deep sleep after a little while, since no stars fell. But during the night a strong wind blew in and clouds covered the patch. The winds shook the limbs of the apple tree violently and a hard rain drove down upon the tree. When the apple tree awoke in the morning, it was startled. It looked at its limbs in shock, for they had been stripped bare by the winds and the rain, and all of the tree’s apples, shaken from the limbs, were lying on the ground and burst open from the impact of the fall. The apple tree was about to burst into tears and lowered its head sadly. Then the apple tree saw something that brought a smile to its face. When the apples had fallen, they did not split open from the stem downward but they had turned and fallen sideways. The impact of the fall had opened up every apple from side to side and not from top to bottom. The apple tree looked at the inside of every apple and saw that on the inside of each one there was a star. (The teller has an apple in one hand. With the other hand the teller brings out a knife and slices the apple crosswise. The configuration of the seeds in the apple core form a star.)
God had indeed answered the prayer of the apple tree by putting a star inside every apple from that day long ago up until now.
On Rosh Hashanah we eat apples with honey to symbolize the sweetness of life and the opportunities for good that come with a new year. For the Rosh Hashanah evening meal, which comes on Wednesday, September 4, cut an apple from side to side and see the star within. Each one of us is like the apple. If we were only to make a slight turn in our lives, as the apples in the story turned sideways as they fell, we could discover within ourselves the power to sweeten our lives and the lives of our friends and families and to do much good.
The original story is attributed to Rabbi Avi Weiss. This retelling is by Rabbi Fred Davidow.