Today’s daf (Rosh Hashanah 10a-b) explores the question of whether periods shorter than a year can, in particular circumstances and for particular outcomes, be counted as a year. For example, here we are taught that 30 days can, in some situations, be counted as a year, while a further opinion goes so far as to claim that just one day may be counted as a year.
Interestingly, one of the sources (Mishna Shevi’it 2:6) quoted by the Gemara in addressing this question relates to the status of trees or plants that have been planted or grafted prior to the Shemitta year, with the question being how long does it take for a tree or plant to be sufficiently established in the earth such that – when the new year comes – it is considered as if it has been in the earth for the prior year?
Reflecting on this question, I’d like to consider its application to the realm of human planting and grafting, with my question being: “How long does it take for someone who has been planted or grafted into a class, a team, or a community to feel like a fully fledged member of that class, team or community?”
Naturally, there are many variables to this question, and as such, the answer is likely to differ from person to person. Though there are a select few who may be able to achieve this in just one day, and while there are some who take 30 days to feel truly at home in their new environment, others will take longer to ‘take root’, while there are those who may – as noted in Mishna Shevi’it itself – never quite ‘take hold’.
We often naively presume that people are like trees and plants and that, within a short and predictable period of time, they will feel at home in the new place where they now find themselves. But what we often forget – although admittedly it seems strange to make such a simple point – is that people aren’t like trees and plants, and there are those who, even after a significant period of time, don’t fully feel part of the class, the team, or the community to which they have been added.
As we know, the ‘done thing’ is to welcome people when they join a class, team or community. But it is important to remember that being made to feel welcome is not a moment but a process, and it is a process that takes longer for some than others.
Given this, if we know someone who was recently added to one of these settings of which we are a part, perhaps today should be the day for us to reach out to them, to find out how they are doing, and to reiterate our warm welcoming sentiments that perhaps need repeating. And if we are that person who recently joined a class, team or community and who doesn’t quite feel that we’ve ‘taken hold’, firstly we should remind ourselves of the above-mentioned fact that people aren’t trees and plants, and we should then consider what we – and others – can do to help us better take root in the new environment where we now find ourselves.