Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Ideas for Tu BiShevat: Fruit Trees and Timber Trees

by Yochonon Dovid

"Abba," called Yossi the moment he got home. "I saw that the dirt by the wall outside our building is pushed up a little. Is that from an earthquake?"

"Don't worry," Abba said calmly. "I noticed it too. The raised ground is caused by the roots of eucalyptus trees growing underground. As the roots get thicker, they lift up the ground above them. Sometimes you can see this happening on the sidewalk pavement, too."

"But there are no eucalyptus trees in the yard of our building or in the yard next door," Yossi pointed out perceptively.

"Come and I'll show you," said Abba. He and Yossi stepped out onto the balcony, and Abba pointed at a eucalyptus tree far away in the city park across the street. "Do you see that eucalyptus tree over there to the right of the entrance to the park?" asked Abba. "That tree is a remnant from the eucalyptus forest that used to be here before they built our housing project. In order to nourish its enormous trunk and boughs, it sends roots out twenty or thirty yards or more to absorb the water and the chemicals it needs for the new branches and leaves that are constantly growing. A big root grew all the way out to here, into our yard, and lifted up a bit of ground next to the wall."

"That's amazing," said Yossi, "that a tree can take in a grain of earth here in our yard, and carry it such a tremendous distance, all the way from here to the tree over there! And it's also amazing that after the grain of earth has reached the tree, it still has to be brought up to the new branches and the green leaves at the top of the tree. It must be taller than a five-story building!"

"You're right, Yossi," said Abba. "It is one of the wonders of the Borei Ha'olom who created this tree with all its wonders. You mentioned a grain of earth, but that is not accurate. The tree does not take in earth randomly, but rather it absorbs a long list of special chemicals found in the soil, and only those it needs. The ends of the roots are like a highly sophisticated, chemical laboratory which separates the chemicals the tree needs from the ground, and these chemicals alone are taken by the roots, via a fabulous transport system, to their destination. If a person needed these substances, top experts would have to build a huge laboratory covering a tremendous area, with special machines and devices of various kinds, operated by a large number of lab workers, in order to extract the necessary substances from the soil. All this is done naturally by the roots of the tree, in the most thorough and efficient manner possible."

"Abba," said Yossi. "Once you told me that a table bears witness to the carpenter who crafted it, and a house bears witness to the builder who built it. These smart tree roots also bear witness to the Borei Olam who created these wondrous things. In fact, all plants and trees have roots, and everyone can see the intelligence of the One who created them."

"But that's not all," continued Abba. "All trees act as a huge laboratory and provide us with the oxygen we breathe. Furthermore, every plant and every tree, using the chemicals brought by the roots, produces the particular product that it alone is capable of producing. When you plant dozens of kinds of fruit trees on the same plot of land, each tree produces its own special fruit from the same earth, each fruit having a certain size, shape, taste, color and texture of its own, with its own combination of nutrients, distinct from all the other trees. Every tree is a fabulous laboratory which, using a special combination of chemicals, creates its own unique product that no other plant can produce."

"What does the eucalyptus tree produce?" asked Yossi.

"In the middle of the winter you got very sick and had trouble breathing," Abba reminded him, "and I brought a special syrup from the pharmacy. We spread it all around your room using a vaporizer, and your breathing eased immediately. It consisted of an essence extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. The eucalyptus produces this substance from the substances it receives from its roots. Zeide told me that when he was young they would boil eucalyptus leaves in a pot over a small flame to make it easier to breathe whenever someone had a cold. That's how this tree made its contribution to man, who is at the center of Creation.

"There are several hundred thousand different types of trees and plants. Some of them bear fruit, and others do not. The eucalyptus tree does not bear fruit, and with the fabulous genius of its design, it provides us with an important medicinal substance used to heal the sick. I have yet to hear about a laboratory that uses earth to produce the medicinal substance made naturally by every eucalyptus tree. When we go out to daven Mincha and we pass by the tree, squeeze a leaf between your fingers and the scent will remind you of the substance we used to relieve your breathing when you were sick."

"Abba," said Yossi, "I remember now that I once read that the people who settled in swampy areas planted a lot of eucalyptus trees to dry up the swamps."

"That's right, Yossi. The trees left over from the eucalyptus forest prove that there used to be swamps in this area. Trees need a lot of water. Water is the means of transport which carries the tiny chemical molecules from the tips of the roots deep in the earth to the thousands of leaves high up in the branches. This characteristic of the tree to `drink' large quantities of water serves man by drying swamps."

"Abba," said Yossi, "I think that anyone who looks at a tree like this and knows and understands what it is capable of doing must be able to see the wisdom of the Borei Ha'olom who created the tree with all its wondrous intricacies in each and every part and in all its workings. You could say that the tree is really living proof of the infinite wisdom of the Borei Ha'olom who formed it. The tree praises Hashem who formed it and placed it in the ground, and for all the wonderful things He has been making constantly ever since He planted the first tree in the ground. It's like an exhibition where sophisticated machinery is put on display, with every machine bearing the name of the factory so that anyone who looks at it will know how advanced the factory that built the machine is. That is exactly what this tree does.

"I'm really surprised, Abba, that we don't recognize the Borei Olam and what a great thing it is that He formed such a fabulous organism as this. Why don't we praise Him with love for every tree like this?"

Abba stroked Yossi's cheek and said, "Now you have a better understanding of the kapital from Tehillim that you say every morning during Shacharis: `Praise Hashem all the Earth. Giant fish and all that dwell in the depths of the sea. Fire and hail, snow and smoke and storm winds do His bidding. The mountains and the hills, fruit trees and timber trees!' The Sages knew that throughout the generations each and every tree--both fruit-bearing trees and barren trees like the cedar--praises Hashem in its very existence and displays the wondrous and infinite wisdom imprinted in every action and every way they serve man, for whom the entire world was created. They can also be used as a tool to stir our sense of wonder and to bring us to praise the One whose intelligence and wisdom are beyond measure. Cedars were once used to build the Beis Hamikdash, but even today such a tree that bears no fruit can serve us and help us in avodas Hashem."

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