Emulating God by Planting Trees in Israel

Photo Courtesy Joshua Halickman

Parsha Re’eh has many references to settling the Land of Israel including:

When HaShem, your God has brought you to the Land that you are coming to inherit… (Dvarim 11:29)

For you shall pass across the Yarden to come to inherit the Land that HaShem, your God, is giving you; you will inherit it and will dwell in it.  (Dvarim 11:31)

These are the statutes and the laws that you will guard to fulfill in the Land that HaShem, God of your forefathers, has given you, to inherit, all the years that you are alive on the earth. (Dvarim 12:1)

When you cross the Yarden and settle in the Land that HaShem, your God, is apportioning to you, and He has granted you peace from all your enemies around, and you will live secure. (Dvarim 12:10)

We are also taught:

You shall walk after HaShem, your God… (Dvarim 13:5)

Rabbi Yehuda ben Rabbi Simon asks in the midrash, Vayikra Raba 25:3: Is it possible for a human being to “walk after God”?

At the beginning of the creation, God engaged in planting as it says in Breisheet 2:8, “HaShem, God planted a garden eastward (mikedem) in Eden.” Mikedem also means first. Similarly, when you, Israel, enter the Land, engage in planting first, as it is written in Vayikra 19:23, “When you come into the Land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food…”

There is a story about Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz zt”l, who passed away this week. He always felt that he wasn’t doing enough, even though he wrote many books, including a commentary on the entire Talmud. He gave many lectures and wrote countless articles over the years, yet he still felt that it was not enough.

What Rabbi Steinsaltz really wanted to do was to leave this world a small tree that would grow. In his garden, years ago, he planted two cypress trees. One was stolen and the other one was small, its head was cut off. Rabbi Steinsaltz had mercy on it and took the head and reattached it with duct tape to the stump that was still fresh. Then he just gave it a chance to grow and hoped that the fracture would heal. Today this tree is almost three meters tall!

Out of all the amazing things that Rav Steinsaltz did in his lifetime, planting a small tree that would grow into a tall tree (even if it was a little chopped) was extremely important to him and made him feel fulfilled.

May we all have the opportunity to emulate God and plant trees in Israel.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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