אם היתה נטיעה בתוך ידך ויאמרו לך הרי לך המשיח. בוא ונטע את הנטיעה (ואח”כ צא והקביל).
Midrash Avot Derabbi Natan, Version B, Chapter 31
If you had a sapling in your hand and were told that the Messiah had come, first plant the sapling [and then go out to greet the Messiah].
בשעה שברא הקב“ה את אדם הראשון, נטלוֹ והחזירוֹ על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו: ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה
שבראתי בשבילך בראתי; תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת, אין מי שיתקן אחריך.
Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13.
When God created the first human, God led the human around all the trees in the Garden of Eden. God said to the human, “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Everything I have created has been created for your sake. Think of this, and do not corrupt or destroy My world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to set it right after you.”
Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. “Banishment from Eden”. In the Beginning.
God sent Adam forth from the Garden to till the soil from which he had been taken, work that requires sorting out, sowing, plowing, and harvesting. In order to be able to live from the earth, man has to keep digging, weeding and drawing forth from the ground. The point is that the work of weeding out the harmful and proliferating the good can be done only in and with the earth itself. The war of man against thorns and thistles, insects and rodents, is an incessant struggle, and it is part of his work of Tikun, correcting the world.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh, Horeb, 397-398
In truth, there is no one nearer to idolatry than one who can disregard the fact that all things are the creatures and property of G-d, and who then presumes to have the right, because he has the might, to destroy them according to a presumptuous act of will.
מצות עשה שחייו של אדם אינו אלא מן האילן.
Sifre Devarim #60
It is a positive commandment that a person live a life derived completely from the tree.
כי ממנו תאכל, מצות עשה, שחייו של אדם אינו אלא מן האילן, רבי ישמעאל אומר חס המקום על פירות האילן, קל וחומר מאילן, ומה אילו שעושים פירות הזהירך הכתוב עליו, פירות עצמם על אחת כמה וכמה.
Sifre Devarim #60
For you will eat from them (Deut. 20:19) - It is a positive commandment, since a person's life is derived completely from the tree. Rabbi Ishmael says: 'The Place has pity on the fruits of trees, all the more so [the Place has pity] on the trees themselves; and if the Torah warns you [against destroying] those that make fruit, all the more so [it warns against destroying] the fruit itself.
אף אתם כשאתם נכנסין לארץ ישראל לא תתעסקון אלא במטע תחילה, כי תבאו אל הארץ ונטעתם כל עץ מאכל.
Leviticus Rabbah 25:3
Therefore, when you are in the Land of Israel, occupy yourselves first and foremost with planting. Hence it is written, “When you come into the land, you shall plant trees for food”(Leviticus 19:23).
ויקרא רבה פרשה כה:ג
ר”י ב”ר סימון פתח (דברים יג) אחרי ה’ א-להיכם תלכו, וכי אפשר לבשר ודם להלוך אחר הקב”ה… אלא מתחלת ברייתו של עולם לא נתעסק הקב”ה אלא במטע תחלה הדא הוא דכתיב (בראשית ב) ויטע ה’ א-להים גן בעדן, אף אתם כשנכנסין לארץ לא תתעסקו אלא במטע תחלה הדא הוא דכתיב כי תבאו אל הארץ.
Vayikra Rabbah 25:3
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shimon began his discourse with the text, “After Ad-nai your God shall you walk” (Deuteronomy 12:5). But can a human of flesh and blood walk after the Holy One of Blessing?… But in truth the Holy One, blessed be God, from the very beginning of the creation of the world, was before all else occupied with planting, as is proved by the text, “And the Ad-nai God planted a garden in Eden” (Genesis 2:8), and so do you also, when you enter into the land, occupy yourselves first with nothing else but planting; hence it is written, “And when you shall come into the land, you shall plant (Lev. 19:23).”
אע”פ שתמצאו אותה מליאה כל טוב, לא תאמרו נשב ולא נטע אלא הוו זהירין בנטיעות שנאמר ונטעתם כל עץ מאכל, כשם שנכנסתם ומצאתם נטיעות שנטעו אחרים אף אתם היו נוטעים לבניכם שלא יאמר אדם אני זקן כמה שנים אני חי מה אני עומד מתיגע לאחרים למחר אני מת.
Midrash Tanchuma, Parshat Kedoshim, Chapter 8.
Even if you find the land full of all good things, you should not say, “We will sit and not plant”; rather, be diligent in planting! As it says “you shall plant trees for food” (Leviticus 19:23). Just as you came and found trees planted by others, you must plant for your children; a person must not say, “I am old, how many years will I live? Why should I get up and exert myself for others? I’m going to die tomorrow.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, a 19th century Scottish author, wrote in his play Admiral Guinea (1892):
“Do not judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, a 19th century American poet and essayist, wrote in Essays: First Series (1841):
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
“The Intelligent Plant” Michael Pollan. The New Yorker, Dec. 23 & 30, 2103
The pattern of nutrient traffic showed how “mother trees” were using the network to nourish shaded seedlings, including their offspring – which the trees can apparently recognize as kin – until they are tall enough to reach the light. And, in a striking example of interspecies cooperation, Simard found that fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this cooperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.
In his talk, Mancuso juxtaposed a slide of the nodes and links in one of these subterranean forest networks with a diagram of the Internet, and suggested that in some respects the former was superior. “Plants are able to create scalable networks of self-maintaining, self-operating, and self repairing units,” he said. “Plants.”
[...] for Mancuso plants hold the key to a future that will be organized around systems and technologies that are networked, decentralized, modular, reiterated, redundant-- and green, able to nourish themselves on light. “Plants are the great symbol of modernity.”
WHEN DOES CHANGE HAPPEN?
The tree goes through cycles in its life. The heavy-laden tree of summer empties itself of fruit in the autumn, and then slowly loses its leaves, one by one. By winter time, the tree stands shorn of its previous glory. For all purposes, it appears to have died.
But then comes Tu B'Shevat! In the midst of the cold winter days, when all vegetation seems frozen or dead, the sap of the tree starts to flow beneath the surface bark. Rising slowly from roots buried in the hardened soil, the sap pushes its way up, pumping new life into outstretched branches that reach towards the heavens.
In life, we too often go through cycles of growth. Periods of renewal and growth may alternate with times of stagnation or dormancy. Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe cites that this cycle is part of man's nature. He adds that a person must not become disillusioned when spiritual growth seems halted; the "low" period will usually be followed by a "high" period that will yield new opportunities for growth.
That is the message of Tu B'Shevat: Even when we feel lethargic, in a rut, and seem to have lost the drive to achieve, we must not despair. Just as winter is an annual hiatus in the life cycle of trees, so bouts of lethargy and unproductivity are necessary phases in the human cycle. Just as with the coming of spring, life-giving sap moves imperceptibly through the trees to branches stretching to the sky, so we too will have renewed energy from deep within our spiritual reservoirs, so long as we set our goal heavenward. (- Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum)
Midrash on Alon Bachut, the Weeping Oak (by Penina V. Adelman)
In the Garden of Eden, one tree drooped sadly when Adam and Eve were expelled. Unlike the other trees who felt that the first human beings deserved punishment for disobeying the command of God, this tree felt only regret. It had been a dwarf for the first years of its life. Other trees had mocked it with teasing names, "Stumper," "Flower Face," Baby Wood." During those years the tree wept continually, the soil becoming so drenched with it's tears that nothing could grow near it.
One day it heard a voice from heaven, a bat kol, saying, "Do not despair. You have a special purpose. You were placed in the Garden to weep at the death of others (humans, animals and other trees). All that grows and lives must one day die. You will help those who must go on living, listening for the sound of sadness in their hearts, a sound which they cannot utter alone."
Now the tree had a mission: the task of mourning the dead. The trees tears came when one of its sisters or brother decayed and fell; when an animal died of starvation; when rain drowned the insects. All were comforted, for they were not alone in their grief.
This "tree of lamentation" grew from a small, bent sapling into a sturdy sentinel of the Garden. Winds and birds bore it seeds all over the world, carrying the ability to mourn into every garden, field and forest where plants and creatures lived and died.
One of those seeds became the oak under which Deborah, nurse of Rebecca, was buried. The tree mourned long and loud for this beloved member of the family. It came to be known as Alon Bachut, the Weeping Oak, a bearer of strength in times of need.
Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik Safrin quoted in Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim: The Later Masters.
Rabbi Yitzchak Eisik said, “The motto of life is ‘Give and Take.’ Everyone must be both a giver and a receiver. One who is not is like the are a barren tree.”
שישה קולן הולך מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין קולן נשמע, ואלו הן: בשעה שכורתין את עץ האילן שהוא עושה פרי, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין הקול נשמע; ובשעה שהנחש מפשיט את עורו, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם עד סופו ואין הקול נשמע; ובשעה שהאישה מתגרשת מבעלה, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין הקול נשמע; ובשעה שהאישה עם בעלה בעילה ראשונה, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין הקול נשמע; ובשעה שהוולד יוצא ממעי אימו, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין הקול נשמע; ובשעה שהנשמה יוצאת מן הגוף, הקול יוצא מסוף העולם ועד סופו ואין הקול נשמע.
Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer chapter 34:
Six voices go from one end of the world to the other and the sound is not audible… When a fruit-bearing tree is cut down the voice cries out from one end of the world to the other, and its sound is not audible… When the child comes out from the mother's womb the voice cries out from one end of the world to the other, and its sound is not audible. When the soul departs from the body the voice goes out from one end of the world to the other, and its sound is not audible….
"A man should work forever, doing full and honest labor in order to rise step by step in the service of HaShem. But do not look back every few minutes to see if you are progressing. For man is like a tree. And do you look at a tree continually to see how it is growing? If you did, you would see nothing and become tired of looking, unless you prune it and protect it, trim and fertilize and water it to protect it from damage and danger and strong winds. Then the tree will grow and prosper and become beautiful. So must man rid himself of all those things which spoil him, and tend all the qualities which aid him in the service of HaShem so that he will grow and prosper. It is, however, not a virtue to measure from hour to hour how much he has grown."---Rabbi Uri of Strelisk (1757–1826)