The Gifting Tree

by Dr. David Sanders

When he was 9 years old, Felix Finkbeiner planted a crab apple tree in front of his school. It was the culmination of his presentation on climate change. Inspired by a woman in Africa who had the vision to plant millions of trees, Felix  wondered if he could enlist children to plant trees around the world. His 9 year old imagination envisioned planting a million trees in as many countries as possible. Felix is now 22 years old. He runs Plant for the Planet which has moved beyond the initial million tree initiative. In a mere 13 years, children (and adults) have planted over 13 billion trees. Felix has set a new goal. A trillion trees.

A thirteen hundred year old Midrashic text has God instructing Adam to wander among the trees in the Garden of Eden and take heed. “See my works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. Be careful not to spoil or destroy my world–for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.”

Trees have been on our planet some 400 million years. It was not until the early 1700’s when scientists in Europe discovered that trees produce the oxygen we breathe. Later that century a Dutch scientist put together the process of photosynthesis—how plants and trees use sunlight to synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water with a byproduct of oxygen. A century later an Irish scientist came to understand the effects of carbon on air temperature—what would later be called the “green house effect.”

Science illuminated for us what the ancients had a sense of—we need trees to survive.

This coming Monday is, in addition to celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, a day in the Jewish tradition to honor trees. The full moon of the Hebrew calendar month Shevat falls this coming Monday—it is called Tu-b’Shevat (Tu =15th) and is celebrated as the New Year for Trees. The Kabbalists created a festive Seder eating fruits and nuts to show gratitude for the gifts trees provide us.

So, this Monday be grateful for trees. You can commune with a tree in your neighborhood and express your gratitude. Be aware of how giving trees are and how every breath you take is the gift of a tree. If you are so inclined, plant a tree (yes, they will take root in the winter) or donate to plant a tree*.

Felix has a long way to go to reach 1 trillion trees. He may not have studied Kabbalah but he knows the Tree of Life. And he is choosing it.

Here is a link to Felix telling his story:

*And links to donate to plant a tree:

1 Comment

joyce lisbin · January 14, 2022 at 11:31 am

I really like this — I donated to replace trees lost by fire and will post something on Monday to honor MLK and Tu-b’ shvat. Thank you

Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts


In the Image of the Cosmos

by Dr. David Sanders A story is told of King Ptolemy of Alexandria (second century BCE) summoning many learned Jewish scholars to translate the Torah from Hebrew to Greek. He placed them in separate rooms

illustration of mystical tree of life womb

Creativity in the Tree of Life

by Melanie Gruenwald This summer, I created and facilitated a course called  Isha al Achota, As a Woman Faces her Sister. It has been a wonderful process of discovery– exploring primary texts and contemporary voices,

closeup photo of Barbie doll face

Ken, Barbie, and the Tree of Life

by Dr. David Sanders On the insistence of my wife and daughters, I went to see Barbie. Barbie? Why? I knew more about that doll than them. My sister had Barbie dolls and at some

picture of a bicycle with a moon and reflection

Tree of Life: Malchut

by Melanie Gruenwald The Tree of Life is constantly surrounding us. We just have to be aware of it.   I’d like to start with two stories.   Several weeks ago, our family was cycling

Taylor Swift concert- Swifties

Celebrating Swifties

by Dr. David Sanders I was barely six years old when they arrived. It was called an invasion. I am referring to The Beatles hopping over the pond and landing in New York City in