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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Be a Tree

Updated: Aug 11, 2021


Parshat Shoftim covers so much in one Parsha on the topic of government, governance and rules of war. Tucked into the section on war is a directive not to cut down fruit trees when you have conquered a land, and tucked into that section in Deuteronomy 20:19 is one mysterious line: Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city?

What does this pasuk mean? Are trees human? A humans like trees? What is our relationship to these giant, silent beings? This short poem, "To be a Tree" is a commentary and it is a blessing. May we all be like the trees.

Be a tree.

Stand tall and straight.

Find your place in the sun

and if you are in a crowded forest

daunted by shade,

then aim for your spot

and find it.

Grow taller until you find the sunlight

and prosper.

Be a tree.

Take not more than your share.

You have stood for years.

You understand history,

that patterns repeat over and over again.

Be a tree.

Be a home for others.

Lend your branches,

your bark,

your creases and your joints,

for nests and hives,

for shelter,

for food,

for comfort.

Be a tree.

Let your roots grow deep and find the water

Let your arms lift

May you grow branches that reach

to the right, to the left

and to the center.


and upward some more.

Be a tree

Know that your leaves will periodically fall.

But know that they will return.

They almost always do.

Be a tree

Know that winds will blow

and you must learn to bend with them.

Be a tree

Share with your neighbors.

Give more than you take.

Be a tree

Say little and hear much.

Be strong.

Be a tree.

Be flexible.

Be persistent.

Be a tree.

Let your strength grow from within you.

Be modest.

Accumulate your life experiences like rings

imprinted on the inside of your trunk

and not for others to see.

Be a tree.

Whether you have few leaves or many, be proud.

For that is who you are

Their shape may differ from your neighbor's

but they are yours.

Be a tree.

An oak, a willow, a pine.

An oak will always be an oak.

A pine will always be a pine.

Be the best oak or pine that you can be.

Nothing more,

nothing less.

Be happy being yourself.

Be a tree.

Live and let live.

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? Deuteronomy 20:19


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