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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - November 2015
From the Rabbi - November 2015 PDF Print E-mail
The Talmud tells the story of a rabbi who, while journeying along the road, came across an old man planting a tree.  The rabbi asked the man: “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit? The man replied: “Seventy years.”  The rabbi  then asked him why he was bothering to plant the tree when he could not possibly expect to still be alive by the time the tree bore fruit.  The man replied that he had found trees that were already grown and planted by people before him who had no expectation of seeing the trees bear fruit and so he would plant trees to bear fruit for those who came after him.  The rabbi fell asleep and slept for years.  When he awoke saw the same tree now grown and bearing fruit and a man who looked a lot like the old man who had planted the tree gathering fruit from the tree.  The rabbi asked : “Are you the man who planted the tree?”  The man replied: “I am his grandson.”

This well-loved and beautiful story is an important one for us as we look forward to Thanksgiving.  For one thing it is significant for us in Corpus Christi because we have a very special Thanksgiving tradition bequeathed to us by those who came before, namely the joint Thanksgiving service with the Church of the Good Shepherd.  This beautiful tradition of getting together to share gratitude as a community across the religious divide is a precious gift, a tree planted 81 years ago that still bears fruit today.

But the story also teaches us powerful lessons with respect to gratitude and thanksgiving.  The man who planted the tree was grateful for what had been done by the previous generations.  He did not simply take the existence of the trees for granted.  He understood that he had the benefit of these trees because of work done by someone who did not plant it for themselves, but hoped that others could enjoy their fruit in due time.              

And the old man also understood another important lesson – that gratitude is not only about what you receive but about what you are able to do for others.  He was happy to plant the tree even though he would not benefit because he was grateful for the opportunity to give and to help others.  

Many trees have been planted for each of us in our lives by those who came before us, and by those who are with us today -  by our friends and family, by our community and by our society.  Like the man in the story we should be grateful for these benefits that have been given to us by the efforts and struggle of others.  And we can learn to see helping, in volunteering for the congregation and for charities, and in daily kindness to others -  as opportunities to be grateful for our ability to help others and our opportunity to find meaning in life by helping to fix the world.  

                Rabbi Ilan Emanuel



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