Tree Illustration: Fruit, Stream, Shade

tree with fruit by stream
Checking into my blog to say hello to my readers. Above is a tree illustration, once again. This one comes with a story (paraphrased in my own words):

Once upon a time there was a traveler. He was quite weary, hungry and thirsty. He happened upon this beautiful tree. There was a stream flowing by the tree, so he helped himself to a refreshing drink of the water. There were fruits in the tree, so he ate of the fruit. He laid down under the tree and took a nap. When he awoke, he was refreshed and well-rested. Before leaving, he turned to the tree. Tree, oh, tree, how can I bless you? For you have so much already. So he blessed the tree with more of the same.

Source: Taanit 5B-6A

For those that read Hebrew, here is the original Hebrew of what the traveler says to the tree:

אילן אילן במה אברכך, שיהיו פירותיך מתוקין, הרי פירתיך מתוקין, שיהא צילך נאה, הרי צלך נאה. אלא יהי רצון שכל נטיעותיך יהיו כמותך.

Have you ever been grateful to something in nature? Or perhaps grateful to someone in your life who has given you so much?

Present, book, knife & Timna

present, book, knife in watercolor by Leora Wenger
According to R. Abraham Twerski, Abe Lincoln once said:
“I do not like that man very much. I should get to know him better.”

When my kids were in nursery school, they used to do this project that I loved. They would bring home a present, and inside the present was a paper book and a toy sword. Why? Keep reading.

In this week’s parsha of Vayishlach, Yaakov prepares to meet Esav, whom he has not seen in many years. Through messengers, Yaakov learns that Esav his brother still does not like him and is headed to see him with an army of 400 people. So what does Yaakov do to prepare? Rashi says he readied himself for three things: paying tribute (the present), prayer (the book, representing a siddur) or war (the sword or knife).

I’ve heard peaceniks and hawks both use this parsha to justify their approach to enemies. But I’m not sure Abe Lincoln’s quote really is valid for dealing with a whole nation of belligerents.

So who’s Timna? At the end of the parsha, it says: “And Timna was concubine to Eliphaz Esau’s son; and she bore to Eliphaz Amalek. ” Why is this relevant? According to Sanhedrin 99b, her son Amalek became the archenemy of Judaism because she had been rejected by Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as a convert. Rabbi Twerski suggests that even if they had needed to reject her, they could have done it in a nicer way.

So this parsha really does have a lot to say about war and enemies. You may have some ideas about how some of this could be relevant today. If I had to come up with some good idea, I would never be able to hit the ‘Publish’ button, so here’s the post as is.

 Ilana-Davita has more on settling disputes and this parsha.

Dust — Afar — עָפָר (Part II)

This is a continuation of The Golden Compass — Dust

I am pleased to say I could find no relationship between the Jewish concept of dust and Philip Pullman’s Dust. First, more on Philip Pullman’s Dust: it seems that there is some similarity between Pullman’s Dust and Buddhism’s dust. And Pullman will be producing a new book called ‘The Book of Dust’.

And now, back to Breishit for some thoughts on dust or afar(עָפָר):

Rav Frand has a post on the simile of dust :

The blessing of “k’afar ha’Aretz” represents the history of the Jews. Everybody tramples over the dust of the earth, but in the end the dust of the earth always remains on top. That same dust ultimately covers those who trample it.

One can read about Adam being made of clay, which is originally made of dust but then formed to become man in this post on Parshat Breishit:

Man was formed of the dust of every place on earth, and then kneaded into clay—whereas dust is diverse, yet uniform, clay is united.

Balashon has a post on the etymology of the word ‘Africa’, the source of which may be the word ‘afar’.

There is a Jewish concept called ‘avak lashon hara’, or the dust of evil language, but this uses the term avak and not afar. Avak lashon hara generally refers to traces of talk that may incite lashon hara, such as saying excessive praise.

Finally, on this Kol Torah post on Parshat VaYechi, Doniel Sherman explains how “For you are dust and to dust shall you return” refers to burial, in reference to Yaakov’s burial.