Ultimately, I suppose, it's all about the trees.
Were it not for the tree of knowledge and its succulent fruit, there
would be no good or evil, no right or wrong, no sin, and no death.
before Adam and Eve partook of forbidden fruit, trees were involved in
an act of disobedience. It happened on the third day of creation when
God ordered the earth to bring forth trees with wood as sweet and
edible as their fruit. Instead, trees developed stems and branches and
trunks that were good for making fires and furniture but not for
In the year 1570, at the funeral of Moshe Cordovero in Safed,
implicated "the tree" in the death of his saintly friend.
In Luria's eulogy of Cordovero, he quoted from Deuteronomy 21:22. This
verse states that, after a person is executed for committing a capital
crime/sin, you should hang him from a tree. Luria pointed out that the
word for sin (het
) also means "lack" and that the word for hang (talita
) also means "blame." In other words, if someone dies without having sinned, as in the case of a tzadik
such as Cordovero, you should blame it on the tree (of knowledge), by
which the phenomenon of inescapable physical death entered the world.
Trees also provide an environment for licentiousness, and the
prophets warn the people not to engage in immorality under their leafy
boughs. The ashera
was a tree that was planted next to shrines
of idol worshipers and, therefore, the prophets would not allow trees
to be planted near altars where God's sacrificial service was
Yet trees, just as they can lead to sin, can also be objects of holiness. We know that Abraham planted a tamarisk (eshel
, under which he provided hospitality to desert travelers.
planted trees in Egypt
, which he promised would be cut down and
carried away at the moment of the exodus, to inspire the people and
continually remind them of their ultimate redemption. Indeed, the wood
from Jacob's trees would eventually be used in construction of the mishkan
or mobile sanctuary that was utilized for worship during 40 years of desert travel.
And in Avot de Rabbi Natan
, Yohanan Ben Zakkai says: "If
you have a sapling in your hand and are told that the messiah has come,
first plant the sapling, then go out to greet the messiah." How fitting
that planting a tree should take precedence over greeting the messiah!
This bold act certifies that the arrival of the messiah will usher in a
new reality where sin and death, introduced through a tree, no longer
WHEN DISCUSSING the water shortage and its
implications for garden design, attention is usually focused on shrubs
and low-growing flowering perennials that have minimal water
requirements. Often overlooked in this discussion, however, are the
benefits provided by trees. In general, established trees need little
water while, at the same time, they provide sun protection and reduce
water stress in the plants growing nearby.
In general, there is not much room for trees in the small yards
and gardens outside the multi-unit buildings where most Israelis live.
Yet there are a number of small to medium-sized trees that merit
consideration where garden space is limited.
Most leguminous trees are well-suited to our climate and soil
conditions. They can live in deserts and other infertile soils due to
their roots, which live in symbiosis with nitrate producing bacteria
and, therefore, do not require fertilization. Notable among leguminous
trees are many acacia (shita in Hebrew) species. Acacia trees,
native to Australia and East Africa, put forth golden yellow flower
puffs in late winter and early spring. Acacias grow quickly in almost
any soil and require little water. At maturity, they are no more than
six to nine meters tall. A good example is Acacia baileyana, the golden mimosa. Its blue-gray feathery leaves impart an unparalleled softness to the tree's canopy. Acacia baileyana purpurea, a variety with violet-tinted foliage, is also noteworthy. The knife acacia (Acacia cultriformis) has fascinating triangular leaves, and the Sydney golden wattle (Acacia longiflora) produces scads of flowers in pendant, butter-yellow chains.
The mimosa or silk tree (Albizia julibrissin), with its
feathery foliage and wispy pink flowers, is another notable leguminous
tree. It is a fast grower with a funnel-shaped form. "Chocolate Summer"
is a captivating silk tree cultivar with purple-bronze leaves. Mesquite
(Prosopis), from the North American desert, has lush foliage and a black trunk. Japanese pagoda tree (Sophora japonica) has a perfectly symmetrical domed canopy, furrowed bark and white flowers. The western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) has brilliant magenta flowers and heart-shaped leaves, while the eastern redbud "Forest Pansy" (Cercis canadensis) has fascinating purple foliage. Rounding out the list of moderate sized leguminous trees is the gold medallion tree (Cassia leptophylla).
Its panicles of deep yellow flowers followed by leathery, dark-brown
seed pods that are half a meter in length, leave a lasting impression.
Fruit trees enhance any garden and most of them do fine with a
single weekly soaking. Put a slowly trickling hose just inside the drip
line, so-called because this is where water drips off a tree when it
rains, directly below the canopy perimeter, and leave it there for
several hours. Alternatively, circle your tree along the canopy
perimeter line with drip irrigation tubing. These days, most fruit
trees are grafted on to dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks so that they
grow no taller than a manageable height of two to three meters.
Fall is the best time of year to plant every kind of tree. Fall
planting allows tree roots to grow rapidly in soil that is still warm
from summer's heat. At the same time, air temperature has cooled so
tree foliage and bark will not be scorched. Also, fall planting ensures
that every drop of winter rain will be available to your young tree so
that it can settle nicely into the garden before the heat of spring and
Yehoshua Siskin welcomes questions pertaining to your garden. E-mail him at: