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Closing Prayer for Arbor Day, by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, J. Paul Williams, and Eugene Kohn (1951)

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O God, Creator of all that lives,
we have planted a tree
in token of our acknowledgement
of the duty that rests upon us
to further your work of creation.
It is upon you, however,
and upon your gifts
of rain
and sunshine
and nourishing soil
that the growth of this tree depends.

And so is it with all our works
in making this a better world.
Every good deed we do is but a seed,
taken from the store of your infinite goodness,
planted by us in this world
and dependent upon your creative and sustaining power
to enable it to thrive and bear fruit.

Our mothers and fathers planted a good seed,
the seed of a self-governing society
of free and equal citizens.
Instruct us in your law
so that we may know
how to prune the tree which they planted
of all unwholesome growths,
and how so to cultivate it
with loving and patient labor
that today’s new shoots
may ever draw the sap of life
from the deepest roots of our American past.
May our nation be indeed a tree of life
bearing blossoms of beauty
and fruit of goodness
for endless ages.

This closing prayer for Arbor Day, “The Significance of the Day,” was first published in The Faith of America: Readings, Songs, and Prayers for the Celebration of American Holidays (Jewish Reconstructionist Foundation 1951), p. 86. It is unclear from this publication whether the prayer was written by Mordecai Kaplan, J. Paul Williams, or Eugene Kohn separately or together in collaboration. I have replaced archaisms in this prayer (thee, thy, thou, etc.) as well as egalitarian language where male default language was invoked. –Aharon Varady





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