Tree Planting, a prayer by Rabbi Avraham Samuel Soltes (1952)

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O Thou,
who first planted trees
eastward in Eden,
and hast created on earth
a resemblance to Paradise
through the overarching beauty
of leaf and branch
we thank Thee for the gift
of fruit and shade,
of food and shelter,
which Thy Divine wisdom hast
provided
for the children of men.

To our forefathers,
wandering
through the wilderness of Sinai,
the sight of a tree
meant
respite
from the beating rays of the sun,
an oasis of refreshment
amid the devouring desolation
of the desert.

To us,
as we plant these saplings today,
these trees,
too,
mean
relief for the eyes
from the surrounding wilderness
of harsh brick
and barren stone —
they signify
deliverance for the spirit
from the cold, unyielding pavements
that have sealed off the city
from the soil
and its Maker.

We pray Thee,
O Heavenly Father,
that
even as we break the earth’s crust
to implant this foliage,
so may we be helped
to pierce the callousness of our hearts
to the suffering of our brethren,
and create
within their arid indifference
a heavenly oasis,
wherein
our fellowmen
may ever find
solace and understanding,
sympathy and peace.

Then
will the sacrifices of our youth
be delivered from vanity,
and the ideals for which they perished
ever flourish,
like the tree of Moses
Which,
though scorched with suffering,
was never consumed.
Amen.

“Tree Planting” was first published in Rabbi Avraham Soltes’ collection of prayers, תפלה Invocation: Sheaf of Prayers (Bloch 1959) and dated to April 27, 1952 just a few days after Arbor Day (April 24) in the United States.

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