What Do Yom Kippur and “The Giving Tree” Have in Common?

For Jews across the globe, the period between Rosh Hashana (or Beginning of the Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), is a time to reflect on our lives.  It’s a time to contemplate our behaviors from the past year and to move towards letting go of our negative behaviors to bring about positivity and light to our lives.  If we look at the word At-One-ment, we can take it to mean we are to be “at one” during this time with our higher selves and the creative light by elevating our souls and fulfilling our purpose of taking care of the souls around us.   It means seeing the good in others regardless of what is going on … it means opening your heart and sharing … it means doing something that will make the world a better place for someone else.  (To be honest, this concept holds true for anyone of any faith who takes the time to be “at one” and connects their spirit with a higher realm, shredding negativity to creating positivity for of those around them).

So, what’s the connection to “The Giving Tree” you may ask? Let me explain …

I first came across Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” about 25 years ago in my daughter’s first grade elementary class.  The teacher had read it to the students just before Mother’s Day as a way to bring to light all the amazing things parents share with their kids, unselfishly, that may be taken for granted.  (To be honest, when I first heard the story, I thought it was the most depressing thing I had ever heard and actually cried (so did my daughter!)).  But the story had a profound impact on me and I’ve revisited the tale over the years.  Each time I read the story, I find deeper and more insightful meaning in it, and as I revisit it again this year, I again find it to be thoughtful and significant to the meaning of Yom Kippur.

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, it is the tale of a boy and a tree, the relationship they cultivate, and the cycle of life as the boy progresses to and through adulthood.  In the beginning of their relationship, the tree invites the small boy to take apples from its branches and to eat and enjoy the fruit.  It offers its branches to the boy so that he may swing and play and be provided with shade.  Throughout this period, the tree gets great pleasure out of providing and sharing with the boy and the boy, in his pure innocence, enjoys the tree.  As the boy gets older, the tree provides yet again for the boy, this time allowing him to the pick the apples and sell them in the city for money and using its wood to build a boat.  As the boy’s needs develop, he selfishly keeps coming back to the tree and the tree continues to provide generously and completely out of caring for the boy.  So now, the “spoiler alert” … at the end of the story, the boy (now an old man) limps up to the tree (which is now nothing more than a stump) and the tree tells him that it has provided its fruit, its branches, and its trunk and has nothing left to offer.  With that, the old man sits to rest on the tree’s stump, and the tree is happy knowing that it can still share and provide.

Connecting this back to Yom Kippur, I mentioned that this is a time for us to fulfill our soul’s purpose by seeing the good in others, regardless of what is going on, and in opening our hearts, sharing, and doing something that will make the world a better place for someone else.  So, this year, I challenge each of you, regardless of your faith, to be a “Giving Tree” and to share your branches with family, friends, and strangers alike and make a positive difference for someone.

And that’s Sheri’s Two Cents … for whatever it’s worth!