The Daily Blast

Joanne Davis
Co-Chair Young Investor Society
Israel Bonds

Joanne Davis (Israel Bonds) talks about a program that encourages students to nurture their relationship with Israel.

Daily Reading

Nurturing Jewish Values

The Torah relates how the evil gentile prophet, Bilam, is hired by the king of Moab to curse the Jewish people, and how that curse is transformed into words of...

Read More

Daily Sources

עֵץ־חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר
משלי ג׳:י׳׳ז–י׳׳ח

She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, And whoever holds on to her is happy.

-Proverbs 3:17-18ֿ

לֹא יִבְנוּ וְאַחֵר יֵשֵׁב לֹא יִטְּעוּ וְאַחֵר יֹאכֵל כִּי־כִימֵי הָעֵץ יְמֵי עַמִּי וּמַעֲשֵׂה יְדֵיהֶם יְבַלּוּ בְחִירָי׃
ישעיהו ס״ה:כ׳׳ב

They shall not build for others to dwell in, or plant for others to enjoy. For the days of My people shall be as long as the days of a tree, my chosen ones shall outlive the work of their hands.

-Isaiah 65:22

Rabbi Shimon ben Yosei ben Lakoneya said: Because in this world a person builds a building and another spends time in it, [a person] plants a sapling and another eats [its produce]. But in the future, they will not build and another will settle, they will not plant and another will eat, as it is stated: “For like the days of the tree will be the days of My people, and My chosen will outlive the work of their hands.”

-Kohelet Rabbah 1:4:5

Daily Goals

Man Is Like A Tree: The Torah compares a person to a tree. Roots, branches, leaves. What’s the connection?

In various places, the Torah compares a person to a tree: A tree needs the four basic elements in order to survive — soil, water, air, and fire (sun). Human beings also require the same basic elements. Let’s examine these, one at a time:


A tree needs to be planted firmly in the earth. The soil is not only the source through which nourishment is absorbed, but also provides room for the roots to grow.

This is true of a person as well. The Talmud explains:

A person whose wisdom exceeds his good deeds is likened to a tree whose branches are numerous, but whose roots are few. The wind comes and uproots it and turns it upside down.

But a person whose good deeds exceed his wisdom is likened to a tree whose branches are few but whose roots are numerous. Even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place. (Avot 3:22)

A person can appear successful on the outside, with full branches and a fancy car. But if the roots are few — if there is little connection to one’s community and heritage — then life can send challenges that are impossible to withstand. A strong wind can turn the tree upside down. A person alone is vulnerable to trends and fads that may lead to despair and destruction.

But if a person — irrespective of wealth and status — is connected to community and heritage, then even if all the winds of the world were to come and blow against it, they could not budge it from its place.

Humans require a strong home base, where values and morals are absorbed, and which provides a supportive growth environment. In a world rife with negativity; we need a filter, a safe haven to return to and refresh. A community provides an impervious shield — the soil where we can be ourselves, make our mistakes, and still be accepted, loved and nourished.


Rain-water is absorbed into the ground and — through an elaborate system of roots — is carried throughout the trunk, branches and leaves of the tree. Without water, the tree will whither and die.

The Torah is compared to water, as Moshe proclaims: May my teaching drop like the rain (Deut. 32:2). Both rain and Torah descend from the heavens and provide relief to the thirsty and parched. The Torah flows down from God and has been absorbed by Jews in every generation. Torah gives zest and vitality to the human spirit. A life based on Torah will blossom with wisdom and good deeds.


A tree needs air to survive. The air contains oxygen that a tree needs for respiration, and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. In an unbalanced atmosphere, the tree would suffocate and die.

The Torah (Genesis 2:7) states that God breathed life into the form of Man. The Hebrew word for breath — nesheema — is the same as the word for soul — neshama. Our spiritual life force comes, metaphorically, by way of air and respiration.

We use our senses of taste, touch and sight to perceive physical matter. (Even hearing involves the perception of sound waves.) But smelling is the most spiritual of senses, since the least physical matter is involved. As the Talmud says (Brachot 43b): Smell is that which the soul benefits from, and the does body not.

In the Holy Temple, the incense offering (sense of smell) was elevated to the once-a-year Yom Kippur offering in the Holy of Holies. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 93a) also says that when the Messiah comes, he will smell and judge — that is, he will use his spiritual sensitivity to determine the truth about complex matters.


A tree also needs fire — sunlight — to survive. The absorption of energy from the light activates the process of photosynthesis, a chemical reaction that is essential for the growth and health of the tree.

Humans also need fire — warmth — to survive. This is the warmth of friendship and community. People absorb the energy of peers, friends, family, neighbors and associates — and channel that into identity and actions. All the essential observances and ceremonies of Judaism are based on family and community — from the celebration of birth, through the attainment of maturity, marriage, education, and even death.

The power of community is illustrated in the following Talmudic story:
An old man was planting a tree. A young person passed by and asked, What are you planting?
A carob tree, the old man replied.
Silly fool, said the youth. Don’t you know that it takes 70 years for a carob tree to bear fruit?
That’s okay, said the old man. Just as others planted for me, I plant for future generations.

As you look towards the New Year ahead, ask yourself:

Am I getting the spiritual food and shelter I need to survive, or is my tree being blown down by the forces of disconnection?

Am I part of a strong Jewish community, providing a warm and nurturing environment? Or am I lost in the bleak anonymity of cyberspace?

Am I investing in and nurturing future generations knowing that I am providing them with the proper foundation and tools for life?

Daily Quotes

"Find out what it is that touches you most deeply. Pursue it, learn about it, explore it, expand on it. Live with it and nurture it."

-Leonard Nimoy

"I certainly believe that being in contact with one's spirit and nurturing one's spirit is as important as nurturing one's body and mind. We are three dimensional beings: body, mind, spirit."

-Laurence Fishburne

"If you want to grow a giant redwood, you need to make sure the seeds are ok, nurture the sapling, and work out what might potentially stop it from growing all the way along. Anything that breaks it at any point stops that growth."

-Elon Musk

Today In Jewish History

16 Elul – Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion – 1903

On this day in 1903, the Znamya magazine in Russia began publishing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in serial form.  The Protocols was a fabricated text purporting to be the minutes from a meeting of world Jewish leaders planning for world domination.  Even though the book was proven to be a fabrication by the Times of London in 1921, it was widely distributed in the 20th century in many countries and languages.  In America, the main patron of the book was Henry Ford who funded the translation and printing of over 500,000 copies.  Eventually, due to a lawsuit, Ford apologized, but the damage was already done. 

The Protocols were a mainstay in Nazi Germany and were often quoted by Hitler.  They have been a driving force in anti-semitism for over 100 years.  Still, today, it’s widely printed in many places including the Middle East and Japan.

There was one positive outcome from the publishing and distribution of the Protocols, and that is the Fugu Plan.  Fugu is the Japanese word for the blowfish.  In Japan, the blowfish is a delicacy, but if it’s not prepared properly it’s toxic.  The Japanese believed the Protocols and said that the Jews were like the blowfish.  If dealt with properly, they would be great for Japan.  If not, they would be toxic.  The idea was that if the Jews control all of the world’s economies, having them in Japan would bolster Japan’s economy.  Because of this, the Japanese welcomed Jewish refugees during World War II.  Even though they were allies with Hitler, they never turned on the Jews.  Some 24,000 Jews were saved in Japan during the war. 

Share It!

Get The Daily Elul Challenge In Your Inbox