by Tova Younger
Can you imagine a world without trees? To answer that question, let's consider some of the many wonderful benefits trees gift us.
Restoring oxygen into the air is the biggie. We could not manage without that! But trees give us so much more. Cocoa beans and coffee beans! Nuts! Apples - available in over 200 common varieties! Pears, apricots, oranges… the list of fruits goes on and on. And let's not forget about other by-products such as maple syrup. How about all the splendid wood, so many types? A habitat for birds, insects and other animals… and a perfect abode for treehouses, bird feeders and swings. Shade on a hot day and beautifying our scenery with a great variety of leaves and more.
As trees themselves attest to the kindliness of Hashem, our 10,000 taste buds prove it even more
These treasures are all the more amazing when we consider the varieties. So many types of wood, each lending itself to a different purpose. Furniture, ships, homes, paper, cardboard, tissues, all kinds of gums and resins. Some trees are thousands of years old, and some over 100 meters high! Experts claim that there are about 3 trillion trees in the world! We could easily spend a few minutes daily thanking Hashem for different benefit we have from trees, and I suspect, never become repetitious. Tu b'Shevat is the day to remind ourselves to pay attention to these wonders, but we need not limit it to that.
Notice that the only must-have on this fabulous list is air oxygenation. Now imagine if Hashem would have chosen another method for that, and not given us trees. What a lot we would miss out on – of course, we would not even know we were missing it! The common denominator in all the benefits is – they are all 'extras'. The world could continue to spin, life could continue to go on, without all of the trees' manifold riches.
Let's consider one specific category – the edibles. What good would all of those wonders be if we could not enjoy their taste? As trees themselves attest to the kindliness of Hashem, our 10,000 taste buds prove it even more. What practical use do taste buds have? To get by, we would need about two, to determine if the food is edible or poisonous. And we would survive. Our many taste buds are screaming to us "Hashem loves me!"
Hashem is not a minimalist. He graciously and generously provides us with delights galore, of which trees and their manifold by products are just one category. In order for us to truly appreciate it, He has further endowed us with senses to enjoy it all, and the intelligence and ability to go deeper and make use of the incredible quantity and variety of raw materials that fill our earth.
It remains for us to go a step further and contemplate these ideas, and use them to fill ourselves with gratitude to Hashem for the happiness-opportunities He has showered us with.