From Adam’s Ordeal (#28) By Rabbi Avigdor Miller
What’s the purpose of a tree? You could say, “What was the purpose when Avraham Avinu welcomed visitors and gave them refuge from the sun?” He gave them food and he gave them rest, and so on. And you see that a tree is for the same purpose. A tree is an institution, not merely something of beauty that lines the streets.
A tree is a planted institution, and it’s a very economical one. When you build a building for wayfarers, the walls take up a lot of space. On a tree, the foundation takes up the least possible space. The trunk of the tree is in the middle, so you can sit under the foliage on the ground in the shade of the tree. You see here the hachnasas orchim (welcoming guests) institution.
Hashem is doing to us what Avraham did to the wayfarer
Every tree has a sign on it, “Wayfarers Welcome.” It’s a hostel for wayfarers: rest in my shade, sit down underneath, your back leaning against the trunk of the tree, in case you want to make a soft bed pull down some of my leaves, make a soft bed. In case you want to make a fire to cook supper break off some of my branches. And in some cases I have even fruits, food hanging on the tree for you. And so, in case you like a little music too there’s birds singing there. It has all accommodations.
Now we wouldn’t know that’s the purpose of a tree. You know who saw that purpose? Avraham Avinu. He had a great mind. “Vayita eishel — he planted a tree”… From Hashem’s tree, Avraham saw the principle of hospitality. When we see a tree, we might see nothing at all. But now that we have Torah, now we take a look at a tree and learn that a tree is an institution.
What’s the purpose of a tree? To provide wayfarers with shelter, children should have a place to play in, you can hang swings in a tree, you can hang hammocks in a tree, you can put up baseball, basketball baskets on a tree. There’s no end of good times. You can make a tree house for children. There’s no end of fun in a tree. And that’s the purpose of a tree.
You can chop it down when it’s old. You can make chairs out of it, you can make houses out of it, and you can make fires out of it. There’s no end of good things that a tree means, besides all the chestnuts the tree supplies, all the apples it supplies. Hashem is doing to us what Avraham did to the wayfarers. That’s why you need the Torah to explain nature.