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Jerusalem

Like an Olive Tree

Ancient olive trees near Jerusalem

But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.
— Psalm 52:8

I was recently thinking about two incidents that occurred in Israel on the same day several years ago. One was reported widely by the media, and the other went mostly unnoticed. The first event was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. An Arab motorist plowed his vehicle through a group of innocent people waiting at a train stop. He killed one person and seriously injured several more.

After slamming into a second group of civilians, the terrorist emerged with a metal bar and began beating innocent men, women, and children until, thank God, security forces were able to neutralize him. My friend commented, “What kind of human being wakes up in the morning and plans to kill and maim as many innocent people as possible?”

The second event that occurred was very different. I received an e-mail from a man who, later that same night, was on Jerusalem’s light rail. He noticed that one of the security men on the train had two large thermoses and a bunch of hot cups. At each stop, the man would fill the cups and hand them to the other security men working the nightshift on each platform. Quietly, that man warmed many bodies and even more hearts on that cold autumn night.

In Psalm 52, David addressed another cruel man. David wrote this psalm when Doeg, one of King Saul’s officers, informed the king that the city of Nob, under the leadership of Ahimelek, had given David refuge. David was a wanted man by Saul, and so Saul had the entire city wiped out. Doeg and his men slaughtered an entire city of innocent men, women, and children. In the psalm, David wondered how Doeg could be so proud of his actions, calling Doeg a man who loved evil.

David concluded the psalm by saying, “But I am like an olive tree.” An olive tree is firmly rooted in its place. It quietly provides shade, and its fruit gives forth nourishment; as oil, it gives off warmth and light. No matter how evil the people around David became, he vowed to remain firmly rooted in the Lord. No matter what else was happening around him, David would continue to extend a hand of peace and to behave toward others with kindness.

Friends, David’s response to senseless cruelty must be ours as well. Like the man on the train, we must be beacons of light in a dark world. Today, let’s each do one extra act of kindness. No matter what anyone else may do today, we must continue to be like an olive tree – ceaselessly providing shelter, nourishment, warmth, and light, wherever we may go.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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