Once there was a boy who longed to have a secret, but the problem was that he didn’t have one, and everyone else it seemed did. Every once in a while he would see his parents speaking in very hushed tones, so he knew they had secrets. On his way to and from school he would see different groups of friends huddled behind buildings and crouching down among the trees, exchanging pictures and trinkets, whispers and secretive glances.
Then there were all the many books of Torah, which everyone knows contain great secrets of how God created the world and why, and how through this knowledge the Tzadikim, the righteous ones, perform this or that miracle, and since he could not think of any secrets by himself, of course he felt left out.
So he decided that he too must have a secret – but how does one go about obtaining a secret? At first he decided to wait and see if his parents or friends would reveal some hidden thing to him, for he felt it wasn’t right to just go up to someone and say, “Do you have a secret to share?” When that didn’t work he tried to make up one himself, but he couldn’t think of one worthy enough to be called a secret. Then he decided to pray to God that He should reveal something special to him, but his prayer went unanswered and still he was secretless.
Now it happened that outside his bedroom window was a large tree which he loved very much. In the mornings the birds would perch on the branches and sing the most beautiful songs, so beautiful in fact, that sometimes he imagined they were singing the morning prayers. Sometimes in the afternoon when he had nothing to do he would climb up this tree and make up all kinds of games.
One afternoon when it seemed that it was just not destined for him to have a secret, he noticed as he sat in the tree, one of the seed pods fall to the ground. As he watched it fall it became clear to him that if he took the little seed deep into a nearby pine forest and planted it, it would be his great secret how such a large tree grew up in a forest of different kinds of trees.
So he scrambled down the tree, took the seed and immediately ran off to the forest which was just a short distance from his home. The forest was a pine forest, one of the many planted by the Jewish people when they had returned to their homeland. As he went deeper and deeper into the forest looking for the best place to plant his tree, he thought about the forest itself for the first time, though he had played there ever since he could remember. “Isn’t it a mystery how this forest even stands here, planted by a people who themselves were like seeds cast to the wind for so long?”
When he had finally found the right place, he looked at the tiny seed which he held in his hand, and thought about how this small seed would one day be a great tree, and how this was quite miraculous in of itself. With great awe and love he planted his seed and prayed for a long time in the stillness of the forest that his seed would take root and grow. As he returned home he had a very amazing thought: “Isn’t it interesting how having one secret leads to another secret which lead to even another one!”
A short time went by and sure enough, the seed sprouted and began to grow and now that the boy had a secret he was very happy and felt much more grown up. As the boy grew so did the tree, or was it that as the tree grew so did the boy, but no matter, for it seemed that in no time at all they both stood straight and tall; a seed became a tree and a boy became a man.
During those years he loved to visit his tree and sit beneath its shade, studying Torah, writing poems, thinking , dreaming, planning, star gazing, and watching the world go by. He would pass through the procession of the year; the new buds, the growing leaves, the leaves turning colors, the barren branches, the excitement and satisfaction of seeing the first new buds, signaling a new cycle of growth. Each change seemed to foretell some greater truth of creation and life, and as each year passed he saw the tree as more and more a mirror of the whole world.
When people would pass through the spot where the tree stood most would immediately think: “How did this tree get here?” Some imagined that perhaps a squirrel or bird had been collecting food and somehow dropped a seed there, while others figured maybe the wind had blown it from a far away place. There were those people who stared at it with no idea at all how it got there, while some did not notice it at all. Every once in a while when a person would start thinking about how this one unique tree ended up in a pine forest, it would lead to other questions and thought. Many a person began by wondering where the tree came from and ended up asking where did I come from? And this is how the tree grew and bore its fruit.
Then it happened one time when he was older, as he was learning Torah, he came across the sentence: “The Torah is a tree of life for those who grasp hold of it.” He began to think of how much his tree had been his secret tree of life and how much he had learned from it. Then it became clear to him why the Torah is compared to the tree of life. Just as he had learned to see in a leaf of the tree, a hand, or a flame, a star, or a face, so too the letters of the Torah are forever revealing an infinite amount of mental images. Each spring the tree taught him of new beginnings and rebirth; so too the Torah ends and begins again year after year. Like a bird who makes its nest in the branches of a tree, the Jewish people make their home in the beauty of the Torah. Each day one could see in the tree entire worlds being revealed – from the tiniest smell, touch or taste – and like wise the mitzvot are a bottomless well in their depth of meaning and life giving waters.
Then he remembered the Midrash which says that when God wanted to create the world, he first looked into the blueprint, which was the Torah, and then He created the world. The young man stood up and looked all around, and saw that not only his tree, but everything was included in the Torah. His tree had been a reflection of many secrets and truths, but now he saw that through the Torah, all the secrets and truths in the world would one day be found.
Then God revealed to him that when he had prayed as a little boy that God should reveal a secret to him and he thought he was not answered, that really his prayer was answered even then, and this to him was the biggest secret of them all.