The Jewish Fairy Book (Gerald Friedlander)/Iron and the Trees

The Jewish Fairy Book by Gerald Friedlander
XVIII. Iron and the Trees (from Genesis Rabbah)



ON the same day when the Holy One formed the trees He also made iron and other metals. Now the trees were very proud to find that they were taller than any creatures made by God. They looked at the hills and mountains and said: "They are of course very big, but we shall grow taller and taller and one day we shall be able to look down upon them." The cedars even boasted saying: "We shall soon grow as high as the heavens and our roots will stretch from one end of the earth to the other. Then shall we be kings of the earth."

At that moment the Spirit of Meekness passed by and heard the foolish boast of the trees. In a very gentle voice the Spirit said to the cedars:

"Why don't you look at your roots; do you know what is hidden beneath them?"

"No. We cannot see what is hidden deep down in the earth. Our heads are too high up in the sky."

"Well, just let me look for you. Shall I tell you what I see?"

"Please do look and tell us what is hidden beneath our roots."

"I see a lot of metal ore, called iron."

"Why dost thou tell us about the iron metal! It is not in our way the least bit."

"No, it is not in your way now."

"Why then bother about it?"

"Listen, ye cedars and all ye trees! In days to come men will dig in the earth and find the iron ore. They will use it for very many purposes. They will make ax-heads and then you will remember my words."

"What will then happen to us?"

"If men get wood for the handle of the ax they will cut down your fine tall trees."

When the trees heard this they began to tremble and to weep.

The Spirit asked: "Why do ye weep?"

"We are afraid."

"Why are ye afraid?"

"Because now we see that thou art right. The iron at our roots will one day cut down our tall trunks which will then lie in shame on the earth. We shall never reach the sky and we shall never be kings at all. People will burn our wood in the fire once we are cut down."

"Have no fear, ye trees! All the trouble ye foresee need not arise if ye desire to prevent it."

"How so?"

"Let none of your wood be put into the iron to make the handle of the ax and then not one of you will be touched."

Genesis Rabbah, v. 9.