Emperor Hadrian doesn’t understand why an old man is planting a fig tree when there’s no chance that he will enjoy its fruit. The story is based on a midrash, and tells us how an elderly man teaches the emperor an important lesson about concern and responsibility for the generations to come, and the strong connection between man and nature.
Age Group: FIRST GRADE
Book-Related Family Activities
Is there a point in planting a tree if one does not get to enjoy its fruit? An old man plants fig trees out of concern for the well being of future generations and the existence of the world, and teaches Caesar Adrianus as well as the readers a valuable lesson about believing in the good that shall come and the sweet fruit of patience. “Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants.” (adapted from Talmud Bavli, Taanit 23a)
Getting to know the source:
The story “A Basket Full of Gigs” is based on an old Talmudic legend (Midrash):
It is told that King Adrianus was on his way to war, to fight off a state which had rebelled against him, when he came across an old man planting fig trees. Adrianus said to him: “Old man, you stand here slaving away for others!” And the old man replied: “Your majesty, I am planting. If I am lucky enough to eat from my own fruits, so shall be it. And if I do not, my son will enjoy these fruits.” After three years Adrianus returned from the war, and again he came across the old man. This time, he was filling offering baskets with big, ripe figs. He came close to Adrianus and said: “Majesty, please accept these figs. I am the old man you came across years ago, and you asked me why I worked for others. Now, you are here, and you may be the other who tastes from my fruit!” And Adrianus said to his servant: “Take the old man’s baskets, and return them to him filled with gold.” And so it was done. Midrash Tanchuma Perek 19: Siman 8:6.