Moses then began to instruct the Jewish people regarding how they were to conduct their conquest of the Land of Israel.
Becoming a Fruit-Bearing Tree
כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר . . . לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ וגו': (דברים כ:יט)
[Moses told the Jewish people,] “If you besiege a city . . . you must not destroy its [fruit] trees.” Deuteronomy 20:19

Our emotions are the measure of our maturity. Many people are gifted with superior intelligence or talent, but truly refined emotions are achieved by shedding childlike self-absorption and by contributing to the world. Similarly, fruit-bearing trees provide us with nourishment and delight at their own expense. In contrast, barren trees merely impress us with their stately presence; they may perhaps offer us shade, but they sacrifice nothing in so doing.

Therefore, when we seek instruction and inspiration, we should turn to people who are not only intelligent and talented, but who consistently utilize their gifts for the world’s greater good. And of course, we should emulate the example of the fruit tree ourselves.1