I miss the baobab tree. Mighty turrets that reach heights of thirty meters, baobabs tower over the flat, monotonous savanna that stretches from Nairobi to Mombasa. As a child, on our long, annual car journeys to the Kenyan coast, I would scan the horizon, peering across infinite waves of tawny grass to spot the first baobab. The tree’s lifeless branches, usually bare of all leaves and fruit, arched into the sky like a tangled mass of clawing roots.

I often wondered if G‑d had uprooted it and stuffed it back into the ground upside-down. If it had been up to me, I’d have left it the right way round. Surely a towering treetop of rustling leaves arising out of the flat savanna would have been more majestic than this ream of roots. But I didn’t worry about its unusual structure for long, because its sudden appearance always whispered that we were nearing the turquoise sea, the sparkling sands. Sometimes I could pick up the hint of something deeper hidden within its melody, but I ignored it all, so focused was I on the sound of the waves.

If it had been up to me, I’d have left it the right way roundYears later I moved to Israel, where olive trees and date palms dominate the skyline, but I never lost my fascination with the baobab. Whenever I came across a photo of the tree in one of the wildlife magazines and books that my mother brought me, I would recall the bare beauty of the tree, and wonder again why G‑d had left the tree upside-down. What could an inverted tree possibly contribute to the world?

One day, after seeing a painting of a baobab silhouetted in a vivid orange-purple sunset at my friend’s home, I gave in to my fascination and researched the tree a little. That led to an article for children on the wonders of the tree that I had assumed was a mistake of creation. It is, instead, probably the most useful tree G‑d created.

With a circumference of up to twenty-five meters, baobabs have been used as prisons, dairies, bus stops, and more recently, pubs. The trees can easily store 120,000 liters of water in their enormous, hollow trunks, which makes them natural reservoirs in arid areas. The leaves of the tree are made into soup; the bark into rope, cloth, and even quinine-like medicine; and the seeds into a healthy snack rich in calcium and vitamin C. Pretty amazing for a tree that looks like a mistake.

Since writing the article, I keep the image of the baobab tree in the glass front of my mind. When the going gets rough, it reminds me that what appears to be a misplaced note, an out-of-tune chord, will always be part of a perfect symphony.

Chana Tzuk drove this message home when I had the honor to interview her. At the beginning of the Second World War, at the age of six, Chana was separated from her parents. The next six years seemed to be a series of misplaced notes. Yet she survived countless orphanages and deportation to Siberia, and towards the end of the war she was reunited with her siblings. In the interview, she describes the train journey that brought a load of orphaned children from deep in Russia back to Germany.

What could an inverted tree possibly contribute to the world?“The hand of G‑d was always visible,” she says. “The train journey took one long month. Late one night, the trainload of children stopped near Stuttgart. A completely distraught woman climbed into our crowded carriage. She was crying uncontrollably. ‘I missed the earlier train,’ she sobbed, ‘I had to wait three hours for this train.’ We listened to her and then carried on playing as children do. Suddenly she asked to see the back of one of the girls. We had to convince the girl, but eventually she let the woman see her back. ‘That’s the birthmark!’ the woman exclaimed. ‘What’s your name?’ she asked the girl, emotion choking her voice, ‘Are you Tamara?’ The girl nodded, still unsure of what was happening. But it was clear to the woman: she had found the daughter that Russia had swallowed up. Of course, we all cried together.” A missed train, an apparent mistake, had led to the joyous reunion.

When I heard Chana’s story, I thought of the baobab trees of my childhood. Finally, the message that the baobab trees had always been whispering to me resonated through the passage of time: upside-down doesn’t mean wrong.