Authors & Artists


Master tab

Poster Commentary
"I found a fruitful world, because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise I am planting for my children."Talmud, Taanit 23A
Poster design:Mervyn Kurlansky


by Joseph Telushkin

This teaching comes from a Talmudic story about a rabbinic sage and folk hero named Choni (an actual figure who lived in the first century BCE), who once saw a man planting a carob tree. Choni asked the man, “How long will it take until this carob tree bears fruit?”

The man answered, “Seventy years.”

Choni said to him, “Do you think you will live seventy more years?” In other words, does it make sense for you to work at a task that cannot possibly benefit you in any way?

And it is to this challenge that the man answers with words that apply to every generation before and since: “My ancestors planted for me. Likewise, I am planting for my children.”

Rabbi Herbert Tarr’s novel The Conversion of Chaplain Cohen tells the story of David, an orphaned young man raised by a loving aunt and uncle. In one scene, as David goes off to enter the American army as a chaplain, they escort him to the train station. He suddenly grabs his uncle’s rough peddler hands in his smooth student ones and says, “How can I ever begin to repay you for what you’ve done for me?” His uncle answers gently, “There’s a [Talmudic] saying, ‘The love of parents goes to their children, but the love of those children goes to their children.’”

David is upset at the implication of his uncle’s words: “That’s not so. I’ll always be trying to—“ Tante Dvorah interrupts him: “David, what your uncle Asher means is that a parent’s love isn’t to be paid back; it can only be passed on.”

Conversation Guide


The commentary notes the background to this Talmudic statement: This is the answer of Choni, a first-century BCE sage and miracle worker, to justify his planting a tree that will not bear fruit for seventy years. Choni suggests that much of what we do in this world may not help us directly, but future generations will reap the benefits. 

What does the story of Choni and the carob tree teach us about how to live our lives?

What “fruits” did you inherit from your ancestors?   

Do you view yourself like Choni, who is “planting” for future generations? What are you involved in that will not bear fruit for a long time? 

What will be your legacy? How would you like to be remembered by your family? By your community? By the world? 

How does this quotation compare with Rabbi Tarfon’s teaching about the responsibility to partake in “the work of perfecting the world”? What is similar and what is different in these messages?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

Designer Mervyn Kurlansky’s image uses patterns of color, creating shapes that build on one another. 

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted Choni’s statement without the image?

What is the central image of this poster? What other image(s) might have been used to depict the quotation?   

What do you think the artist chose to convey with the different shapes, patterns, and colors in the image?

Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

Please use this guide creatively in your programs.  We’d also love to see what you’re doing and share it with others, so please post on our website using the Share button in The Exchange.


Masters Series©2012, Mervyn Kurlansky, Quote: Talmud, Taanit 23a,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA