The Giving Tree explores Tzedakah- Giving and its Many Forms
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The Giving Tree explores Tzedakah- Giving and its Many Forms

Tags: Book based , Earth Day 
Book Title: The Giving Tree

Author: Shel Silverstein

Illustrator: Shel Silverstein

Book Summary:

'Once there was a tree...and she loved a little boy.'
So begins a story of unforgettable perception, beautifully written and illustrated by the gifted and versatile Shel Silverstein.
Every day the boy would come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk...and the tree was happy. But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree gave and gave and gave.
This is a tender story, touched with sadness, aglow with consolation. Shel Silverstein has created a moving parable for readers of all ages that offers an affecting interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another's capacity to love in return.

Topic(s) Addressed:

  • The meaning and forms of tzedakah
  • The concept of generosity.
  • The tradition of giving during Purim.

Enduring Understandings:

  • There are many ways in which each of us can fulfill the Jewish tradition of Tzedakah 
  • Tzedakah does not only involve the giving of money and “things” it also involves giving of oneself,our time and effort, to help others. 
  • Often the greatest joy comes from giving to others.

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Tzedakah frequently is understood as “charity,” referring to giving to the needy and poor, typically through financial means. While charity indeed can be considered one form of tzedakah, its meaning is deeply rooted in the idea of righteousness and justice. The distinction here is that Jewish tradition understands giving charity as a voluntary act, while acting righteously is an obligation and duty. How one gives is just as important, if not even more important, than what one gives. Like many obligations found within Jewish tradition, intentionality is key when it comes to performing acts of tzedakah. It is necessary that when we give, we must refrain from comparing its value to quantity of what is given. In other words, quality far surpasses quantity.

One Jewish act of giving is that of mishloach manot: food, drinks, and even toys to family and friends to ensure everyone can participate in the celebration of Purim, a holiday symbolized by the courage of Esther, who was able to expose the king’s most trusted advisor, Haman, and his plan to annihilate the Jewish people. The custom of mishloach manot emerged to ensure that everyone would have something to eat and drink during the Purim feast.

While traditionally food only fulfills this mitzvah, commandment, contributing to charitable organizations has become part of the mishloach manot practice as well. Nevertheless, this obligation highlights the fact that acts of tzedakah are not just monetary, and requires thought and purpose for its meaning to be uplifted.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What acts of tzedakah do you do that are not monetary? 
  2. Why do you think that we need to be in the right mindset in order to truly perform the mitzvah of tzedakah, or any of the mitzvot, commandments? 
  3. Jewish tradition teaches that even the poor must give mishloach manot in some way, even if it means exchanging food with a friend or family member. Why do you think that the poor must participate in this obligation as well? 
  4. How do you define righteousness? 
  5. How can you incorporate the value of tzedakah within your classroom?

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore


The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Poster board cut into three large branch shapes and one tree trunk
A sheet of cardstock with a large outline of an apple on it drawn ahead of time. (One per student and large enough for a picture and 1-2 sentences to be written on it.)
Crayons/markers/colored pencils
Index Cards
Glue and tape
SMART Board or chart paper


Shalom Sesame Video:“Helping those in Need
Narrated Version of The Giving Tree

Sharing The Storymore

Introducing The story

Note: While this lesson is appropriate at any time of the year, you may wish to incorporate it during the time students are learning about the holiday of Purim.

Ask students to tell you what they know about tzedakah and its special significance during the holiday of Purim. If necessary, review the meaning of tzedakah, and forms of giving ( monetary, tangible items, giving of oneself). You can also show the Shalom Sesame Video: “Helping Those in Need” to assist with review. 

Reading The Story

Read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein to students. A second reading may be necessary or use this narrated version
Follow with a class discussion on how the book demonstrates the concept of tzedakah
Using either the SMART Board or chart paper, make a list of all the examples from the book that students provide.

After The Story

Involve students in the following group project to help them understand the various types of tzedakah and the ways in which they can apply them to their own lives.

Review each form of tzedakah with students
Divide students into three groups, each representing a different form of tzedakah.

Group1- monetary tzedakah
Group 2- giving of yourself/ your time
Group 3- tangible gifts

Give each group one of the large pre-cut poster board branches and give each student one piece of cardstock with the apple outline. Working together, have students suggest examples of different acts of charity for their specific tzedakah group. On their own apple, each student can draw a picture to illustrate one of the examples mentioned (be sure they each select a different one), followed by 3-4 sentences describing their picture. If there isn't enough room on the apple itself, index cards may be attached to the bottom of the apple for additional writing space.

Have students cut out their completed apple and attach it to their group branch, using either glue or tape.

When all apples are attached to their branches, each group will present their pictures and read their sentence(s) to the rest of the class.

These completed branches will then be used as a Giving Tree/ tzedakah themed bulletin board in the classroom, where a trunk will be added.


Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

Evidence of Learningmore

Students will be able to apply their knowledge of tzedakah to a class discussion of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Student’s performance on the group project. Do their pictures and sentences appropriately reflect their assigned category of tzedakah?


Take a picture of the Giving Tree and send a copy home or post it on your school or classroom web page. Ask family members to discuss the tree, its significance and their child’s contribution. Encourage families to become involved in one or more of the tzedakah opportunities suggested.

literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Giving Shirley Hughes The concept of giving and the concept of receiving are addressed with wry humor.
How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box: And Other Wonders of Tzedakah Linda HellerStacey Dressen McQueenIs Dalia’s little blue box magic—or is the real magic the generosity that helps her fill it?
When Dalia learns about tzedakah, the Jewish tradition of charity and caring, she creates a tzedakah box where she can keep the money she’s saved to help those in need.  Her little brother Yossi is curious about the Hebrew letters painted on the box. "Are those letters magic?" he asks. They must be because Dalia tells him she's putting a big yellow comforter, a butterfly bush, and a banana cream pie inside of it! How ever will she do it?
Though there may be joy in receiving, Dalia’s story serves as a powerful reminder that the greatest joy of all comes from giving generously to others.
What Zeesie Saw on Delancy Street Elsa Okon RaelMarjorie PricemanZeesie feels very grown-up indeed! For on this night, her seventh birthday, Zeesie is going to her first package party with Mama and Papa. She even has a brand new dress and a dollar bill -- her birthday gift -- all for herself!
The package party is grand, with great towers of wrapped surprise packages to be auctioned to raise money for other new immigrants to the community. Such wonderful smells, tastes, and sounds, and oh, so much to see...
But as Zeesie soon discovers, not everything and everyplace is meant to be explored, and what she does see that night on Delancey Street leaves her with a new knowledge about giving and receiving.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors

Laura Funk, Beth Emet Elementary, Cooper City, Florida