Trees (Eitz)

עץ

One of the first things I noticed at Elat Chayyim (“Tree of Life”) Retreat Center near Woodstock, New York, were the huge trees, especially some venerable giant pines growing outside the dining area. As days went by, the trees seemed to me more than just features of the landscape, but rather as fellow beings who partook in the love of the environment, creatures from whom I could learn. It was not so fanciful when I learned that Jewish tradition compares trees to human beings. Humans seem to rule the animal kingdom while trees are the most developed of plants. Both receive nourishment from our roots and aspire upward toward the light, and as Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi pointed out, both trees and human beings never stop growing. Moreover, he often pointed out that the growing edge of a tree is on the outside, and so we–and our tradition–must continue reaching outward in order to be renewed.

“For is a tree of the field human” (to withdraw before you in a siege, Deuteronomy 20:19)? The biblical verse prohibiting the logging of fruit trees during a siege can also be read literally as: “For a human being is a tree of the field” Ki ha-adam etz ha-sadeh כִּ֤י הָֽאָדָם֙ עֵ֣ץ הַשָּׂדֶ֔ה

In forests, jungles, orchards, and cities, trees are essential to life on earth, since they provide oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and remove pollutants, while also providing countless expressions of beauty, shade, food, wood, and soil conservation. Read about the “top 22 benefits of trees.”

Trees have been sacred to many cultures and religions. In Judaism, we have pomegranates decorations on our Torahs, apples and honey for the new year, citrons and palm branches to wave on Sukkot, and many other customs, texts, and motifs involving trees and their fruits.  Trees have great importance in Jewish tradition as symbols of wisdom and Torah. In mystical thought the Tree is a symbol of the flow of divine energy into the universe.

 

Join me in this Gateway of Trees to explore the symbol of the Tree in Jewish tradition and in your life.

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Wind in the Trees and Ambiance at Tejon Ranch, California

Listen to the wind and the birds and insects in the trees, or if you are indoors enjoy this recording. Featured Image: TejonWest by RangerX via Flickr See the famous fruit trees of Israel, or return to the Gateway of Trees.

Gallery: Famous Fruit Trees of Israel

The five famous fruit trees of the Holy Land are noted along with two grains as the "Seven Species" (Shivat Haminim, (Deuteronomy 8:8). Embrace their bounty in artwork, Sukkah and home decorations, and foods for Jewish celebrations, especially Tu Bishvat (New Year of...

Torah Study: The Tree in the Garden

At the heart of the Bible's first story, humanity in the Garden of Eden, two trees play a central role, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life And out of the ground the Eternal God (YHWH Elohim) made grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for...

The Tree of Life: Divine Wisdom

Are we really exiled from the Tree of Life? While the book of Genesis depicts the exile from the Garden of Eden and it's Tree of Life, elsewhere Bible declares that the Tree of Life is available to us in another form.   She is a tree of life to those that hold on...

Video: Ne’ot Kedumim, Israel’s Biblical Landscape

  Learn traditional blessings for eating fruit, or return to the Gateway of Trees.

From our Sages: The Story of Honi

Honi (or Choni) ha-Ma'agel (the Circle Maker) was a second century tzadik (righteous person) who was kind of a cross between Johnny Appleseed (or Carob-Seed) and Rip Van Winkle. Honi was known for his ability to pray successfully for rain in times of drought, while...

Blessings for Fruits and Trees

Every time we eat a piece of fruit from a tree, we have an opportunity to pause and appreciate the divine force that flows through all creation and brings this delicious bounty to our lips. We can do this with a spiritual practice of saying a berachah, a blessing,...

Meditation for Mindful Eating of Fruit:

 You can make eating a piece of fruit into a meditative experience. Say the blessing and consider what a gift has come to you from God's bounty. Our Sages saw the blessing as a kind of thank-you or payment, as it were, for partaking of God's creation. I am filled with...

Tu Bishvat: The New Year of the Tree

My youngest daughter's friends were impressed that Judaism celebrates a New Year of Trees, marked by planting and honoring trees. Here’s a round-up of how to observe this special day. Tu Bishvat means the 15th Day–at the full moon–of the Hebrew month of Shevat,...

The Tree of Life in Kabbalah

In Jewish mystical thought, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life were intended to flourish together in the Garden, but human beings forsook the vital Tree of Life to pursue knowledge alone, introducing duality to the world and preventing the ideal Edenic state...

Guided Meditation on Tree of Life in Our Bodies

This is a guided meditation on the Sephirotic energy in our bodies, based on the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. According to Kabbalistic tradition, the world was created with 10 Sephirot. In  Jewish mysticism, the Tree of Life refers to much more than a...

Hugging the Tree of Life

By the end of my first retreat at Elat Chayyim, I had internalized the paradigm of living fully in the mystic’s “Four Worlds” of body, emotions, mind, and spirit and I wanted to commune physically with a  tree. I approached a great Pine (I think a White Pine) that...

Tikkun Olam: Trees and the Environment

"Planting a tree" for a happy occasion has become almost a Jewish stereotype, but it really is a huge mitzvah. The classic way to plant a tree in Israel is through the Jewish National Fund.  In over a century, they have planted 250 million trees and helped to...

Rainforests: Lungs of Our Planet

  The scenes in this video help me to see the rainforests as the lungs of our planet. The Rainforest Alliance is a network of people working together to preserve forests and the communities that depend on them, in 78 countries around the world. Learn how to get...

Sharing Circle: Trees

Trees in Your Life Join the virtual circle and share your  reflections. Did (or do) have have a tree that played a big role in your life? What kind of tree, where was/is it, and what is your relationship to it? How do you protect, enjoy, and celebrate trees? Please...

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