“It is a tree of life to them that hold fast to it and all its supporters are happy.
“Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace.” (Torah Prayer)
The other day, I was thinking about Sukkot and this song and how much the Torah is likened to a tree.
Why a tree? Maybe because on a primal level trees bear fruit, which makes them nutritious like the Torah which gives us spiritual nutrition.
But I think there are deeper reasons why.
The parts of a tree start with the roots. We as a people are so proud of our history. Where we started, where we have gone. Like a tree, we take in the nutrients through our roots to give us life. How much ‘life’ to we have because of what our ancestors did in the Land of Israel, Europe, Asia and here in the US. The Jewish people have grown and been strong because of our past. But it is as important to build a good present as a good past. We Jews have a strong Bark, no pun intended. When someone tries to cut us down, they find that we stay strong because we know that our community is protecting the present as it creates the future.
Of course the future of our People’s living Tree are the branches.
And the more branches, the more beautiful the shade, the more beautiful the shade, the more beautiful the fruit. The more beautiful the fruit (discussion) the more beautiful the tree.
That is why the Jewish people have always advocated unlimited discussion. The Talmud, the great books of Jewish law gave both the majority opinion and the minority opinion. The honesty of those Scholars coming at a time when Europe was going through the dark ages always makes me smile. Judaism even in its worst times did not seek to keep our people illiterate and ignorant.
The leaders sought ideas to do Judaism. The fruit of their learning was the building of a people full of creativity. Mixing Sephard and Askenaz was like a fruit tree makes a nectarine from a peach and an apricot.
But how do we take the Biblical roots, the Talmudic trunk and the modern branches of Judaism and make our lives showing reverence for the past and the present as we look to build the future for our children. The seeds we have planted will someday grow. But how will they grow? Wil they be nourished as we were or will other forces stunt their growth?
The writers of the Tanak and the Talmud saw trees as representing us and how we should act towards one another. When you feed someone spiritually you help them grow and hopefully the fruit that comes from their thankfulness is sweet and gives you nutrition back.
We must always remember that people protect us. Like a tree, another person gives you shade from the harshness of the elements.
Now the beauty of people is not in the sameness but in the differences. Like a tree, the more people travel in their own ways the better society comes.
It is not by accident that we are to put natural branches called “schock” on the roofs of our sukkot. People will tell you that is so we can see the sun when it is time to go and harvest or the moon to find our way in the darkness.
The roof of branches is really there so that we look up to the natural vegetation and know how important to our lives is being honest, truthful and natural.
The word tree appears in the TaNaK 145 times. In Hebrew that corresponds to the Hebrew word, KAMAH, ‘she grew.
Let us grow like the trees with strong roots, a robust trunk and many beautiful branches. For then the Future of Judaism will continue to bear fruit for all of people kind.