A Tree of Life in CoViD times

Already more than one year and a half we are limited in our contacts and actions, “deprived of a normal life”.

For several months now we could not meet in the shul and could only walk on our own in the beautiful surroundings, which were now more crowded than before Corona. There in nature, we can see beautiful and tasty trees and remember how the Elohim created life and had planted an etz chaim (literally “tree of life”)

Gen 2:7-9 OJB And Hashem Elohim formed the adam of the aphar min haadamah, and breathed into his nostrils the nishmat chayyim; and the adam became a nefesh chayyah. (8) And Hashem Elohim planted a gan (garden) eastward in Eden; and there He put the adam whom He had formed. (9) And out of the adamah made Hashem Elohim to spring up (T.N. see verse 5) kol etz (every tree) that is pleasing to the sight, and tov for food; the Etz HaChayyim (Tree of Life) also in the midst of the gan (garden), and the Etz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah (see 3:22, i.e., representing moral autonomy; contrast Exodus 9:20-21 where the Dvar Hashem is the guide of life, even for Gentiles).

From this and other verses we can find the idea that the Dvar Hashem is for mankind also an Etz HaChayyim (Tree of Life). The tree of life as a metaphor for the Torah comes from the Mishle or Book of Proverbs, which uses the term three times, the most famous of which is the saying in Proverbs 3:18Etz chaim hee l’machazikim bah (“She is a tree of life to those who grasp her”). [This line, referring to the Torah, is commonly sung in Ashkenazi congregations as the Torah is returned to the ark after public readings.]

Pro 3:18 OJB She is an Etz Chayyim (Tree of Life) to them that lay hold upon her; and me’usher (blessed) is every one that holdeth her fast.

Etz Chaim , painted by Durga Yael Bernhard

µIn these difficult times we have a stronghold on those scrolls. every day we can take that Word of the Highest with us, in our little cocoon, where we are safe.

We do know that in this sick world the desire of the righteous is only good and that those who do not want to protect the others by wearing a mask themselves and by keeping distance belong to the wicked whose expectation can only be wrath.  they in the end shall have to come to know that there is One Who scatters, and increases yet more. Also in these times of health crisis and with all the inundations, we should remember the connection with the anchor of life. With all the flooding and mud and landslides that have taken place in the last few days, it is now a question of providing the necessary help to our brothers and sisters in the affected areas.

Now is the time to show and share the fruit of the righteous.

Pro 11:30-31 OJB The p’ri tzedek is Etz Chayyim, and he that winneth nefashot is chacham (wise). (31) If the tzaddik are recompensed on ha’aretz (the earth), much more the rashah and the choteh (sinner).

Now we can diligently seek to do good and by acting rightly seeking favour by the Hashem. We know that the eyes of the Adonai are in every place and we should let those know who are doubting God’s presence in these difficult times, that He is near. It is not Him Who is causing all those problems. They are part of what mankind did wrong with nature, causing climate change.

In difficult times it is even more important to show perverseness in keeping to the Dvar Hashem and to praise Him for all the good which is still coming over us.

Pro 15:15 OJB All the days of the oni are ra’im, but he that is of a tov lev hath a mishteh tamid (a continual feast).

Yes, even when all that disaster is around us, let us be merry in our heart. We are still alive and have our family and friends around us. The water might have ruined the furniture and even walls, but it did not destroy our soul.

Like a swirling river, the water may have flowed through the streets and houses, taking everything in its path, but it could not ease our deepest emotions, and we hold on to the hope of better times, which Hashem has provided for us.

Even when all the paper may have become just a dad or porridge, in our heart we carry the Torah and believe its seed shall have a tree growing back soon.

There is a good reason the title of the 2001 Torah translation and commentary published by the Conservative movement, through a joint venture of the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and The Jewish Publication Society. also has the name “Etz Chaim”, because the Dvar Hashem is our Etz Chaim.

Etz Chaim – Tree of life – Boom van leven

גדולה תורה שהיא נותנת חיים לעשיה בעולם הזה ובעולם הבא, שנאמר (משלי ד) כי חיים הם למצאיהם ולכל בשרו מרפא. ואומר (שם ג) רפאות תהי לשרך ושקוי לעצמותיך. ואומר (שם ג) עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה ותמכיה מאשר.

Great is Torah, for it gives life to those who do it in this world and in the next world, as it says: “For they are life to those that find them, and healing to all his flesh” (Proverbs 4:22); and it says, “It will be healing for your navel, and tonic to your bones” (Proverbs 3:8). And it says, “It is a tree of life to those who hold it, and those who grasp it are happy” (Proverbs 3:18).

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 6:7


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