Sabbath Meditation, Tree of Life

Etz chaim hee, l’makhazikim ba v’tomekheyha m’ooshar, derakheyha darkhei no’am v’khol n’tivoteyha shalom. Hashivenu Adonai, eleykha v’nashuvah, khadesh (khadesh) y’ameinu (khadesh y’ameinu) k’kedem.

It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it and all its supporters are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Bring us back to you, HaShem, and we shall return. Renew our days as days of old.

The recitation of the Eyz Chaim (aytz KHA-yeem) is one of my favorite parts of the service. The symbol of an Etz Chaim, a Tree of Life, is my favorite symbol.

The Star of David is a late addition to Jewish history, not really firmly associated with Judaism until the 19th century. The cross is a symbol that stands for an instrument of execution, so I cannot relate or wear one. The Christian fish is meaningful. But before them all and greater than them all is the Etz Chaim.

The Etz Chaim is in the beginning, middle, and end of the Bible. I want to focus on four places we see it and see God’s purpose and plan.

1. The Tree of Life was in the Garden. Adam and Eve could have had everlasting life if they had remained in the Garden where they could eat from that tree. It was lost and something needs to bring it back for us.

2. The Tree of Life is the Torah and the scriptures. Proverbs 3:18 says, “It is a tree of life to those who lay hold of it; those who hold it fast are called blessed.” The “it” is wisdom, which can be equated with God’s revelation of himself to us. That is how we equate it in the Torah service, as we put away the scroll singing the Etz Chaim. The scriptures are the first key to bringing us back to the Tree of Life in the Garden.

3. Then there is another tree that caused death and in doing so brought life. I love the verse that says: Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the Torah by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:15). When the first Tree of Life was lost, God sent a second one. The cross is the realization of the scriptures and like the scriptures, it is a Tree of Life.

4. The Tree of Life also appears at the end of the Bible: “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14).

We lost the Tree of Life. God gave it back first in the Torah and all the scriptures and then in the cross of Messiah. At the end of this Age, we can be back to the Tree of Life. We can eat from it and live forever with that same God who walked with Adam in the Garden.

“It is a tree of life for those who take hold of it and all its supporters are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Bring us back to you, HaShem, and we shall return. Renew our days as days of old.”

Amen. Let’s take hold.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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10 Responses to Sabbath Meditation, Tree of Life

  1. Travis Jacobsen says:

    Derek, I would like to understand something more fully. In the beginning of this blog you say that “The cross is a symbol that stands for an instrument of execution, so I cannot relate or wear one.” Later on it seems that you do relate with the cross because it was the instrument by which Yeshua was crucified, thus paving the way for us to have life. I’m sure that I have misunderstood your latter statement under #3. Please explain more fully. Thanks and Shabbat Shalom.

  2. Travis:

    I relate to the event of the cross as a historical reality — he died as a sacrifice for me. I do not relate to the cross as a symbol. I do not think we should wear one. In the first place, it has become an idol for many people (others consider it secular, in an ironic twist). In the second place, it is not a Roman cross that has meaning for me but the event that happened on one particular cross. Do you see my point?

    Wearing a cross is a bit like wearing a hangman’s noose or an electric chair. These are symbols of death and oppression. I feel certain Yeshua would not wear one.

    Sometimes we tend to misplace our religious affections. A symbol of the cross is one example. Feel free to disagree or to offer a rebuttal.

    Derek

  3. Travis Jacobsen says:

    Thanks for clearing that up Derek, and there’s no disagreement… my thoughts are the same on this subject. I have found that many people use a physical cross to bring an emotional response that can make them ‘feel’ closer to G-d or even worse, as a good luck charm. See you and the rest of the congregation in a couple weeks.

  4. Bryan Riley says:

    Beautiful post. I really appreciate learning the imagery.

  5. Jonathan says:

    I know I’m late to this, but…

    It’s amazing how things change in Christendom. The pectoral cross was originally worm as an opportunity to engender discussion and to explain the gospel. There were other symbols on the cross that help paint the picture. Once “Constatinian Christinity” took place, the reason for wearing the cross morphed into a religious affection.

  6. Jonathan says:

    Sorry –

    “worm” should be “worn”

  7. Robert Efurd says:

    The Tree of Life is such a wonderful thought.

    I personally wear around my neck a Star of David with the Hebrew letter Shin in the middle of it. The Star of David reminds me of G-d’s people. The shape of the Shin looks like a flame so it looks like the burning bush and the verse in Jeremiah 23. 28-29 … Is not my Word like fire? Also, the Shin stands for the word Shaddai, a name for G-d. Because of this, a rabbi forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing.

    Most of all,it reminds me of Yeshua’s hand as a blessing on my heart.

  8. Paige says:

    I am even later on this subject:

    I agree with your comment about
    “Wearing a cross is a bit like wearing a hangman’s noose or an electric chair. These are symbols of death and oppression. I feel certain Yeshua would not wear one.”

    I am not Jewish, but I go to a Calvary Chapel church (non denominational) and during our Easter service, our Pastor said the same thing. He said the mention of “crucifixion” in those days would make people shudder and was not something that was talked about in everyday life, yet today people wear crosses around their necks…decorated with gold and diamonds.

    I have seen people at church wearing shirts or jewelry with a symbol that had a menorah, Star of David and an icthyus all joined together…I have not seen that before and wondered if you might know what that means?

  9. Robert Efurd says:

    It is called the Messianic Seal of the Jerusulam Church. The symbol was found on early artifacts of the 2nd century and a mikvah near the tomb of David. There is a book of the same name written by Reuven Efraim Schmalz and Raymond Robert Fisher

  10. Anne Dirks "Tree of Life" more precious than things of this world. says:

    I grew up as a Catholic and was not satisfied within my soul and spirit, there was something missing, I believed it was lack of His Word so I cried out to Abba my Father and He heard my cry and answered me. Romans 8:32 says, You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. So, after all the soul searching, I was led to a Christian church and studied the Holy Word of Yahweh for 3 years. Three months ago I was led to a Messianic Congregation after searching for Him. I now feel that I am so much closer to knowing Him and knowing the Truth! I find that the Jewish faith and heritage of YeshuaI is so rich and fulfilling to me and I pray and hope that we all return both Jews and Gentiles to the oneness in our faith in Yahweh through His Only Begotten Son Yeshua. In response to wearing a cross I myself have worn a cross for many years until I was made aware of the history of it. In Christianity I guess people wear it because they said there is power in the cross and it is use for protection. I don’t wear one anymore after I learned that the Jews were tortured with the cross. I know its power and the purpose and I thank Yeshua for His love through the power of the cross that He atoned for the sins of the world. I am ever so grateful to Him for His mercy and grace. I am on my way on the narrow road for broad is the road to destruction. The tree of life; wisdom is more precious than silver and gold or money in this passing world. This is for a moment but eternal life awaits for those who put their trust in Him. I was blind but now I see! Praise be unto Adonai for His love and Light!
    Blessings in Yeshua’s Most Holy Name!
    Anne Dirks

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