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.