In the Garden of Eden, which was teeming with all the
wonderful flora of creation, God placed two special trees:  Etz Hada’at 
(the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil) and  Etz Hachaim 
(the Tree of Life). Humankind ate from the Tree of Knowledge and was expelled
from the Garden of Eden, cut off from the Tree of Life.

It is interesting then that this same term, “tree of life”
(minus the definite article), is used as a metaphor for Torah, as it says in
Proverbs 3:18, “It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it, those who
support it are happy.” Is there a connection between the Tree of Life in the
Garden of Eden and the Torah?

According to the biblical text, if humankind had eaten from
the Tree of Life, they would have gained immortality: “And the Lord God said:
‘Behold, the human has become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest
he put forth his hand, and take also from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live
Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to till
the ground from whence he was taken (Genesis 3:22-23). While involving oneself
with Torah does not gain a person actual immortality, it does earn a person
eternal life in the world to come.

The life force of Torah, however, are mitzvot, often
translated as good deeds or commandments. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (Germany
1808-1888) commented on Proverbs 3:18: “For the righteous person, everything he
does is a tree of life. Out of his every deed grows something beneficial and
lifegiving to his surroundings.”

Tradition says that one mitzvah begets another (Ethics of
the Fathers 4:2). Following the mitzvot of the Torah brings continual reward to
its followers, just like a fruit tree that constantly replants itself through
its seeds and thus continues to provide fresh air and nourishment to the world.

This Treat was last posted on February 4, 2015.

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