Let's start out by saying there were two trees in the Garden of Eden, The Book of Genesis.
The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
It was Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of knowledge and as a result they now knew of death, pain of childbirth and how to become human.
What we do not hear much about is the tree of life.
In Judaism, this tree of life is often referred to as the Torah. The life, the blood, the rules, the way we are to construct and lead our lives. The foundation for Judeo-Christian religions.
Often at the conclusion of a prayer service, you can hear the words from Proverbs 3:18 “She is a tree of life to them that hold fast, and all who hold onto her are happy."
It is the symbol of Torah, as a tree of infinite knowledge, producing the fruits of new teachings and students over the generations.
It also gives us life-giving qualities. For example, spiritual wisdom. When we study Torah we not only absorb knowledge; we begin to appreciate it as well. We admire the Torah’s wisdom; through it life makes sense and all things physical and spiritual function in harmony.
And we also know that we are human, and the "fear" of death looms over us.
We know we must make something of ourselves, and we have limited time to do so. A time to do good.
That is the tree of life.
It is a actually a beautiful image when you stop to look at a tree from the roots all the way up to the top of the leaves. Not only does it provide life from the oxygen it releases, but one can survive off of the fruit and nutrients of a tree.
A tree also is a symbol of family. Of community.
With the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, its namesake drew many to want to wear the tree as a symbol.
You see, it is about setting up roots in a place-- spiritually or physically-- and watching it bloom.
The community of Pittsburgh, with the Temple at its core, the roots, the community its trunk, and the lives it touched were the branches.
Just like a family-- the parents (or previous generations) are the roots, the children the trunk and the grandchildren the flowers-leaves-fruit.
The tree is the continuity through all generations, the connections to our parents and grandparents and to our children and our children’s children.
Just like one's core religion, we all must weather the storm. We question our beliefs, rebel, embrace it, leave and hopefully, come back. Just like during a storm, a tree's branches may break and grow back in different directions. The soil may erode, but it can always be fertilized and repaired.
All in all, our roots continue to grow stronger and hold on.
We weather the storm.
We grow-- as individuals, as a community and as people. A rebirth.
A Tree of Life.
If you'd like to wear a piece of jewelry with a tree of life on it, Alef Bet Jewelry can recommend a few pieces. They were used in the donation that the company made to give back to the community of Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh.