The Tree of Life is one of the most striking symbols from the Hebrew Bible and Jewish tradition – and we’re exploring its special meaning as well as how to bring its inspiring imagery into your home and everyday life!
This Biblical motif is a beautiful symbol of life and creation, and has inspired many Jewish artists who feature it in their work. From its Torah meaning to Kabbalah to how it’s used in Judaism today, below is everything you’ve wanted to know about the famous Tree of Life.
Called Etz Chaim in Hebrew, the Tree of Life is described in Genesis as growing near the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge, gaining the knowledge of Good and Evil; God subsequently fears that they will also eat from the Tree of Life and gain immortality, and so Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden, where the Tree remains and is guarded by angels and a fiery sword.
The image of the Tree of Life comes back later in Tanach as well; it's mentioned in the Book of Proverbs, where it is associated with wisdom and calmness.
It appears in Kabbalah as well, as a mystical symbol made up of lines and circles that represents the ten attributes (sefirot) through which God reveals Himself to the world and continues to constantly create it. The ten sefirot are: Keter (Divine intellect), Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding), Chessed (kindness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (beauty), Netzach (eternity), Hod (splendour), Yesod (foundation), and Machut (kingship). Each one is written on a disk and arranged in a tree-like formation and connected by "branches", resembling a tree and referred to as the Tree of Life.
Whether you connect more to Kabbalah or to the original Biblical texts, the Tree of Life symbol can be a poignant and meaningful way of anchoring your faith, connecting to the Bible, and getting in touch with Jewish tradition!
Tree of Life Symbolism in Jewish Life Today
More than just a symbol in our sacred texts, the Tree of Life lives on in modern Judaism and Jewish practice as well.
For instance, today, the Biblical Tree of Life is also connected to and used to represent the Torah. When bringing out the Torah scroll in synagogue, many have the tradition to sing a song about the Tree of Life which includes the line "Etz Chaim hi lamachazikim bah, v'tom'cheha m'ushar" which means, "it is a Tree of Life for those who hold fast to it, and those who uphold it are happy."
It is a way to show one's faith or even express their Jewish identity. Whether it be in the shape of an actual tree or resembling the mystic Kabbalah Tree of Life, these are precious pieces made with love and care, as the Tree of Life deserves to be represented in the best way possible. The Tree of Life is nothing ordinary and every home deserves to have something inspired by this powerful symbol!