Kabbalah Lesson 3: Tree of Life

Tree of LifeTree of life is an important notion within the Kabbalah of Judaism. Although, it was later adopted by some Christians, Hermeticists, and even some pagans. It has been called the “cosmology” of the Kabbalah by some.

The mystical “tree of life” of Kabbalah is a deeper way of understanding the nature of God. Some believe the tree of life of Kabbalah is the same as the Tree of Life in the first book of the Tanakh: the Book of Genesis. Which is an important topic in and of itself in Judaism. The “tree of life” has been elaborated on by Kabbalists and developed into a full model of reality, or perhaps more accurately, a “map” of creation.

This map is described as having ten Sephirot and twenty two “paths”. Each one of these sephirot and paths is given special attributes which reflect its particular quality. Commonly a constellation, planet, name of God and/or an element; Although other attributes such as psychological states, various verbs, and even foods are also attributed (especialy among more modern kabbalists).

These ten sephirot are described as Keter, Chockmah, Binah, Chesed, Gevurah, Tiphereth, Hod, Netzach, Yesod, Malkuth. Although, due to different romanizations and the lack of literature describing all the names of each sephiroth conclusively results in different spellings. For example, a different romanization of Chockmah is Hokhmah. An example of a change in the name of a sepiroth due to a different interpretation of text can be seen with Tiphereth which is sometimes refurred to as Rahamim.

The 22 paths equate to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Like the sephiroth, these are also given various attributes and qualities.

The earliest texts which describe the tree of life are the Bahir, Sefer Yetzirah, Sefer Raziel, and probably the most influential Zohar.

The tree of life describes in symbolic form how the creative force of God, according to the Kabbalah, emanated into the universe. Part of it are ten Sephiroth (singular: Sephirah, or “emanation”) ordered from highest to lowest. The lowermost is physical reality, and the highermost is the one closest to the original, unknowable source.

Many variants of the tree of life arrangement of the Sephirot have been described.

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2 Responses

  1. The way I understand the tree of life as mentioned in the book of Genesis is this:

    The Bible says that in the garden of Eden, “Jehovah (Gods’ name) God made to grow out of the ground . . . the tree of life.” The reason given for putting Adam out of the garden was so that he could “not put his hand out and actually take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live”—yes, forever! After expelling Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, Jehovah posted “the cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword that was turning itself continually to guard the way to the tree of life.”—Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24.

    If Adam and Eve had been permitted to eat of that tree of life, what would that have meant for them? Why, the privilege of living forever in Paradise! One Bible scholar speculated: “The tree of life must have had some virtue by which the human frame was to be kept free from the decrepitude of age, or the decay that terminates in death.” He even claimed that “there was an herbal virtue in paradise capable of counteracting the effects” of aging. However, the Bible does not say that the tree of life in itself had life-giving qualities. Rather, that tree simply represented God’s guarantee of everlasting life to the one who would be allowed to eat its fruit.—Revelation 2:7.

    When Adam sinned, he lost the right to everlasting life for himself and for all of his yet unborn offspring. (Genesis 2:17) When he became a sinner because of his disobedience, he became defective, imperfect. From that time on, Adam’s body became, in effect, programmed for death. As the Bible says, “the wages sin pays is death.” (Romans 6:23) Moreover, the imperfect offspring of Adam also became programmed for death, not for everlasting life. The Bible explains: “Through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.

    But what if Adam had not sinned? What if he had not disobeyed God and he had been granted to eat of the tree of life? Where would he have enjoyed God’s gift of everlasting life? In heaven? No! God said nothing about Adam’s being taken to heaven. His work assignment was here on earth. The Bible explains that “Jehovah God made to grow out of the ground every tree desirable to one’s sight and good for food,” and it says: “Jehovah God proceeded to take the man and settle him in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to take care of it.” (Genesis 2:9, 15) After Eve was created as a mate for Adam, the two were given additional work assignments here on earth. God told them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.”—Genesis 1:28.

    Think of the marvelous earthly prospects those instructions from God opened for Adam and Eve! They were to rear perfectly healthy sons and daughters in the earthly Paradise. As their beloved children grew older, these would share with them in being fruitful and in doing pleasant garden work to maintain that Paradise. With all the animals in subjection to them, humankind would be very contented. Think of the joy of extending the boundaries of the garden of Eden so that eventually the entire earth would be a paradise! Would you enjoy life with perfect children in such a beautiful earthly home, without any concerns about growing old and dying? Let the natural impulses of your heart answer that question.

    Well, then, when Adam and Eve disobeyed and were put out of the garden of Eden, did God change his purpose for humans to live forever in Paradise on earth? Not at all! For God to have done that would have been to admit defeat as to his ability to carry out his original purpose. We can be sure that God does what he promises, as he himself proclaims: “So my word that goes forth from my mouth will prove to be. It will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.”—Isaiah 55:11.

    That the purpose of God for the earth has not changed is made clear in the Bible, where God promises: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” Even Jesus Christ said in his Sermon on the Mount that the mild-tempered ones would inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:29; Matthew 5:5) Yet, how can we obtain everlasting life, and what must we do to enjoy such life?

    Gods’ word is much simpler without human philosophy trying to complicate things. What do you think Madonna?

  2. Aside from the tree of life in Eden (Ge 2:9), already discussed herein, the expression “tree[s] of life” occurs several other times in the Scriptures, always in a figurative, or symbolic, sense. Wisdom is called “a tree of life to those taking hold of it,” in that it will supply them with that which they need, not only to enjoy their present life but also to receive eternal life, namely, knowledge of God and the insight and good sense to obey his commands.—Pr 3:18; 16:22.

    “The fruitage of the righteous one is a tree of life, and he that is winning souls is wise,” says another proverb. (Pr 11:30) The righteous person, by speech and example, wins souls, that is, by listening to him, persons get spiritual nourishment, are led to serve God, and receive the life that God makes possible. Similarly, “the calmness of the tongue is a tree of life, but distortion in it means a breaking down in the spirit.” (Pr 15:4) The calm speech of the wise person helps and refreshes the spirit of those hearing him, nourishing good qualities in them, helping them along the way of life, but distortion in the tongue is like bad fruit; it brings trouble and discouragement, damaging those hearing it.

    Proverbs 13:12 reads: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come.” The fulfillment of a long-awaited desire is strengthening and refreshing, giving renewed vigor.

    There is the mention of “trees of life” in a different context, at Revelation 22:1, 2. Here the nations are shown as partaking of the leaves of the trees for healing purposes. They are alongside the river flowing out from the temple-palace of God, in which is his throne. The picture appears after the scene of the establishing of the new heaven and the new earth and the statement that “the tent of God is with mankind.” (Re 21:1-3, 22, 24) Symbolically, then, these would be curative, life-sustaining provisions for humankind, for their eventual everlasting life. The source of such provisions is the royal throne of God and of the Lamb Jesus Christ.

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