February 12, 2011 | 3:37 am
Posted by Lia Mandelbaum
The last gathering that we had at our home was a JQ Shabbat dinner, which we held to celebrate Tu Bishvat. This special holiday is traditionally known as the birthday for the trees, and is a time where people take a moment to connect and relate to the natural world. At one point during the evening we all gathered to recite the Sabbath prayers and listen to Yael Green give a drosh about the significance of Tu Bishvat. She spoke about Etz Chayim, the Tree of Life, and how it can be used as a beautiful metaphor for life. As Jews, we are rooted to the earth through studying Torah, by learning the stories of our ancestors, and by applying the wisdom we gain to our everyday lives. The wooden rods which hold together the scrolls of the Torah are called atzei chayim – the “trees of life.” In the same way you can determine a tree’s age by looking at the number of rings within its trunk, by looking at the amount of scroll on each rod of the Torah, you can decipher where we are in our people’s history. It was a beautiful and meaningful evening for me personally because of my deep love and appreciation for nature. At the end of the evening, everyone had the option to take home a tiny tree to plant.
For many years prior to coming to California, I was very ungrounded and had no direction in my life. I didn’t know who I was, and I was out of touch with the world around me. Over the last four years I’ve embarked on a spiritual journey and planted my own tree of life in Los Angeles and worked tremendously hard to allow it to grow. I now feel my roots growing within the earth, nourished by Judaism, community, family, education, nature and the arts. The tree within myself that I have nurtured has begun to bear fruit. I find so much richness in sharing my journey with others that I have decided to go back to school to become a psychotherapist, and use the wisdom I have gained from my own struggles to help someone who has also lost their way.
The metaphor of the Tree of Life teaches us that there is a sacred relationship that is formed within the soil of the earth, where our essence is rooted with G-d. When everything is aligned between Adonai and us, and we acknowledge that His world is in perfect order, we can truly embrace the blessings we are offered and open up to the world in ways we could never have imagined.
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