Tree of Life

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Etz Chaim (עץ חיים), Hebrew for tree of life, is a common term used in Judaism. The expression, found in the Book of Proverbs, is figuratively applied to the Torah itself. Etz Chaim is also a common name for yeshivas and synagogues as well as for works of Rabbinic literature. It is also used to describe each of the wooden poles to which the parchment of a Sefer Torah is attached. Jewish mysticism depicts the tree of Life in the form of ten interconnected nodes, as an important part of the Kabbalah. As such, it resembles the ten sephirot.

The Sephirot (ספירה) (also spelled – sephiroth, singular – sefirah) are the ten emanations and attributes of God with which he continually sustains the universe in existence. The Zohar (ספר הזוהר) and other formative texts elaborate on their emergence from concealment and potential in the infinite unity of the Ein Sof (אין סוף). Cordovero systemises them as one light poured into ten created vessels. Comparison of his counting with Luria’s, describes dual rational and unconscious aspects of kabbalah. Two metaphors are used to describe the sephirot, their theocentric manifestation as the Trees of Life and Knowledge, and their anthropocentric correspondence in man, exemplified as Adam Kadmon. This dual-directional perpective embodies the cyclical, inclusive nature of the divine flow, where alternative divine and human perspectives have validity. The central metaphor of man allows human understanding of the sephirot, as they correspond to the psychological faculties of the soul, and incorporate masculine and feminine aspects after Genesis 1:27:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.

Corresponding to the last sefirah in Creation is the indwelling shekhinah (שכינה) (Feminine Divine Presence). Downward flow of divine Light in Creation forms the supernal Four Worlds:

  1. Atziluth (עולם אצילות)
  2. Beri’ah (עולם בריאה)
  3. Yetzirah (עולם יצירה)
  4. Assiah (עולם עשיה)

…manifesting the dominance of successive sephirot towards action in this world. The acts of man unite or divide the Heavenly masculine and feminine aspects of the sephirot, their anthropomorphic harmony completing Creation. As the spiritual foundation of Creation, the sephirot correspond to the names of God in Judaism and the particular nature of any entity.

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