by Arlene Berg  

ETZ  CHAIM – pronounce “Etz” with a long “a.”  “Chaim” is pronounced with the Hebrew guttural “ch.”  It is pronounced as two syllables, the first containing a long “i” and the second containing a long “e.”  CHAI-yeem;  In Israel, the accent is on the second syllable – chai-YEEM.


When we think of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees, we are reminded so much about the tree and what the Scriptures and Judaism have to say about this important subject. 

Jewish tradition has much to say about the tree.  The Etz Chaim is a symbol for both God and the Torah, or Law.  The Midrash, one of the foremost Jewish commentaries, states that the first thing the Almighty became involved in, during the creation of the earth, was the planting of trees.  “Tree of Life” is sometimes used as the name for a Jewish place of worship.  So, the etz is very important in Jewish thought.

The etz is very important to God!  The Tenach, or Hebrew Scriptures, say the following about the tree.

“When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man’s life) to employ them in the siege. Only the trees which thou knowest that they are not trees for food, thou shalt destroy and cut them down…”  – Devarim (Deuteronomy) 20:19, 20.

“And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you; it shall not be eaten.”  – Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:23.

“And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD.”  – Vayikra 27:30.

But, the Tenach also speaks about that all important tree – the etz chaim, tree of life!  God placed etz chaim in Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden.

“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  Bereshit (Genesis) 2:9.

Adam and Eve, Adom and Chava, sinned by disobeying God and eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Because of this disobedience, God drove them from Gan Eden. 

Bereshit 3:24 states that God “placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way of the tree of life.”  Because God is holy and cannot tolerate sin in His presence, he could not have Adom and Chava eat from the etz chaim and live in His presence eternally with sin.  “…and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”  –  Bereshit 3:22b.

But, God has provided an Etz Chaim for us!  Because of His great mercy and love for us, He has made a way for us to have our sins forgiven and to live with Him eternally.

“Christ (“Messiah” in Greek) hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” – Galatians 3:13,  HaBrit HaChadasha (New Covenant).

“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree, His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him that day (for he who is hanged is accursed by God)…”  –  Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21:22, 23.

“Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.”  – I Peter 2:24,  HaBrit HaChadasha.

How we long for Jewish people to come to Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah, and “have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”  (heaven – Revelation 22:14, HaBrit HaChadasha).

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