The Tree of Life
Just about every child in the United States now over the age of 30 has heard the story of Adam and Eve.
For many Americans, and scores of others across the globe, this was the beginning of life as many had been taught to believe it.
And, for every patriarchal society wallowing in male dominance, the first woman and her original sin became the bane of all who walked in her shadow.
But, whether man or woman what many may not know is that this story is shared by both Christians and Jews. The Torah, the sacred Hebrew book, predates the Biblical canon by a swath of time and contains the first five books of what would later become the Christian Old Testament.
And so, both Jewish children and Christian children were raised by the story of the Garden of Eden, as told in the book of Genesis.
Now, when we read those early chapters in Genesis, we find that Jehovah Elohim, after creating everything else, including Man, put not one but many trees in Eden. And, then we are told that he singled out not one, but two trees: a.) The Tree of Life, in the midst of the garden, and b.) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And, then Jehovah commanded Adam. He told him he could freely eat of the fruit of every tree in Eden, except that of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, lest he surely die.
Then, God created Eve.
The story continued, to paint Eve as both approachable and easily confused. The serpent tempted Eve, by challenging the words of Jehovah and putting a question in her mind. But, beguiling her, he made reference not to the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but to the tree in the midst of the garden. This was the Tree of Life.
(So, which was it? From which tree was she permitted to eat? And, whose fruit would bring certain death?)
We all remember what happened. Eve partook of the fruit of the tree to which the serpent had led her. Sharing with Adam, they knew their nakedness, were ashamed, and tried to hide from Jehovah. And, Jehovah banished them from the Garden of Eden.
But….the Tree of Life. In the midst of the Garden.
I have pondered this wonder, for most of my own life.
Perhaps the Jewish children know the secret.
Of note is that, whether male or female, the Jews as a people are equally thoughtful, equally respected. Equally forgiving. Equal.
They still worship in the midst of the Garden. They still honor the Tree of Life. Regardless of our faith or the absence thereof, let us all offer up a prayer for those who will meet at the synagogue which bears its name, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, again this Saturday. Perhaps there is one reaching out to us in spirit, from among them. Whether Jew or Greek, bond or free, let us clasp hands and sit under the Tree of Life, together.