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The Greatest Jewish Trees

Burning Bush in Sinai (Photo: wikicommons/Dale Gillard)

As the Jewish people celebrate Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, Tablet's Armin Rosen has provided a list of the 13 greatest trees in Jewish and biblical history:

1. The Tree of Life (Etz Chayim)
The Torah is a tree of life to those who cleave to it, but what about the Tree of Life? The first and greatest of the Jewish trees appears in chapter 2 of Genesis, and is mentioned just a few words before the fateful Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad is introduced. The Etz Chayim stood in the center of the Garden of Eden and was so powerful that it became a key part of God’s justification for expelling Adam and Eve from Eden: “Now that man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch out his hand and also take form the tree of life and eat, and live forever!” the Lord wonders with alarm...

2. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Bad (Etz Ha’daat Tov v’Rah)
The second and second-greatest of the Jewish trees is the mythological origin of all spiritual and existential angst. This tree essentially kick-started all of human (and therefore Jewish) history, while exposing the corrupt yet ever-inquisitive state of human nature. It also unleashed a never-ending wave of neuroses, large and small, Jewish and otherwise: As soon as Adam and Eve eat the tree’s fruit, “the eyes of both of them were opened” and they immediately realize that they’re both naked...

3. The Burning Bush
Really more of a shrub than a tree—nowhere is the bush described as an “etz” in chapter 3 of Exodus, when God chooses a notably vegetative means of summoning Moses to his destiny. But the burning bush is important enough to warrant a very high spot on any ranking of great Judaic flora. And St. Katherine’s, the fortress-like 6th century monastery at the foot of what Christians believe to be Mount Sinai, maintains a thick, mushroom-shaped desert shrub that the monks claim to be a descendant of the original burning bush, and it sorta looks like a tree. So we’ll count it...

Tags: Inspiration

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