On Tu B’shvat we should plant trees physically, and also symbolically by contemplating the universal Tree of Life. By Tree of Life most religions do not mean a very old still living tree; but a mythic, symbolic tree that connects two or three seemingly very different realms.
A physical tree is rooted down into the earth, with its leaves, fruits and flowers reaching up to the sun; and its trunk and branches serving as the link connecting the energy collecting leaves above to the nutrition providing roots below.
In the same way an idealized Tree of Life is symbolically the simplest, most basic connection between heaven (Divine energy) and earth (human souls).
Everyone has heard of the Tree of Life that was in the Garden of Eden. Very few people are aware that this Tree of Life is also referred to four more times in the Hebrew Bible, all of them in the Book of Proverbs.
By examining these four references we can learn very important things about the Tree of Life that stood next to the (Morality) Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.
Proverbs 15:4 teaches us that just by speaking words of kindness and comfort we are able to strengthen, revive and heal a human’s spirit; while speaking nasty words of anger, hate and meanness are able to crush people’s spirits, “A soothing tongue is a Tree of Life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
Today, we are so concerned with freedom of speech that we have lost awareness of our responsibility to always use our tongues kindly as a Torah (Divine teaching) of kindness (Proverbs 31:26). Politicians and religious leaders especially need to follow this teaching.
Proverbs 13:12 teaches us the importance of our seeking to realize our longings for love and peace, because negativity, cynicism and despair destroy our spirits. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a Tree of Life” that makes us productive and generous.
Proverbs 11:30 teaches us that doing good deeds for others and for God is the way to save our lives from a perverse and negative tongue filled with criticism of others and ourselves. “The fruit of the righteous is a Tree of Life, and one who is wise saves lives.”
Finally, Proverbs 3:18 tells us that by making a strong commitment to following God’s teachings we will live a life of goodness and love. “She (wisdom) is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her tight will be happy.”
The rabbis took the feminine words wisdom and Torah (Jewish teachings) as interchangeable. To understand the nature of her Torah wisdom, we have to read the preceding verses:
1 My child, do not forget my Torah, keep my Mitsvot (commandments) in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity…
17 Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a Tree of Life to those who take hold of her; all who hold her tight will be happy.
Just as the biological Tree of Life shows us how all the millions of species on earth are related and interrelated; Torah teaches us (Genesis 3:20) that Eve is to be the spiritual mother of all living (humans) who are thus not strangers but family.
Thus, the Tree of Life is both grammatically and biologically associated with the feminine, and she is best portrayed as a tree with a female form.
Jewish mystics (Kabbalists) added to the biological and maternal symbolism the personal aspect of marital sexuality, teaching that the Shekeenah- the feminine presence of God- rests upon a man who makes love to his wife on Shabbat.
Actually the Shekeenah can rest on a man whenever he makes love to his wife with a sense of reverence, tenderness, adoration and love. The Shabbat adds holiness to their feelings.
The key personal attitude is the sense that his wife is God’s gift, the source of his blessings, and the most wonderful manifestation of God’s presence.
If, in addition to this attitude, he also makes love to his wife with the intention of unifying the heavenly realm as he unifies the earthly one, he and his wife enact a great Tikun- a spiritual mending, healing or uplifting.
This Tikun can be woven together with other similar Tikunim from other married couples into a crown for the Divine One who also unites with His Shekeenah on Shabbat and Yom Tov.
Just as the prayers proclaimed in each Synagogue are woven into a crown for the Holy One of Israel, so too are the holy unifications of each couple married under the huppah woven into a crown.