Climbing Up the Tree of Life

I enjoy teaching Jewish values and ritual through Torah and the Siddur to those who are younger than I am. An expression that I was taught was: “Climb Up the Tree of Life.” But, the struggle becomes, how does that happen? How do I know that I taught someone else a new piece of knowledge or skill? It was the personal experience described below and how I have grown up that opened my eyes to what it really meant and what it looked like to really “Climb Up the Tree Of Life.”

I am the one in my family that always asked if I could go to Shul. Now, usually, there are parents when asked this question that will immediately say, “no.” But, my parents embraced the question. Therefore, on Saturday mornings, my family was and continues to be in shul. But, my parents have also brought ritual into the home. From Shabbat and Yom Tov dinners to going out of their way to make sure that we are in a Sukkah at least one day of Sukkot, they showed me the importance of Judaism. As a result, it was them that started my journey on the “Tree of Life.” Because of that, I have continued to find the joy in Judaism and have started to teach those around me how they can start “Climbing Up the Tree of Life.”

About a year ago, on a Shabbat morning, I was joined in the pews by a four year old and her brother. You see, they had come early because their Zaydee was receiving a special Aliyah to the Torah for his birthday. Sitting with me, not necessarily knowing what was going on, they started to jump in their seats and make noise. Luckily, the Silent Amidah was coming up, so we, the congregation had to rise. Taking a Siddur out of the pew, I handed it to the four year old. She looked at me unsure what to do. I started davening and the next thing I knew, the four year old was trying to daven like I was. She saw that I bowed at certain points and so she tried to bow. But, what inspired me was that when I kissed the Siddur, they kissed it.

In our Jewish tradition, we come across the categories of positive and negative Mitzvot. Our Torah states in Deuteronomy chapter. Six, verse Seven: “And you shall teach them diligently to your children.” But what does this mean? Our Rabbis come to conclude that we have to teach our children first.  We open their eyes to the world of Torah. But, once that is done, it is now their responsibility to take what they learned and inspire the Jewish people around them so others may be able to learn as well.

In conclusion, I learned from that Shabbat morning that I helped that four year old begin her journey through the “Tree of Life,” just as my parents helped me many years before. But, to know that this learning really sank in, it will be that four year old’s responsibility now to go out and teach the others around her to love the words of Prayer and help them start to “Climb the Tree of Life.” May we be able to see the day when Torah is accepted by all and everyone truly has a passion to learn and teach those around them. Kein Yehi Ratzon, May this truly be God’s Will.


About the Author
Sam Arnold is a Magna Cum Laude and Presidential Scholar graduate from Western Michigan University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education with a minor in Comparative Religions. While at the University, Sam taught various grades at the Marvin and Rosalie Okun Kalamazoo Community Jewish School – a joint Religious School between the Congregation of Moses and Temple B’nai Israel. Additionally, Sam was a part of the first-ever NEWCAJE College Cohort, the second HUC Teaching Impact Fellowship, was a past Hadar Davening College Fellow, and is a Past President of the Western Michigan University Hillel. Sam currently lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
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