Sunday, September 03, 2006

Not Just Any Tree

"The righteous person will flourish like the date-palm; he will grow like a cedar in Lebanon,
Planted in the house of Hashem, in the courts of our God they flourish." (Tehilim 92:13-14)

The basic meaning of these lines is obvious. The righteous person will not only survive, but will become as strong, resilient, and respected as the impressive palm and cedar trees. But what does the second verse add? We know that righteous people will succeed, because they are close to God and do what God wants. Why the repeated, specific mention of the Temple?

There is one other context in which Tanach mentions trees planted in the Temple. This is the Asherah - the idolatrous tree which was planted at holy sites and perhaps served as an object of worship alongside an idol. (The Torah, of course, condemns the practice.) The double mention of the Temple, in connection with the trees, strongly indicates that the righteous person is being compared to an Asherah.

This quite daring metaphor sheds light on how Judaism differs from other religions. The righteous person, standing in place of the Asherah, symbolizes what is important to Judaism. The Jewish people is a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation". Each person, going about his or her daily routine, has the opportunity to sanctify his surroundings and personal relationships. Such a person thus merits the closeness to God that other religions associate with idols, with mystical experiences, and with sites of revelation.

1 comment:

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

wow. detourn the Asheira. pretty cool, yishar koahh!