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Grabbing on to the Tree of Life

We have spent this past month trying to understand the tremendous value of Torah, and why the Torah is so central to our lives. First, we discussed how the Torah is much more than a textbook; the Torah is actually the blueprint for the entire universe. Everything in this world was created only for the sake of enabling us to keep the mitzvos of the Torah.

Next, we explained how the Torah is not only the blueprint for the world as a whole, but it is also the blueprint for our personal lives, as well. When we experience challenges in our lives, it is because Hashem has decided that these challenges will give us the best opportunities to fulfill His mitzvos. Whether I was given difficult parents, challenging children, or a weaker intelligence, every part of my life was given to me by Hashem to enable me to keep His mitzvos in the most optimal way.

Finally, we explained discussed why the act of learning Torah is incredibly powerful. When a Jew learns Torah, he is showing Hashem how much he cares to find out exactly what Hashem wants. Every moment that a Jew learns Torah, he is involving himself in the purpose of Creation and is supporting the entire universe on his shoulders.

Thus far, we have been focusing on how our involvement in Torah affects the rest of the universe. But it is equally essential to remember that the Torah offers tremendous benefits to each of us personally, as well.

A Tree of Life

As we all know, the Torah is called a “Tree of Life,” as it says: “Eitz Chayim Hi LaMachazikim Bah, v’Somcheha Mi’ushar – The Torah is a tree of life to all those who grab onto it, and those who support it are fortunate.”1

Rav Chaim Volozhin2 explains what this means, by way of a mashal (parable):

Imagine that a person is drowning in a raging river. As his body is thrashing wildly and helplessly down the stream, he suddenly notices a tree on the side of the river, whose branches are within his reach. Certainly, this drowning man would reach out and grab onto the tree and hang on with all his might! Hanging onto the tree is his only way to be saved from certain death by drowning in the river.

The same is true with the Torah, which is called a “Tree of life.” For as long as we are living in this world, it’s as if we are at risk of drowning in a raging river. We are surrounded by corrupt ideas, horrific images on the media, and countless people and temptations which try to turn us away from Hashem. If we remain passive and do nothing, we will certainly drown in this river and experience spiritual “death,” chas veshalom.

The only way to save ourselves from this spiritual death is by grabbing onto the Torah, our Tree of Life. If we grab onto the Torah with all our might, we will be able to hang on to the Torah’s pure words and words of truth. The more we grab onto the Torah and never let go, the more we will have the strength and clarity to protect ourselves from the corruptions, impurities, and temptations of this world that are attacking us from all sides.

The only way to save ourselves from this spiritual death is by grabbing onto the Torah, our Tree of Life.

As long as a person is grabbing onto the Torah, he is alive. But as soon as he lets go, he is at risk of drowning in the emptiness, nothingness and corruptions of this world. 

This sentiment is expressed in the bracha of Ahavas Olam in Maariv, as we say: “Ki Heim Chayeinu V’Orech Yameinu U’Vahem Nehegeh Yomam VaLaylah – For they [Torah and mitzvos] are our life and length of our days, and we will involve ourselves in them [Torah and mitzvos] day and night.” The Torah is what gives us life. Just as we need air in order to live physically, we need the Torah in order to remain spiritually alive.

Just as we need air in order to live physically, we need the Torah in order to remain spiritually alive.

This is also what is meant by the bracha said after a person gets an aliyah: “Baruch Atah Hashem… Asher Nasan Lanu Toras Emes, V’Chayei Olam Nata B’Socheinu – Blessed are You, Hashem… Who gave us the Torah of Emes, and implanted within us eternal life. By giving us Torah and mitzvos, Hashem “implanted” within us “chayei olam” – the ability to earn reward in the World to Come, and true deep happiness that will last for eternity. We thank Hashem for giving us the Torah, because only through learning Torah and performing mitzvos can we attach ourselves to Hashem and experience eternal bliss.

As we end this month of Sivan, the month when the Jewish people received the Torah, let’s remember that the Torah is our Tree of Life. Only through learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvos can we be protected from drowning spiritually in this world, and instead be able to achieve eternal life and happiness in the World to Come.

Sources: [1] Mishlei 3:18; [2] Nefesh HaChaim 4:33

Your Challenge

Once a day, do something to demonstrate Kavod HaTorah (honor for Torah) or your appreciation for Torah.


  • Kiss a sefer
  • Rearrange sefarim that are disorganized
  • Make an extra effort not to disturb someone who is learning
  • Learn Torah for a little longer than you usually do
  • Give tzeddakah or otherwise support/help people who are learning Torah
  • Say something to a child to role model how much you value Torah
  • Share a Torah insight with someone else

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