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What type of tree was the Eitz haChaim (Tree of Life) spoken about in Bereishis 2:9?

יַּצְמַ֞ח יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהִים֙ מִן־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה כָּל־עֵ֛ץ נֶחְמָ֥ד לְמַרְאֶ֖ה וְט֣וֹב לְמַאֲכָ֑ל וְעֵ֤ץ הַֽחַיִּים֙ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַגָּ֔ן וְעֵ֕ץ הַדַּ֖עַת ט֥וֹב וָרָֽע׃

And from the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

It was a tree that Adam and Chava would have been able to eat from (if they had remained in Gan Eden), so that suggests a fruit tree of some kind. Chazal discuss what kind of tree the Eitz HaDaat was; do they also discuss this one? What do they say about it?

  • The Eitz HaDaas has already been eaten so it wouldn't be a problem if it's available now. On the other hand there's strong reason to suspect no currently known tree is the Eitz haChaim. So just because Chazal discuss the Eitz HaDaas doesn't mean they'd discuss the Eitz haChaim about which it would be much harder to say anything. – Double AA Nov 16 '17 at 13:41
  • jewishlinknj.com/features/… – rosends Nov 16 '17 at 13:42
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    @rosends That article is about the eitz hadaas, I am asking about the eitz hachaim. – Gavriel Nov 16 '17 at 13:44
  • In a discussion that I had with a friend many years ago, I proposed that the "Etz Hachaim" was a metaphor for the Torah. (See the verse in Mishlei or in your favorite siddur - your choice.) Of course, the problem with this definition is that it would seem that the Torah would forbid itself. – DanF Nov 16 '17 at 15:35
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    According to Midrash B'reishit Rabbati (B'reshit pg. 23) it was a very large tree: ועץ החיים בתוך הגן, ונופו מכסה על כל עדן ויש בו ח' מאות מיני טעמים. מדת עץ החיים כנגד כל הישוב שנאמר [ו]עץ החיים, עץ שהוא על פני כל החיים – mevaqesh Nov 16 '17 at 15:54
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In general, this is dealing with the subject of the Garden (גן) which G-d planted in the preceding posuk. Like the expression of the Sages, G-d looked into the Torah and created the universe. In keeping with that structure, there are 53 parshiyot to the Torah (ג״ן פרשיות לתורה) like is found in chapter 3 of Likut Amarim v'Pitgamei Kodesh.

Looking at the posuk you cite, there are several ideas that need to be noted.

First is that G-d caused the whole of the tree (כל-עץ) to sprout from the earth (האדמה). The expression of כל has a connotation of the whole or a wholistic perspective. It also has meaning of enclosed or enwrapped. That implies an external quality as is noted from the continuing comment pleasant in appearance. Appearance is the external aspect which is communicated to others.

The word the earth (האדמה) alludes to both the first human, Adam HaRishon (אדם הראשון) and more specifically, because it is a feminine word form, has an allusion to the feminine aspect, the woman who was formed from Adam.

Isaiah 14:14 explains that the name Adam (אדם), has an indication of similar to Heaven (אדומה לעליון). That by observing ourselves (the Microcosmos) carefully, we can understand the system with which G-d established the universe (the Macrocosmos), like is found in Job 19:26.

ואחר עורי נקפו זאת ומבשרי אחזה אלוה

All of the above preface follows what is found in Be'er Mayim Chayim to Bereshit 1:26:24.

בצלמנו כדמותנו. צריך להבין למה בבריאתו לא נאמר כי אם בצלם אלהים עשה אותו ולא נאמר בצלם ודמות אלהים. גם צריך לדעת מהו הצלם ומהו הדמות. ויתכן לומר כי הנה עיקר בריאת האדם היה בכדי לְהִדָמוֹת עצמו לבוראו ככל אשר יוכל, וכמאמרם בשוחר טוב (מזמור א') חזקיהו ברבי חייא אמר אשריהם הצדיקים שמדמין את הצורה ליוצרה ואת הנטיעה לנוטעה כו' עד כאן. ואמרו (בבראשית רבה ע"ט, ח') בפסוק (בראשית ל"ג, כ') ויקרא לו אל אלהי ישראל, אתה אלוה בעליונים ואני אלוה בתחתונים. ולהבינך ענין זה שיקרא אדם אלהים, הוא כי איתא בזוה"ק כמה פעמים (חלק ג', ע"ג.) אורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא וישראל חד הוא, והענין הוא כי רמ"ח אברי האדם ושס"ה גידיו הן הן מכוונין לעולם הגדול הנקרא בפי החכמים שיעור קומה של יוצר בראשית כמאמר הכתוב (איוב י"ט, כ"ו) ומבשרי אחזה אלוה. כי על כן נקרא אדם מבחינת אדמה לעליון (ישעיה י"ד, י"ד) כמו שכתב בשל"ה הקדוש והוא הציור של כל העולמות שלמעלה ושלמטה בסוד נשמתו וגופו, ונברא ליחד ולקשר כל אבר ואבר מרמ"ח אבריו וכל שס"ה גידיו אל רמ"ח איברים ושס"ה גידים העליונים הרמוזים בשיעור קומה הנזכר, ויזכה להיות מרכבה אליהם ואז כאשר יהיה מקושר ומדובק ברמ"ח אברים ושס"ה גידים העליונים אשר הוא מכוון נגדם אז תוכל שיעור קומה עליונה להוריק ולהשפיע אליו כל טוב וברכה כאשר יוכל שאת וזה עיקר כיוון הבריאה להיטיב לברואיו.

With that in mind, the conclusion of the posuk can be considered. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, in contrast to the wholistic aspect of Tree, correspond to the inner aspect of the Garden (בתוך הגן). They are the inner, driving meaning behind the external aspects of appearance.

Looking at the idea of Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge as it pertains to the human being can help to understand the type of tree.

Surprisingly, these two expressions appear in regard to human anatomy.

The Tree of Life is the term used to describe the folds in the inner wall of the uterus (Arbor Vitae Uterini).

A vertical fold is present on the anterior and posterior cervical walls; from these, oblique folds radiate. These folds have been called the arbor vitae uteri or plicae palmatae.

Tree of Life also appears in regard to the anatomy of the human brain. (Arbor Vitae) It is the inner, white matter of the Cerebellum which also has a branching, tree-like appearance.

In humans, the cerebellum plays an important role in motor control, and it may also be involved in some cognitive functions such as attention and language as well as in regulating fear and pleasure responses,3 but its movement-related functions are the most solidly established. The human cerebellum does not initiate movement, but contributes to coordination, precision, and accurate timing: it receives input from sensory systems of the spinal cord and from other parts of the brain, and integrates these inputs to fine-tune motor activity.

These two details of human anatomy allude to the underlying, driving concepts behind creation and are the type of tree. Discussion of this as it relates to the language in the posuk you cite can be found in Sefer Meorot Natan (מאורת נתן, מערכת ע) Chapter 11: Eden, Chapter 17: Eitz and Chapter 34: Oneg.

And so what is communicated through this posuk is that the womb, the source and vehicle of life and intellect are the type of the tree and are the inner driving forces behind G-d's creation.

  • First is that G-d caused the whole of the tree (כל-עץ) to sprout from the earth (האדמה). Consider sourcing this understanding. I have not seen any classical commentators who render it suchly. – mevaqesh Nov 16 '17 at 20:33
  • @mevaqesh If you want to understand what this is referring to, try looking at the opening chapters of Sefer Shaarei Ohrah by Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla. Specifically what the significance is in Bereshit when using only the name Elokim and then Havayah Elokim, like in this posuk. That second form is what is 'sprouting' from the material earth. It means that we reveal G-d's presence in all things. – Yaacov Deane Nov 16 '17 at 20:39
  • As always this would be a great deal more valuable if you would actually cite sources in the posts. – mevaqesh Nov 16 '17 at 20:43
  • Your second comment is arguing on Sefer Be'er Mayim Chayim quoted in the answer. Concerning your first question, see the three links to Meorot Natan at the end of the answer. – Yaacov Deane Nov 16 '17 at 20:46
  • That by observing ourselves (the Microcosmos) carefully, we can understand the system with which G-d established the universe (the Macrocosmos), like is found in Job 19:26. I have no idea what this means, but I don't see it in Job. Seeing judgement in the suffering of one's body does not seem equivalent to your claim. – mevaqesh Nov 16 '17 at 20:48

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