The tree begins as a seed, buried beneath the earth. For the seed to produce a shoot, which will become the tree trunk, the seed has to crack and its shell has to open and die so that the shoot can emerge. Without the death of the seed, the tree would have no future. Life and death, then, are complementary and depend on each other. Life is a process and death is a process. And death is as sophisticated and harmonious a process as life.
The shoot that emerges from the tree grows up and out of the soil, pointing towards the heavens. At the same time it sends down roots deep into the earth, to give it stability. The tree has its feet – the roots – in the soil, and it has its hands – the branches – outstretched in the air, as though reaching heavenwards in prayer.
We too, as humans, resemble the tree. Our roots are our feet, keeping us firmly on the earth, from where we came. And our branches are our hands, which we raise to the heavens in prayer. If you look at a tree, you will see that its roots are the mirror image of its branches. If you look at the human body, you will see that the feet are a kind of mirror image of the hands. We too, like the tree, are a bridge between heaven and earth: humankind is the place where the world of materiality – the earth – meets the world of spirituality – the heavens. Human being or tree, ultimately the symbolism is the same. The only difference between us and our brothers and sisters, the trees, is that we are able to reflect all of the names of the Creator, rather than just a few, like the trees.
And one day we, like the seed of the tree, will be buried beneath the earth. And one day, the seed of immortality within us will crack and our shell will open, allowing the shoot of a tree of Tuba – or a tree of Zaqqum – to emerge…