The Way of the Tree of Life

Did you know that you are an exile? Much as the Jewish people endure the punishment of exile from the holy land, all humanity suffers in exile—driven from the delights of paradise and the potential of eternal life.

A concept of the Tree of Life from the pages of the Bible. (Image © Bigstock)

B'reisheet

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • B'reisheet (בראשית | In the beginning)
  • Torah: Genesis 1:1-6:8
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5-43:10
  • Gospel: John 1:1-17

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 1:1 | Six Days of Creation and the Sabbath
    • Genesis 2:4 | Another Account of the Creation
    • Genesis 3:1 | The First Sin and Its Punishment
    • Genesis 4:1 | Cain Murders Abel
    • Genesis 4:17 | Beginnings of Civilization
    • Genesis 5:1 | Adam's Descendants to Noah and His Sons
    • Genesis 6:1 | The Wickedness of Humankind
    • Genesis 6:9 | Noah Pleases God
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 42:1 | The Servant, a Light to the Nations
    • Isaiah 42:10 | A Hymn of Praise
    • Isaiah 42:21 | Israel's Disobedience
    • Isaiah 43:1 | Restoration and Protection Promised

Portion Summary

The scroll of the Torah is the oldest and most sacred of all Israel's Scriptures. It contains five books. The Hebrew name for the first one is B'reisheet (בראשית). It is also the first word of the book in the Hebrew text, as well as the name for the first parasha (the first week's reading). B'reisheet means "in the beginning."

The English name Genesis comes from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Genesis means "origins." Therefore, the Greek name for the first book of the Bible means "The Book of Origins."

Genesis describes the origins of everything. It begins with the origins of the universe, focuses on the origins of man and then explores the origins of the nation of Israel.

As we study the first week's reading from the book of Genesis, we will learn a great deal about God, but even more about ourselves. After all, this is the story of our origins. When properly understood, the story of our origin helps us find our destination.


The LORD exiled Adam and Eve from the garden. It was an act of mercy. Had they remained in the garden, they might have eaten of the fruit of the Tree of Life. God did not create them immortal, yet He left immortality hanging within their grasp. They only needed to reach out and eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and that fruit was never forbidden them. Should they do so in their fallen state, they would have been consigned to an immortal existence in rebellion against God, not unlike the Devil, unredeemed and unredeemable for all of eternity: an eternal life of endless death.

In His abundant mercy, God exiled them from paradise and banned them from immortality:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. (Genesis 3:22-23)

God created our souls and our bodies for the Garden of Delight. In some spiritual memory, every human being can still recall the taste of the fruit of the garden. Human beings have a longing wired into their hearts for the place of God, a desire we cannot quite articulate. We thirst for water we have never tasted. We long for fruit we have never eaten. We hunger and thirst for the presence of God. That’s why you are reading these words. That’s why we are always seeking to fill the empty places of our lives, and it is why we are prone to addictions, sensuality, and self-destructive behaviors. We are longing for Eden.

The exile from the garden corresponds to Israel’s exile from the land and this current exile we endure. When the kingdom comes, Israel will return to the land, and the exile will be over. The gates of Eden will open, and we will return to the presence of God. Then all humanity will know the LORD.

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24)

There is a way back to Eden, past the flaming sword and between the cherubim. The Torah calls this the “derech etz haChayim” the “way of the tree of life.” The word “way (derech, דרך)” appears first in Genesis 3:24. The cherubim embroidered in the Temple curtains allude to the way of the tree of life. They stand sentry before the holy of holies and the presence of God, just as the cherubim in Genesis guard the way to the tree of life. This may be one of the meanings of the rending of the Temple curtain when the Master died. He has made the way between the cherubim. He Himself is “The Way, the Truth and the Life.” The early sect of Jewish believers who followed Him and believed Him called themselves, “The Way.” He has made the way through the curtain, into the garden, to holy of holies and the tree of life.

We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. (Hebrews 10:19-20)

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Depths of the Torah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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