Trees in Ancient Jewish Lore (Gershon Winkler)
Trees have symbolic meaning in many cultures, including Judaism. The cypress, cedar, myrtle and willow have ritual meaning related to Jewish festivals and lifecycle celebration: they represent the feminine, the masculine, immortality and return or repentance. These plants can be used in Passover and Sukkot celebrations, in birth ceremonies and weddings, and for other ritual purposes.
At the birth of a girl, a cypress (or other evergreen) tree is planted, and at the birth of a boy a cedar tree is planted. When they are ready to marry, two branches are cut from each tree to make up the four poles that hold up the chuppah
Babylonian Talmud, Gittin 57a
Myrtle represents immortality, and sprigs of myrtle were often buried with the dead to aid the soul in her journey. In ancient times, its scent was inhaled during the passing of the Sabbath (Saturday night) and two bouquets of myrtle were used to welcome the Sabbath. In the sukkah ceremony, boughs of myrtle were used to invoke the spirits of the ancestors
From The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols by Ellen Frankel (Jason Aronson 1995), page 116.
It is an ancient Jewish custom to use willow branches left over from the harvest rites of Sukkot to start the fires of the oven for baking matzoh for Passover, this is to link the spring and fall harvests.
The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols by Ellen Frankel (Jason Aronson 1995), page 193.
Rabbi Gershon Winkler is a Jewish shaman and the founder of Walking Stick Foundation, an educational organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of aboriginal Jewish spirituality. You can learn more about Walking Stick Foundation at www.walkingstick.org. This article, used with permission, is from Walkingstick's journalPumbedissa: an Open Forum for Lighthearted Discussion of Jewish Issues.
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