"Whose Leaves Do Not Wither"

In Jewish sources, the leaf is a metaphor for the fragility and durability of life.

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Perhaps because of these associations, the leaves of the forest and the meadow are seen in Hasidic sources as endowed with a spirituality of their own. Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav encouraged people to follow the model of the patriarch Isaac who "went out into the field to pray toward evening" (Genesis 24:43). Nachman asserts that when one prays in the field, "the entire plant world comes to your aid and lends strength to your prayers" (Likutei Moharan, Tanina 11). The psalmist describes the comfort provided by leaves through their shade as Divine protection. "The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade upon your right hand" (Psalms 121:5).

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Jeffrey Spitzer is Chair of the Department of Talmud and Rabbinics at Gann Academy, The New Jewish High School, Waltham, Mass., and a member of the Institute's Tichon Fellows Program.