Judaism Tree Worship

Tree worship, one of the oldest forms of paganism, is based on the belief that trees are inhabited by spirits of fecundity.

Another of the regular Babylonian Talmudic synagogue festivals today is "New Year for Trees." Its Talmudic name is "Hamishshah-'asar bi-shevat," under which title it is listed in the Babylonian, or synagogue calendar, given in the American Jewish Year Books. It fell, for example, on the 15th of Shevat, 1964, which in our calendar was January 29th.

In his work, The Golden Bough — A Study in Magic and Religion, Sir James George Frazer devotes much space, even in the abridged edition (MacMillan, 1951), to "Tree Worship," which he traces through different countries as a pagan observance. He says of Buddhist monks who, believing that trees have souls, "will not break a branch of a tree 'as they will not break the arm of an innocent person.' These monks are Buddhists. But Buddhist animism is not a philosophical theory. It is simply a common savage dogma incorporated in the system of an historical religion. To suppose, with Benfrey and others, that the theories of animism and transmigration current among rude peoples of Asia are derived from Buddhism, is to reverse the facts."

What Frazer writes about the animistic, transmigration doctrines of Buddhism applies with equal force to so-called "Judaism," which is poles apart from basic Bible beliefs.

Looking upon the individual tree as a soul, or merely the abode of a soul, says Frazer, marks the line between animism, the simplest nature-worship, and Polytheism, or tribute to many gods. He says: "When a tree comes to be viewed, no longer as the body of the Tree-Spirit, but simply as its abode which it can quit at pleasure, an important advance has been made in religious thought. Animism is passing into Polytheism. In other words, instead of regarding each tree as a living and conscious being, man now sees in it merely a lifeless, inert mass, tenanted for a longer or shorter time by a supernatural being ... [who] enjoys a certain right of possession or lordship over the trees, and, ceasing to be a tree-soul, becomes a forest 'god.' "(pp. 129, 135)

The Christian reader may be perplexed at Biblical excoriations against trees. The fact was that owing to the fertility myth, individual and mass harlotry was carried on under trees, and these were planted for that purpose in groves.

Two kings of Judah, Hezekiah and Josiah, were commended because they "cut down the groves." (II Kings 18:4 and 23:14) God promised Moses He would bless the people he was leading into Palestine providing they drove out the pagan abominators, the Canaanites, saying:

"Take heed lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare . But ye shall destroy their altars ... and cut down their groves." (Exodus 34:12-13) "Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods . under every green tree. And ye shall ... burn their groves with fire." (Deut. 12:2-3) Deuteronomy 7:5, etc., repeat the same command. This was about 1450 B.C.

Read the varying, equivocating, hedging variety of reasons given by the Jewish authorities as to why some of their holidays are celebrated. "What goes on here?" is the natural reaction to all this evasiveness, or to direct contradictions by top sources.

Under "New Year for Trees" in the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (1943) we are told that Shammai set this holiday for the 1st of Shebat (around February) and Hillel, the most popular of these two 1st Century Pharisees set it for the 15 th of Shebat — and, of course, Hillel won. The "eating of many species of fruits" is cited for this occasion and: "No special liturgy . is prescribed for the day."

Under "New Year for Trees" in the Jewish Encyclopedia, (1905), however, we read that "it is celebrated by eating various kinds of fruits and by a special liturgy arranged for the Day." Take your choice. Then this older source cites that "the custom was to plant a cedar-tree for every new-born [page 40] male and a cypress-tree for every female. When a marriage was about to take place the trees were cut down and used as posts for the nuptial canopy.

(Gittin 57b)"

The Gittin 57b passage of the Jewish Talmud referred to as the source of trees in connection with weddings, follows the Talmud [Gittin] 57a passage about Christians being in hell under boiling "excrement," and every foul blasphemy of Christ. This followed by a "dainty" tale about David: "He went into a privy and a snake came, and he dropped his gut from fright and died." (page 252 Soncino edition, not reproduced) Then, Gittin 57b:

It was the custom when a boy was born to plant a cedar tree and when a girl was born to plant a pine tree, and when they married, the tree was cut down and a canopy made of the branches.

The article in the Jewish Encyclopedia tells how the Cabalists, when they settled in Palestine in the 16th Century, instituted the custom of eating fruits on that day, instead of planting trees.

Zohar and Talmud readings about fruits are also mentioned, and customs in various countries such as Russia described. There "The children are granted absence from school and join in eating the fruits."

That the trees around the Canaanite altars to the procreative powers and gods were not only symbols of fertility but were used as whoring places in their honor, is cited throughout the Old Testament. Each reform King cut down the "groves" which are denounced as a heathen abomination. Deuteronomy 12:2-3; 16:21; II Kings 18:4; 23:6, 15, are typical. Jeremiah, thundering at the Judaites, accuses them thus: "Under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot." (Jeremiah 2:20)

The posts, or "asherah," marked "the high places" for sex degeneracy, in the name of "fruitfulness." "Asherah" is defined as:

a wooden post or tree-trunk with the branches lopped off a seemingly indispensible part of the sanctuary in the ancient Canaanitish cult a symbol of the fruitfulness of nature. (Universal Jewish Encyclopedia)

"Tree Worship," says the same source, is the belief "that trees are inhabited by spirits who exert good or evil influences and must therefore be revered . such a belief existed among the ancient Canaanites and . was adopted by the invading Israelites along with other elements of their religion and culture." Referring to the "Sacred character of these trees:" "This corresponds to ... the

Asherah ... and to what the prophets tell us of the worship 'upon every high hill and under every leafy tree' ... . The Deuteronomic law prohibited the Asherah (Deuteronomy 16:21) and ordered the destruction of those already in existence. (Deuteronomy 12:3) But tree-worship was a custom difficult to eradicate and it has survived in many parts of the world down to the present day."

This is followed by the typical cover-up that it disappeared after the Babylonian Exile "among the Israelites." But the older source (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1905) states:

The extent of its worship [the tree] is indicated also by the denunciations of the Prophets. A favorite phrase of theirs in describing idolatrous [sex] practices as upon every hill and under every green tree (Deuteronomy 12:2, Jeremiah 1:20) As has been pointed out, the Prophets were unable completely to suppress tree-worship, which has survived in Palestine through all religious changes to the present day.

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