Eitz Chayim He, Meet a Tree Activity
Based on an activity by Joseph Cornell
Goals:To develop tactile senses, to introduce the symbol of the tree as a Jewish metaphor, to foster the development of a personal relationship with a tree, and ability to see a tree’s uniqueness.
Duration: 15 – 30 minutes
Materials: Blindfolds; Trees
1) Ask students: What is the forest filled with?
Answer: trees! (and much more) Trees are all over the place, but has anybody here ever really gotten to know a tree? Just like people, trees look alike, but are actually very different. In this activity, we’re going to get to know a tree so that you can tell it from all other trees in this forest.
2) Pair off the students. Give each pair a blindfold and have the sighted partner lead their "blind" friend to a tree. The sighted partner should try to disorient the friend by slowly turning them around, and leading them in a roundabout way to the tree. Please instruct students to lead their “blind” friends slowly and very carefully, telling them to look out for roots, rocks, holes in the ground, and other things their partner might trip on.
3) Instruct the "blind" students to explore their trees as thoroughly as they can, so that they’ll be able to find it again. They can touch the tree, smell it, taste it, see if you can you put your arms around it, etc.
4) When the first person is finished exploring, the sighted partner should lead him or her back to where they began by taking an indirect route. Now, remove the blindfold and let the student find the tree with his or her eyes open. Suddenly, as the person searches for his or her tree, what was once a forest becomes a collection of very individual trees.
5) Switch partners, repeat Steps 2 – 4
Once the group is back together, ask the students
1) Who found their trees?
2) How many guesses did it take?
3) How did they recognize their tree from all the rest? Was it hard or easy?
4) If you couldn’t find yours, why not?
5) Read the following line:
Eitz Haim He L’machazikim Bah, v’Tomhecha Meushar.
She is a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to her and all of her supporters are happy.
6) Why do you think we compare the Torah with a tree?
(Some possible answers: trees are life-giving, they support a community [of animals, organisms], they have roots, history, seeds, generate rebirth, bear fruit, and trees are strong, stable. All of the materials that go into the making of a Torah scroll are natural. The wooden pieces upon which the Torah is rolled are called eitzim [trees].)
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