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Branches (or: People Are Not Cars)

Branches (or: People Are Not Cars)


Some folks think of people much as we think of cars on a highway: each with its own origin and destination, relating to one other only to negotiate lane changes and left-hand turns. For cars, closeness is danger, loneliness is freedom.

People are not cars. Cars are dead. People live. Living beings need one another, nurture one another, share destinies and reach them together. When you’re alive, closeness is warmth, loneliness is suffocating.

People belong to families. Families make up communities. Communities make up the many colorful peoples of the world. And all those peoples make up a single, magnificent body with a single soul called humankind.

Some chop this body into seven billion fragments and roll it back into a single mush. They want each person to do his or her own thing and relate equally to every other individual on the planet. They don’t see the point of distinct peoples. They feel such distinctions just get in the way.

But we are like leaves extending from twigs branching out from larger twigs on branches of larger branches, until we reach the trunk and roots of us all. Each of us has our place on this tree of life, each its source of nurture—and on this the tree relies for its very survival.

None of us walks alone. Each carries the experiences of ancestors wherever he or she roams, along with their troubles, their traumas, their victories, their hopes and their aspirations. Our thoughts grow out from their thoughts, our destinies are shaped by their goals. At the highest peak we ever get to, there they are, holding our hand, pushing us upward, providing the shoulders on which to stand. And we share those shoulders, that consciousness, that heritage with all the brothers and sisters of our people.

That’s why your own people are so important: If you want to find peace with any other person in the world, you’ve got to start with your own brothers and sisters. Until then, you haven’t yet found peace within your own self. And only when you’ve found peace within yourself can you help us find peace for the entire world.

Every Jew is a brother or sister of a great family of many thousands of years. Where a Jew walks, there walk sages and martyrs, heroes and heroines, legends and miracles, all the way back to Abraham and Sarah, the first two Jews who challenged the whole world with their ideals. There walk the tears, the blood and the chutzpah of millennia, the legacy of those who lived, yearned and died for a world to come, a world the way it was meant to be.

Their destiny is our destiny. In us they are fulfilled. In all of us and every one of us, and all of us together. For we are all one.

When one Jew does an act of kindness, all our hands extend with his or hers. If one Jew should fall, all of us stumble. If one suffers, we all feel pain. When one rejoices, we are all uplifted. In our oneness we will find our destiny, and our destiny is to be one. For we are a single body, breathing with a single set of lungs, pulsating with a single heart, drawing from a single well of consciousness.

We are one. Let it be with love.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Anonymous New York February 4, 2015

The love wave What awesome words!
The connection between us is there.... I like to call it the Love Wave. When it is discovered by science, this is what I think it should be called. ;)
Love G-d, love yourself, love your family, love your fellow Jew. Only then can you ever truly love someone on "another branch"
Thoughts Rabbi? Reply

Anonymous Eugene OR January 17, 2014

Josh is correct: I think Josh is correct,in that so many Americans either do not HAVE close commuties, (Columbine did not) Big cities or huge towns(my small town is now over-stuffed with "outsiders"tearing the town apart, all the natives have left,or moved out further.I rarely see other natives of Oregon.)

So my tiny dull town was destroyed by huge volumes of fleeing Californians, Easterners,mid-west,and NYC, moving here. .It is now so "liberal-left-wing",war-like gay,and we others call it "The People's Republic of Eugene," close to a repressed socialism-dictatorship-communist-Chinese.There is LITERALLY no freedom of speech here anymore;if you don't liike the politics,or tyranny, you either keep silent, or move away..It reminds me a little of what I read about living somewhere in Russia some what. Even the economics is bad, too!! Scary!!

It did not used to be that way.It was a COLD town,but you could also find individuals or families who were wonderful,caring,and "real" people for friends. Reply

Ann Houston January 15, 2014

Torah is called a Tree of Life. So is HaShem (Gd).

And if you have not seen the sefirotic tree of middos (attributes) you might like to google it.

Its roots are beyond the physical universe, and our world (called Malkhut or Shekhinah) is its culmination. Reply

Sheila Michigan January 15, 2014

The tree...the branches What an insightful narrative.

I have a question of thought. Can we also look at (consider) G-d as being the tree and we are the branches-producing fruit accordingly? In due consideration, it is G-d who enables us by giving us life. With this life, can we consider the 'soil' in which a tree is planted to be synomous (the same) our mind? Can we consider the fruits produced from this tree our willingness to allow the word of G-d to cultivate our thoughts~afterall, He is the master 'gardner' who not only purposed the soil in which the tree is planted.

Give me your thoughts! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma January 15, 2014

The Tree of Life When you think about the words that describe trees you find endless metaphors that relate to our lives: routes and roots, limbs, rings, shoots, veins.....It feels like a deeply mirroring universe if which we are part and a part, being unique and yet of The Family of Man and then, within that greater Family there is the Jewish Family and all that connects us wirhin that greater G-d connectivity of All Creation. Maybe there is a cosmic reason we're now discussing this because of Tu B'shevat. I have found myself writing on line about the sephirot, about Keter, about The Invisible Chef a catering company and how this mirrors in a Divine way: the hidden and yet so visible face of G-d. I see in the daily world that all signs convey deep meanings to be plumbed. There is more to what we see, these roads we travel. Beauty, this truth, is an unraveling thing, and for each of us a story with its own discovery process: it's all One. Ecce, Echo, Echod! Reply

Michael Rudmin Portsmouth, Va January 14, 2014

Try looking at it in 4th (timer) dimension flatten our 3-dimensional world to two-D, and then let time be the third vertical dimension. Suddenly I look less like a person, more like a branching vine. My children branch off mine, and I branch off my parents. We jostle for position, for nutrients... sometimes one branch cuts off another, in a horrible travesty.

And woven in that mess of branches are branches that are pets, and vegetables, and bacteria, and sometimes they are indistinguishable from ourselves.

Amen--go back far enough, and it is the same tree. Reply

Anonymous AZ Scottsdale January 14, 2014

Yes, is true. People are not cars. And we should help each other, and be a FAMILY. But the EGO of many people make it impossible. We all should follow the path of loving kindness . The Zohar says: "a person should always imagine that the fate of the whole world depends upon his or her action" If we can think about it we all would be better people. .Together, united, and helping each other. And a better world. Reply

josh denver, colorado January 17, 2011

The reality, however, is that most Americans don't have a "people". Most European-Americans don't identify with their European ancestors and their struggles, hopes, and experiences. Most don't have strong family units, cultural communities, or ethnic identities. Americans are more like cars: it's a country of individuals, not communities. Reply

Mauro Marquez Washington D.C., MD January 28, 2009

Speaks to my Soul Yes, having much love for our brothers is great. But also those who support the Jewish community as well. Very insightful, thank you. Reply

Simon June 1, 2008

tefillin Now please be specific.

What happens when a Jew lays tefillin?

Why would this affect a soldier who, probably, does not lay tefillin?

Thank you! Reply

Ari Edson Thornhill, Ont January 20, 2008

Beautiful. Who knew there was so much intellect in loving a fellow Jew. Reply

Yaroslav Lugansk, Ukraine January 20, 2008

That is what we really often miss Nothing to add. Excellent narration!!! Reply

Yitzchok Houston, TX August 25, 2006

I really enjoyed this article Tzvi's article contains the answer to a lot of issues of our day. Reply

Guillermo Gonzalez Cambridge, MA/USA September 9, 2005

we are one We are living beings and we need one another, nurture one another, share destinies and reach them together.
"People belong to families. Families make up communities. Communities make up the many colorful peoples of the world. And all those peoples make up a single, magnificent body with a single soul called humankind."
A tree has many roots from the thinnest to biggest, but all them work as one, feeding a trunk, branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. Reply