Hymn – Calabasas, California

Etz Chaim Hee

It is a tree of life to those who hold fast to it,

And all of it’s supporters are happy

Etz chaim hee lamachazikim bah,

Vetomecheha m’ushar.

Jay Rockman is a freshman at USC and a dedicated follower of Jewish religion and tradition. His mother is Israeli, and as a child he learned to speak Hebrew. From grades 6-12 he attend Milken Community School, a prestigious private school in Calabasas, CA that integrates Jewish education into its curriculum. According to Jay, they would often sing Jewish hymns and prayers at assemblies or certain classes; the school would combine both the Hebrew text and the English translation into these short hymns. The third and fourth lines of the hymn are normally written in Hebrew characters, with this version containing the phonetic pronunciation of the words.

This hymn is a dedication to the Torah, which the Jewish equivalent to the Bible (written in Hebrew text). It describes the holy scripture as a “tree of life,” meaning one can constantly grow and flourish as a result of reading the Torah throughout one’s life. Those who follow the words of the Torah will find happiness because it contains many moral lessons, and reading it is also a direct praise to God. Thus, those who “hold fast to it” are rewarded not only by the stable morality they gain, but also because God is said to reward those who adhere to his teachings. In actuality, reading the Torah properly is a demanding process that requires tremendous knowledge and practice, potentially requiring many hours each week. Also, the undressing and redressing of the Torah requires prayers; it cannot simply be pulled out of a closet and opened. For these reasons, people find it hard to consistently read the scripture as God has mandated. However, many people find tremendous gratification and comfort in its messages, which speak of peace, love, charity, and faith.