Greening Our Religion

The tree, as a motif, repeatedly appears in mythology and ancient tales, often representing a powerful aspect of nature. There’s Yggdrasil in Norse cosmology — a tree that is central to all that exists — as well as the one in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to touch. The Torah highlights the important role trees play the environment, including a verse in Deuteronomy that forbids invading soldiers from cutting down a city’s fruit trees. This verse inspires the exhibit “Do Not Destroy: Trees, Art, and Jewish Thought.” For part of it, artists created ritual objects for the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, a sort of new year for trees that involves eating pomegranates and olives, which the Torah describes as being plentiful during Biblical times. From there the exhibit moves beyond Judaism to investigate how the tree has appeared in contemporary art, starting with documentation of Joseph Beuys and his project to plant 7,000 oak trees with accompanying basalt markers throughout Kassel, Germany. Also installed is a Wish Tree by Yoko Ono, with visitors encouraged to hang their own hopes and dreams on its branches. Outside the museum walls, local environmental design firm Rebar creates an arboreal oasis with free-standing tree “islands.” More trees in the city? Always a good thing.
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 16. Continues through Sept. 9, 2012

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