graphic nezikin




The relationship between wisdom and deeds are symbolically portrayed
using a tree with many roots. The tree is derived from the 22nd saying
in Pirke Aboth. Nezikin protects the weak.
(Tifereth Israel, Columbus, Ohio)

Excerpt from Stained Glass Quarterly article dated Fall 1989

Nezikin addresses Jewish civil and criminal law and procedure. It is designed to protect the weak from the strong. But, the religious and ethical importance of Nezikin was expressed by Rabbi Judah as follows, "He who wishes to be a Hasid (a pious man) let him observe the teachings of Nezikin." This is because civil and criminal law was regarded by Judaism as part of the Divine Revelation -- the Torah. "Thus the object of the legal system was not to preserve a particular dynasty or a certain form of government, but to establish social righteousness, and to thereby maintain a constant, close, inseparable connection between ethics and law, both flowing from the same Divine source."

In order to be regarded as pious, one must be devoted to doing deeds as well as attaining wisdom. A tree with many roots was incorporated into the design of the Nezikin window. This many rooted tree refers to the 22nd saying in the third chapter of Pirke Aboth (Sayings of the Fathers). It reads as follows: "He whose wisdom exceeds his deeds, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are many, but whose roots are few; and the wind comes and plucks it up and overturns it upon its face; as it is said, and he shall be like a lonely juniper tree in the desert, and shall not see when good comes; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land and not inhabited. But he whose deeds exceed his wisdom, to what is he like? To a tree whose branches are few, but whose roots are many, so that even if all the winds in the world come and blow upon it, it cannot be stirred from its place; as it is said, and he shall be as a tree planted by the waters; and that spreads out its roots by the river, and shall not perceive when heat comes, but his leaf shall be green; and shall not be troubled in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit." Thus, the tree in the Nezikin window is an analogy between wisdom and the branches of the tree, and between deeds and the roots of the tree.




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