Waskow on “Avatar,” Exodus, & Kabbalah in Tikkun magazine
When I watched the movie Avatar the tree the Na’vi live in and by reminded me of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. I didn’t explore the idea, but Rabbi Arthur Waskow did. He wrote a column in Tikkun Magazine this March that connects the movie to this concept and also draws parallels between the Exodus story. Here are a few quotes, but you should read the whole article to get the context:
…AVATAR echoes two major strands of religious wisdom that began in Jewish thought … the Kabbalistic metaphor of God as the Tree of Life, unfolding through successive emanations from the Infinite to the Incarnate so that its roots are in Heaven and its fruit is our world. This wisdom is notably “spiritual,” but has as its roots a political vision of sharing food among the whole community, and sharing God’s abundance with all living beings.
The Tree of Life, God’s greatest plentiful abundance, had vanished from human ken when the humans tried to gobble up all they food they saw, and thereby banished themselves from Eden. That banishment is what the Earthians of Avatar have done to themselves. By gobbling up the earth they live in, they have killed it and driven themselves to seek another in Pandora. But they have learned nothing. In the winter of their discontent, despair, they glimpse the Tree of Life, the Garden of Delight.
Like any film, AVATAR is meant for seeing. But unlike most films, it explicitly makes the act of seeing into a spiritual discipline. The watchword of the Na’vi is, “I see you.” For Pandora’s people, these words express what in Hebrew is “yodea,” interactive “knowing” that is emotional, intellectual, physical/ sexual, and spiritual all at one