THE TREE OF LIFE AS A BLUEPRINT FOR CREATION
In all, the Tree of Life has ten primordial elements. These ten are based on the opening to the Torah, in which there are ten statements that use the words va-omer elohim, "And Elohim [God] said..."
These ten statements are considered to be divine emanations out of which the world was created. Each emanation is an archetype, which in combination with other emanations provides the mystical elements necessary to form everything in creation, whether physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. The emanations are referred to as sefirot (numbers) because every possible number in creation is a combination of the ten basic numbers from zero to nine.
Kabbalists believe that every time the number ten is written in the Torah, it is related in some way to the Tree of Life. Ten plagues in the story of Exodus, ten commandments, ten days of judgment from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur. Even the fact that we have ten fingers and ten toes is related to the Tree of Life.
Virtually everything in creation can be associated with the Tree of Life. Commentators often do not agree on the definitions or characteristics for the various sefirot. Nonetheless, Kabbalists tend to catalog the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs, archangels, parts of the human body, names of God, directions, planets, vowels, colors, and a wide variety of associated qualities with various sefirot.
The Tree of Life is viewed as a graphic representation of the blueprint of creation. As each emanation is an archetype, it represents a wide spectrum of categories. The system is complex because the archetypes are not easily defined. The Sefer Yetzirah uses language like, "These are the ten sefirot of nothingness: the breath of the living God; breath from breath; water from breath; fire from water; up, down, east, west, north, south."
Read literally, the first sefirah is the breath of God, the second is breath caused by this breath, the third is water, fourth is fire, followed by six directions; ten sefirot in all. The Hebrew names usually given to the ten sefirot are: keter (crown), chochma (wisdom), binah (understanding), chesed (loving kindness), gevorah (strength), tiferet (beauty), netzach (triumph/dominance), hod (grandeur/empathy), yesod (foundation), and malkhut (sovereignty).
As keter is ineffable and inaccessible, an additional sefirah called daat (knowledge) is often added to the list so that there are ten working attributes.
The Tree of Life is commonly represented by an illustration of ten (sometimes eleven) drawings of circles. Schematically, the sefirot are drawn in three vertical lines. The center is the trunk, representing four (or five) sefirot. Two vertical branches, one on either side of the trunk, represent three sefirot each.
DNA AND THE TREE OF LIFE
The teachings of DNA describe four amino acids--adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. These four alone form themselves in various combinations that are sequenced into patterns upon which all life is built. Each pattern holds within it a genetic code that determines all of our genetic characteristics.
These amino acids always work in pairs, and they always pair with the same partner. Adenine pairs with thymine (A-T), and guanine pairs with cytosine (G-C). We can imagine these pairs like a coins with heads and tails. If we line up coins on a sheet of glass, whatever they read on top would be opposite from the way they would read from under the glass. Similarly, for amino acid pairs, if we had a sequence such as A, A, A, G, G, G, there would be a parallel track that would read T, T, T, C, C, C.
It is said that the code for a human being contains billions of pairs. Imagine how many variations on a theme we could have by stringing out a billion coins, and then turning them one at a time to form new combinations? The number is enormous.
The sequence in which pairs of amino acids are combined is the determining factor of heredity. Microbiologists describe these extended strands as parallel tracks that curve into a spiral, called a double helix, in order to fit into a small space.
Today we have DNA testing to determine many things. The way this works is that microbiologists must find the precise location along this thin thread of a double helix where the combination for a particular gene resides. When they zero in on this location, they can determine whether or not it matches another sample.
Thus only four amino acids, coupled into two pairs, offer an almost unlimited prospect for variation. This is precisely the same model that Kabbalists have used for a thousand years. Rather than amino acids, the Kabbalists have described four key elements of creation: expansion (chesed), which always pairs with contraction (gevorah), and giving (netzach), which always pairs with receiving (hod).
However, these are only four of ten primordial elements that compose the Tree of Life.
Whereas the physical universe can be described in terms of four elements gathered together in an infinite number of combinations, the kabbalistic model is far more extensive when we add in the other dimensions of the Tree of Life