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Eretz Yisrael - To Eat of its Fruit and to be Satiated with its Goodness

By: Rav Avigdor Meyerowitz

I sit down to write this e-mail shiur as I returned from a Tu Bi'shavt meal. Since Tu Bi'shavt is the New Year for the trees, regarding the laws of Teruma and Orlah, it is customary to partake of fruit in general but especially of the fruit that Eretz Yisrael is blessed with. In the b'racha ach'rona that we say after eating of these fruits it says:

"... ..."

"…for the tree and the fruit of the tree, for the produce of the field, and for the precious, good, and spacious land which You have graciously given as a heritage to our ancestors, to eat of its fruit and to be satiated with its goodness..."

Regarding the last emphasized phrase, the Tur[1] quotes from some of the Rishonim that it should be omitted,

" "

" (these words) should not be said, as one should not desire the land for its fruit and bountifulness, but rather to perform the mitzvoth that are dependent on the land."

The Bach takes issue[2] with this and opposes by claiming that the holiness that exists in Eretz Yisrael permeates in its fruit too, and therefore we correctly say "to eat of its fruit and to be satiated with its goodness" as by partaking of its fruit we are partaking as well of its holiness. Thus the experience of merely eating the produce of Eretz Yisrael turns into an act of holiness and spirituality.

Yet there seems to be another, possibly more basic level of the appreciation of the fruits of the land.

One of the last Mitzvot in the Torah is the Mitzvah of Vidui Ma'asrot. At the end of Pesach of the 4th and 7th year of the shmittah cycle one is obligated to declare having fulfilled ones duties and obligations regarding the separation and consumption of all terumot and ma'asrot, (tithes etc). After this declaration we turn to Hashem and request:

" ."

"Look down from Your holy dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given to us, as You swore to our forefathers a land flowing with milk and honey."[3]

The Mishna[4] elaborates on this Tefila and lays out exactly what we are asking for in this verse. The phrase "and bless Your people Israel " is a request for abundant children. The phrase "and the ground which You have given to us" is for rain, dew and livestock. Lastly, the phrase " a land flowing with milk and honey" is a request for Hashem to make our fruit tasty.[5] According to this, the meaning of the well-known term "a land flowing with milk and honey" is to be understood quite literally as a blessing and indication, not only of the abundancy of produce in Eretz Yisrael, but also of the high level of enjoyment, physical sensational enjoyment, to be gained from the fruits of the land.

What is the importance of this physical blessing and praise of the land? Is it not in contradiction with the words of the Tur and also the Bach mentioned before?

Rav Kook explains[6] that physical and material abundance is something to be viewed in its relationship with its receiver.  A person of a low moral standing that is blessed with wealth and abundance most often either becomes lazy as a result of lacking a necessary incentive to work hard, or squanders and exploits the money on bad things. On the other hand, for a person with a noble spirit, physical and material blessing is a catalyst for more appreciation, a broadening of mind and spirit and a richer appreciation of the wonderful world of Hashem we live in. And what is true regarding the individual is true as well regarding nations. The fact that Hashem promises the Avot that their descendants will inherit a land "flowing with milk and honey", was not merely a promise regarding the nature of the land and its fruit, but more so an indication of the nature of the future Am Yisrael, that would appropriately benefit from this unique physical blessing.

When Moshe Rabeinu first tried to lead Bnei Yisrael to oppose their servitude in Egypt[7], after killing the Egyptian and then seeking out a follow up to his actions the next day, he is rejected by them. The Torah tells us that he realized that Pharaoh had found out about his actions which caused Moshe to flee Egypt. Yet according to Rashi[8], it was not only that which caused Moshe to flee, rather the fact that he realized that Bnei Yisrael were sinful tale bearers, speakers of Lashon Hara that were deserving of being in slavery. When Hashem appeared to Moshe Rabeinu in the Burning Bush, informing him of the impending Ge'ulah he says:

"֥ ֛ ֥ ֖ ֣ ֑"

This usually translates as "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt", however the Netziv explains this verse that it is Hashem saying to Moshe that the reason His (Hashem's) nation seems so poor and lowdown physically and morally – - is because they are in Egypt – , however once they will be taken out of their dire straits, they will become the nation they are truly capable of being.

""

" I will descend to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land, to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey"

So even before we climb the spiritual ladder of holiness when eating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael as suggested by the Bach, we may "indulge" in the physical enjoyment of the sweetness and good taste of them too , and allow it infuse us with gratitude and inspiration for a more meaningful life.

"Rabbi Abba said: There is no clearer sign of the Redemption than this verse: ‘But you, O mountains of Israel, will give forth your branches and yield your fruit to My people Israel, for they are soon to come”, -  Rashi comments: ‘When Eretz Yisrael gives forth its fruit in abundance, the End will be near, and there is no clearer sign of the Redemption.”[9]

Tu'Bishvat Sa'meach.

 

[1] Tur, Orach Chaim 208.

[2] Orach Chaim 208;8.

[3] Devarim 26;16.

[4] Ma'aser Sheni 5;13.

 

[5] "

[6] Eiyn A'yah, Ma'aser Sheni 5;13.

[7] Shmot 2.

[8] Rashi Shmor 2;14.

[9] Sanhedrin 98a.

 

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