DAY 1413: It’s All Planted Within

May 13, 2016
By bethmordecai
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DAY 1413: It’s All Planted Within

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Dear Hevreh,

At the onset of the this week’s triennial Torah reading of Parashat K’doshim (Leviticus 19:23-24), we read…

כג  וְכִי-תָבֹאוּ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, וּנְטַעְתֶּם כָּל-עֵץ מַאֲכָל–וַעֲרַלְתֶּם עָרְלָתוֹ, אֶת-פִּרְיוֹ; שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים, יִהְיֶה לָכֶם עֲרֵלִים–לֹא יֵאָכֵל. 23 And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as forbidden; three years shall it be as forbidden unto you; it shall not be eaten.
כד  וּבַשָּׁנָה, הָרְבִיעִת, יִהְיֶה, כָּל-פִּרְיוֹ–קֹדֶשׁ הִלּוּלִים, לַיהוָה. 24 And in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy, for giving praise unto the LORD.

It seem a little odd that the Israelites would not be able to eat food they just planted in the land of Israel for three years. What did they eat during those three years? Manna from heaven? Surely arriving in the land of Israel would signify that their wandering is over and they could enjoy the “fruits” of having a permanent home.

The 17th century Czech rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, one of my favorite rabbinic commentators, tries to answer this question in his seminal Torah commentary Kli Yaqar (literally, “a dear vessel”):

This mitzvah [of waiting three years for newly planted food and eating it in the fourt year] is for the purpose of remembering creation. Everything was created during the first day of creation, but the fruits were hidden until the 3rd day of creation (Genesis 1:11-13). Yet they didn’t see the food until the fourth day when the lights in the sky [i.e. the sun and the moon] “cooked” the fruits because everything is dependent upon the sun and the moon, as it says (in Deuteronomy 33:14) “And for the precious things of the fruits of the sun, and for the precious things of the yield of the moons.”

I think what Rabbi Luntschitz is saying here is akin to the idea in the book of Ecclesiastes — “there is a time for everything under the sun…a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted” (3:1-2). In short, that idea is patience. Though the Israelites may have been excited to settle in the land of Israel after all of their wandering, they could not expect their planting to bear fruit right away.

Patience is not easy though and I wonder if in certain moments during those three years the Israelites were unsure whether or not their plants would bear fruit at all. Maybe they thought they were never meant to be independent, rather they were destined to be dependent on others as slaves. But in asserting that “everything was created during the first day of creation,” Rabbi Luntschitz is also indicating that everything we are capable of doing is planted within us from the moment we are born. In other words, while it may take patience to uncover our talents within, we have to believe that they are already within us waiting to be uncovered. These talents could include a skill for reading Torah or doing new Jewish things, or even deciding to commit your life to serving the Jewish people, trying our hand. It’s all within us, already planted. All we have to do is give it a little sunshine, have some patience, let it grow, and be amazed at what we are capable of.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ari Saks

P.S. I’m very excited to be in LA this weekend for my brother-in-law Dan Utley’s ordination as a Reform rabbi. There WILL be services TONIGHT at 8 pm, though NO services TOMORROW.

Photo taken from USFS Region 5 on Flickr. No changes made –

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