Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

14 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Tu BeShevat -- A Tikkun for Eating the Eitz HaDaas

by HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira

Part III

This is the third of three parts of an essay that explains many important and deep concepts that underlie the "minor" holiday of Tu BeShevat.

The first part noted that the occurrence of Rosh Hashanah of the Trees in Shevat prevented the destruction of Klal Yisroel by Haman in that month. It also noted that the Chidushei HaRim says, "During Shevat, Heaven allots a Jew the chidushei Torah that he will innovate during the whole year," and generally "even today the wellsprings of Torah open during that month for every Jew." These two points are explained in this third part.

Also, a connection was noted between the mitzvos of the arba minim on Succos and Tu BeShevat. Finally, it was noted that there is a din on trees in Shevat. These two points were explained in the second part.

HaRav Shapira explained that the key of Odom Horishon's sin in eating of the Eitz HaDaas was that Odom did not accept Hashem's will as it was given to him, but rather was "overwise" and attempted to do something better to create a greater kiddush Hashem. The trees did the same thing in not growing so that their wood and leaves taste like their fruit. The esrog, which did fulfill Hashem's command as given, atones for Odom Horishon's sin and also has special connection to Tu BeShevat when the sin of the trees is recalled. The lesson is that all should have just obeyed Hashem's command as given.

Where is Haman Mentioned in the Torah?

As mentioned in the first part of this article, the Targum Sheini writes that the unique significance of the Rosh Hashanah for Trees is what guarded the generation of Mordechai and Esther from Amoleik's evil power. The gemora (Chulin 139b) writes: "Where is Haman mentioned in the Torah? -- hamin ho'eitz (from the tree)" (Bereishis 3:11). The Maharsha explains that "hamin ho'eitz is written concerning the incident with the nochosh, since [Haman] is a poisonous root coming from Esav and Amoleik, who drew their power from the nochosh hakadmoni (the primordial serpent who seduced Chavah)."

The Maharam Shif, in Derushim Nechmodim, writes, "Haman descended from Amoleik, the twisted serpent, as is written, `For out of the serpent's root shall come forth a tzefah (viper)' (Yeshaya 14:29), and tzefah (tzadi-90 + pei-80 + ayin- 70 = 240) in gematria is Amoleik (ayin-70 + mem-40 + lamed-30 + kuf-100 = 240)."

We see from the gemora that Esav's and Amoleik's origin was evil, the power of desire, that came into being by the sin of the Eitz HaDaas, as mentioned above. This is explicitly written by the Vilna Gaon (Or Yohel, parshas Nosso): "The heart has a continuous war with Amoleik, who is [represented in man by] the liver. The liver always fatigues [the heart] with desire for food, as the Midrash HaNe'elam writes on the posuk, `And Esav said to Yaakov, hal'iteini no, I pray you, some of this red, red pottage, for I am faint' (Bereishis 25:30). Hal'iteini no is the gematria of Hashem Amoleik."

Yisroel sinned because "they enjoyed the feast of that rosho" (Achashverosh). Their sin was their deriving pleasure from the feast. Heaven's grievance was not because they ate since they were forced to eat, but because they enjoyed doing it. By doing so they increased Amoleik's power in that generation. (I learned this understanding of Chanukah from the Yemei Purim, who deduced the significance of Purim -- KePurim from the Vilna Gaon's explanation.)

It was impossible for the power of Amoleik to increase during the month of Shevat. The essence of the Rosh Hashanah for Trees is that it is a tikkun for the sin of the Eitz HaDaas. Since the entire power of Amoleik becomes intensified only through the damage done by this sin, therefore the Targum Sheini wrote, "The lot would not fall on Shevat since the Rosh Hashanah for Trees" occurs during it.

Tu BeShevat -- A Special Time for Torah

The inner meaning of Tu BeShevat is, as we have mentioned, accepting Hashem's commands simply, without any additional personal calculations. Through this we can understand what our Sages wrote about Tu BeShevat having a special quality of aiding in understanding Torah.

In the brocho of Ahavoh Rabbah we appeal to Hashem, "Our Father, our King, for the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You and whom You taught the decrees of life, may You be equally gracious to us and teach us" (translation: ArtScroll Siddur). Where do we find that through the merit of our forefather's emunah and trust in Hashem they were privileged to Torah? The gemora (Shabbos 88a) writes, "There was a Tzeduki who saw Rovo studying while his finger was under his leg and blood was flowing from it. The Tzeduki said to him: `You are an impulsive people, who placed your mouths before your ears, and you continue being rash. You should have first listened to see whether you could fulfill the Torah, and if not, you should not have accepted it.' Rovo answered, `About us, who act simply, it is written: "The integrity of the upright shall guide them" (Mishlei 11:5).' "

Rashi explains, "We went with Him with simple hearts, just like those who act out of love. We relied upon Him that He would not mislead us by endowing us with something we could not uphold."

This seems to be the explanation of our request "for the sake of our forefathers who trusted in You and whom You taught the decrees of life." Yisroel accepted the Torah with faith and trust in HaKodosh Boruch Hu that He would not mislead them by commanding them to do things they could not fulfill. (After writing this I saw that the Iyun Tefillah, printed in Otzar HaTefilos, had already written this explanation.)

However, after a deeper look, we will understand that this explanation is insufficient. The above explanation, based upon the gemora, just says that the Jews believed and trusted in Hashem, but does not indicate that through the merit of their belief and trust they were privileged to receive the Torah. The tefilloh of Ahavoh Rabbah states that through that zechus they merited to receive the Torah.

We should add to the above what the Meshech Chochmah writes on the posuk, "See, Hashem has called by name Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur of the tribe of Yehudah, and He has filled him with the spirit of Elokim, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (Shemos 35:30). "Self- sacrifice must be done without excessive questioning or analyzing. Yehudah threw himself into the ocean with mesirus nefesh (as written in the Tosefta of Sotah), and Chur sacrificed his life over [the events which led to] the eigel. The Chossid Yaavetz testifies that deep analysis of Hashem's command prevents a person's inner will from reaching self-sacrifice for the sanctification of Hashem's Name. Since Chur [who was the grandfather of Betzalel] and Yehudah [his forefather] carried out Hashem's command in a simple way and were not overwise, Hashem therefore filled [their descendant Betzalel] with wisdom and understanding."

In my work Chazon LaMo'ed (1:25) I interpreted the Meshech Chochmah according to the principle that the Beis HaLevi (parshas Ki Siso) wrote concerning the sin of the eigel. The Beis HaLevi wrote: "They attempted to designate a distinct place where the Shechinoh could rest, as there actually was later in the Mishkan, and through their knowledge of kabalah understood what they are required to do . . . Yisroel's intent was virtuous, since they wanted through their efforts to be granted a place for the Shechinoh to rest, but were mistaken in one point. Although it is true that what a person does in this lowly world causes tikkunim . . . that is only if the Torah commanded us to do that act. Even with the Mishkan, only when Hashem had commanded us to make it with all its details, and Bnei Yisroel fulfilled this command, did the tikkunim materialize. If a person decides to do something the Torah did not command, that act is fruitless and will not cause any Shechinoh to rest in the world. The main tikkun is the fulfilling of the Creator's will, and anything besides that is only mortal invention that will be considered a great sin. Bnei Yisroel therefore sinned in their actions and an eigel emerged."

We learn from the Beis HaLevi that the cheit ho'eigel lay in the people's not accepting Hashem's commands simply. Chur opposed this overwise behavior with self- sacrifice. He rebuked bnei Yisroel and told them that they should carry out what they were commanded simply. Moshe would later return from Shomayim and everything would be as it was before.

The Torah's rule of "measure for measure" decrees that those who do not try to be overwise and instead follow Hashem's will simply, deserve to receive "wisdom and understanding." Chur was therefore privileged that Betzalel, whom Hashem filled with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, descended from him. Because of Chur the Shechinoh dwelled among bnei Yisroel after Hashem commanded to make the Mishkan. In the cheit ho'eigel Yisroel had attempted to be overly wise and make a place for the Shechinoh before being commanded to do so.

Now we know our source for saying that our forefathers were privileged to receive the Torah by the merit of their belief and trust in Hashem. Only the zechus of their accepting Hashem's command simply and saying, "We will do and we will listen" (Shemos 24:7) guaranteed their receiving wisdom and understanding to understand the Torah like Betzalel the son of Uri the son of Chur. The tikkun of the sin of being overwise leads to the understanding of the Torah's wisdom.

Our Portion in Your Torah on Tu BeShevat

We will now cite the main theme of what the Chidushei HaRim zt'l wrote about Tu BeShevat. The Yerushalmi (Rosh Hashanah 1:2) writes that a tree that ripens before Tu BeShevat is growing on rain water that descended from before Rosh Hashanah. A tree that ripens after Tu BeShevat is growing on rain water from after Rosh Hashanah (see also the Bavli, Rosh Hashanah 14, Tosafos, and Turei Even). "Rain" actually refers to all the kinds of abundance that descend from heaven, and this shefa of life is sent each year from Rosh Hashanah until Shemini Atzeres and distributed to each person according to his needs, both spiritual and material (benei, chayei, umezonei -- children, life, and livelihood).

The beginning of the revelation of that shefa is on Tu BeShevat, just as blossoming is the revelation of what the rain did after Rosh Hashanah. "For as the rain and snow descend from heaven . . . So is My word that goes forth out of My mouth" (Yeshaya 55:10-11). Just as a "tree of the field" blossoms due to that year's rainwater and its ripening is gauged according to Tu BeShevat, likewise concerning a person who is compared to a "tree of the field," his Eitz HaChaim, the Torah within him, blossoms at that time.

The Written Torah is the tree and the Oral Torah the branches and fruit that grow and are nourished from the Written Torah. "And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month . . . beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moav, Moshe began to explain this Torah, saying . . . " Until the fortieth year Moshe received the Written Torah. Chazal infer from this that a talmid only really understands his Rebbe after forty years. On Rosh Hashanah of the fortieth year Moshe was sent a shefa of the combined Written and Oral Torah whose blossoming was on Shevat.

(The Chidushei HaRim further explains the difference of opinion between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai whether the Rosh Hashanah for Trees is on the first or the fifteenth of Shevat.)

On Rosh Hashanah a person receives his annual spiritual and material allotment. Just as his material needs blossom and give fruit on Tu BeShevat, so too he receives his spiritual shefa on the Rosh Hashanah for Trees, since "a person is a tree of the field." This is the meaning of the Chidushei HaRim's statement that "one can discern which chidushei Torah were said before Tu BeShevat and which afterwards." The chidushei Torah are the new fruit sent to a person on Rosh Hashanah in potential and they actually materialize on Tu BeShevat.

The mussar and guidance we wrote above follow the same lines as what the Chidushei HaRim zt'l teaches us. The way to receive the ability to innovate chidushei Torah -- wisdom and pilpulim -- so that they will blossom on Tu BeShevat is by accepting what Hashem commands simply, without being overwise. This is the only way to be sure to have the privilege of understanding the Torah's wisdom. Chur, through his self-sacrifice in following Hashem's command simply, merited to have Betzalel who was given a shefa of wisdom, come forth from him.

The Reason We Eat Fruit from Eretz Yisroel on Tu BeShevat

There is still another reason to eat the fruit of Eretz Yisroel on Tu BeShevat. Chazal write that since Eretz Yisroel is a superior country for the dwelling of the Shechinoh, therefore its inhabitants have a unique capability of understanding the Torah. "`The chief among the dust of the world' (Mishlei 8:26) -- Eretz Yisroel is the most beloved of all lands and was created for all people. It was called a `world' (teiveil) because of the spice (tavlin) found within it. That spice is the Torah, as is written, `Among the nations there is no Torah' (Eichah 2:9), from which we learn that the Torah is only in Eretz Yisroel" (Sifrei, parshas Eikev).

Becoming saturated with the spiritual quality of Eretz Yisroel, which is especially advantageous for Torah study, is not achieved by merely living in Eretz Yisroel. Only if one takes pleasure in its fruits can he obtain that benefit. The Bach (Orach Chaim 208) explains that the reason why we add, in the brocho mei'ein sholosh, "to eat of its fruit and to be satisfied with its goodness," is because "the kedushah of Eretz Yisroel, which emanates from the kedushah of its celestial counterpart, emanates also from its fruits, which are nourished by the kedushas haShechinah."

See the Sha'ar HaChotzer, who writes in the name of the Yalkut HaRo'im that "according to what the kabbalists write, this means that when Eretz Yisroel was in its kedushah state and the mizbeiach existed, the kedushah of Eretz Yisroel's fruits and their taste was greater than the kedushah of the manna and its taste. The manna therefore fell in the desert and not in Eretz Yisroel, since Eretz Yisroel did not need the kedushah of the manna."

It is general knowledge that the eating of the manna helped purify bnei Yisroel to be able to receive the Torah (see the Shev Shemaatsa in the introduction). Since Tu BeShevat is the day when the power of innovating chidushei Torah is awarded to each person, there is a special interest then in eating Eretz Yisroel's fruit. By doing so we are nourished with the shefa of understanding the Torah's wisdom that pours out into Eretz Yisroel, where the Shechinoh dwells.

HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira is the author of Chazon LaMoed and mashgiach of Chevron Yeshiva, Geulah, Yerushalayim.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.