Ben Hay-Hay said, "The reward [in the World to Come for Torah and mitzvot] is commensurate with the painstaking effort exerted." (Avot 5:26)

The various types of fruits which we eat exemplify different sorts of struggles in our service to G‑d. A fruit consists of the shell or peel, the fruit itself, and the seed contained within. The seed is the purpose of the fruit. It is the ability to regenerate and reproduce. It represents a Jew's work in this world; to engage in the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot in order to "know" G‑d, and then to pass these values and knowledge over to the next generation. The fruit represents an illusion of sweet spiritual pleasure, while the kelipa represent the negative inclination and the forces that keep us from fulfilling our spiritual potential. When one breaks through the shell, the seed, i.e. the reward, is immediately realized…

Nuts have a hard inedible shell, with the seed found immediately within and no fruit. Citrus fruits have an easy to peel inedible outside, and a sweet juicy fruit which holds the seeds. Peaches, plums, dates and olives etc. have a thin edible peel, sweet juicy fruit and a seed contained within a hard nut (the stone). Figs are eaten whole, the outside, fruit and seeds all together.

The exertion needed to break open nut shells, represents concentrated and painstaking effort in our service to G‑d. (Thus the expression: "a tough nut to crack".) When one breaks through the shell, the seed, i.e. the reward, is immediately realized.

Although citrus is not difficult to peel, it must be done. The effort exerted is less, therefore there is a sweet fruit which gives one the illusion of having attained a reward. The seeds are only reached when the illusion is consumed and dispelled.

Fruits like peaches are eaten skin and fruit together. One may sense elation that there is no shell to peel away - divine service seems easy. Yet this is an absolute illusion, for when one reaches the seed, it turns out to be a nut. Concentrated and painstaking effort is still required to break through to the seed.

Figs are eaten whole. The skin and fruit are so easy to eat that one doesn't realize that, in the ease of the divine service, one has also consumed the seeds. The reward is lost, nowhere to be found.

[First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim]