New Year for Fruit Trees

The Mishnah designates the 15th of the month of Shevat as, "The New Year for Fruit Trees". The specifying of "trees" serves to exclude wheat, vegetables and other field produce. A fundamental distinction between fruit of the tree and produce of the field is implied; they are in different categories. In the spiritual realm there exists a difference between produce of the field and fruit of trees…

Everything that exists in the physical world is derived from its spiritual source, and its spiritual characteristics determine an object's physical properties. It follows that in the spiritual realm there exists a difference between produce of the field and fruit of trees. What's more, their primary distinction is found specifically in their spiritual source. From there, their characteristics then descend into physical reality.

The difference in their spiritual qualities can be discerned from their physical properties. Both produce of the field and fruit trees that grow in the wild aren't as choice as cultivated ones; additional improvement is achieved by means of sowing and planting. A further distinction is evident between the sowing of seeds and the planting of trees: it is easier to sow seeds than to plant trees. This differentiation isn't limited to a measure of physical labor; it can also be discerned on a psychological level.

When a person beholds substantial return from his labor, his aggravation and toil are eased. The pain of his labor is further reduced when he sees an immediate return. Produce of the field (hereafter wheat) grows much faster than fruits of a newly planted tree. Consequently, a person toils less - physically and emotionally - when sowing wheat than when he plants fruit trees. Nevertheless, hard work does have an advantage. This principle is articulated by the Talmud and Zohar as, "According to the suffering, is the reward". (Avot 5:17)

The abundance and quality of fruit in relation to the seed from which the tree grew is incomparatively greater than wheat in relationship to the seed from which it grew. From a kernel of wheat will sprout a single wheat stalk. Although these fresh kernels are numerous, they do not possess a qualitative difference from the seed that was sown. Their taste and appearance are identical.

This is not the case with fruit. There is an enormous qualitative difference between a fruit and the seed from which it grew. The fruits are sweet, whereas the seed is tasteless. A single tree will yield scores of fruit, and in each fruit are numerous seeds.

This illustrates the fundamental difference between wheat and fruit. Cultivation of wheat doesn't require enormous labor. Therefore its harvest isn't extraordinary. Planting fruit trees requires work, exertion and strain, yet the yield is much greater.

Divine Chaos

Rabbi Yitzchak Luria revealed the inner significance of the distinction between grain and fruit. Orchards correspond to the World of Tikun

He said a wheat field (called a "white field" in the Talmud - a bright sunny field without shade) corresponds to the primordial world of Tohu. Orchards correspond to the world of Tikun.

Originally, the world of Tohu was created; it self-destructed due to the intensity of its lights and lack of developed vessels. Then the world of Tikun was emanated in a pre-rectified state. "Tikun" is another name for the world of Atzilut. There, G‑d's Infinite Light is revealed within vessels as the ten sefirot.

The world of Tohu, though, didn't disappear from the scene. When it blew apart, small pieces, called "sparks", fell down into the Three Lower Worlds - the spiritual worlds of Creation, Formation, and this physical world of Action (Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya, respectively). The loftier an object's spiritual source, the lower it can descend. That is why the sparks of the world of Tohu fell all the way down into the lower spiritual worlds and this physical world.

Wheat Worlds

The Ari's definition also relates to the spiritual service of man. Wheat fields and orchards exist only after cultivation. This implies that fields and orchards both correspond to the world of Tikun. A wheat field, after all, produces wheat that benefits mankind and contributes to civilization. As civilization embodies rectification, fields can't refer exclusively to the world of Tohu- disorder and ruin.

It follows that there are different ways in which the world of Tohu is rectified. A wheat field symbolizes the first method. Here the world of Tohu receives a measure of rectification. However, it still remains in the category of Tohu. An orchard, though, represents a much higher level. There, the world of Tohu itself has been completely transformed into the world of Tikun.

This distinction can be understood by the qualitative difference between a fruit and its seed. As discussed earlier, this difference isn't apparent regarding wheat. While a single seed will produce many kernels of wheat, these new kernels are identical in taste to the original seed from which they grew.

Essential Leap

The principle "The greater the suffering, the more bountiful the return" also applies to the spiritual labor of purifying and rectifying this physical world. Planting an orchard requires enormous labor. As a result, a lofty intense spiritual light is revealed. A fruit tree's seed is incomparatively less valuable than the bushels of fruit it will yield. One must effect a transformation in the seed - a qualitative leap - to a new level that is existentially apart. How is this feat accomplished? Self nullification is required, which entails an enormous exertion.

Fields of wheat actually refer to the Three Lower Worlds. Trapped within these worlds are sparks from the broken world of Tohu. When the Ari said that wheat fields are the world of Tohu, he was referring to the spiritual work of redeeming its sparks exiled in the Three Lower Worlds. Like the World of Tohu itself, the Three Lower Worlds remain unrectified. Through the arduous labor of purification, the sparks of the world of Tohu are redeemed. Their rectification won't be consummated, though, until the Messianic era.

Orchards refer to the world of Tikun - the world of Atzilut. This world already exists in a state of perfection. Orchards, however, require enormous labor to realize a leap of value: from a tasteless seed to bountiful delicious fruit. This alludes to the elevation of the Three Lower Worlds into the world of Atzilut - also a qualitative leap. That's because the Three Lower Worlds are finite spiritual entities, whereas within Atzilut is revealed the Infinite Light of G‑d. For the Lower Three Worlds to ascend into Atzilut, a complete change of their essence is required…

Below Atzilut are thick veils of concealment. They separate the world of Atzilut from the Lower Three Worlds. Thus, for the Three Lower Worlds to ascend into Atzilut, a complete change of their essence is required. Once this transformation has been achieved, a most sublime and elevated light is revealed.

While hard spiritual work does indeed purify the Three Lower Worlds, they, as self-conscious independent entities, continue to exist. Kabbala described this state as a "lower-level unity". The object is nullified to G‑d's light; but it's still an object. That's why the Ari called these spiritual wheat fields "the world of Tohu"; their rectification is as yet incomplete.

Orchards, though, represent a higher level of nullification. Here the Three Lower Worlds ascend into Atzilut. There they completely lose their self-identity. "They" no longer exist. For in Atzilut, G‑d's Infinite Light shines. This produces a state of unification where existence, independent of G‑d's Light, is impossible. That's why the Ari called orchards "the world of Tikun" - the perfection of rectification.

Ultimate Perfection

Although usually the world of Tikun is considered to be a lower level than world of Chaos, orchards actually relate to a higher world of Tikun. The source of the spiritual ability required to elevate the sparks of the world of Chaos from the Three Lower Worlds up to Atzilut is this higher world of Tikun that is above the world of Tohu.

Malachi the Prophet alludes to this: "G‑d said, 'I loved Jacob and hated Esau'" (Malachi 1:2). This highest world of Tikun is the ultimate source for the lower World of Tikun - the world of Atzilut.

[Relative to time, G‑d first created the world of Tohu. The second verse in the Creation narrative says, "And the Earth was in a state of chaos and void". (Gen. 1:2) Then G‑d revealed the world of Atzilut, as the next verse relates: "And G‑d said let there be light." (Gen. 1:3) Beforethe initiation of the creation process, deep in the innermost point of G‑d's Essence, exists the highest world of Tikun. There, G‑d's truest desire is for a perfected world.]

This, then, is the ultimate explanation of the Ari's identification of orchards as the world of Tikun. He actually meant the highest world of Tikun. A long period of time is required until the fruits of this labor are realized.

This extended waiting period is stated in the Torah, "And you waited for many days". (Deut. 1:46) Just as physical fruit require a long time, likewise ultimate spiritual fruits. That's why their revelation will only be in the Messianic Era.

Secret Fruits

Torah itself possesses these two types of fields: agricultural fields and orchards. Sometimes Torah is compared to wheat and barley. Other times it is compared to fruit: wine, olives, oil and date-honey. Wheat and barley refer to the Revealed Torah…Wine, oil, and honey refer to the Secrets of the Torah…

Wheat and barley refer to the Revealed Torah which is called "bread", as King Solomon said, "Come eat of my bread." (Proverbs 9:5) On the other hand, wine, oil, and honey refer to the Secrets of the Torah.

The difference between these two aspects of Torah can be understood from the Zohar, which refers to the Revealed Torah as "the Tree of Good and Evil". This is similar to the Three Lower Worlds - Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya; in these worlds, division exists. This is not the case in the Secrets of the Torah - the "inner" Torah, in which there do not exist any arguments or division of opinion.

[Note: The Revealed Torah includes the Talmud and the Code of Jewish Law and contains complex legal arguments between the Sages in their attempt to discern the correct definition of the Law. In contrast, in the Secrets of the Torah - Kabbala and Chassidism - mystical concepts are elaborated upon in a straightforward manner.]

To obtain the Secrets of the Torah, one must first undergo a personal struggle and self-nullification to a greater degree than when learning the Revealed Torah. The Talmud cautions, "The Secrets of Torah are only revealed to those who have inner anxiety". However, after the individual has achieved perfection in his performance of the commandments and his own personal refinement, then the Divine Presence "speaks" from within his throat. Once this level has been realized, further struggle is unnecessary.

The difference between the Revealed and Concealed Torah corresponds to the difference between grain and fruit. Regarding wheat the Sages mutably asked, "And do people eat wheat in the form it is found in the fields?" Exertion is required to render wheat suitable for human consumption. This is not the case with fruit. Generally, the moment fruit has ripened on the tree it can be eaten.

Wheat symbolizes the Three Lower Worlds - Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya. In those worlds, even after purification has taken place, further work is required. This is not the case with fruits. Fruits allude to the rectification in the world of Atzilut; once perfected, additional exertion is unnecessary.

G‑d's Garden

Isaiah promised, "In the Future Era, Jacob will take root; Israel will blossom and bud, and the face of the world will be filled with wheat" (Isaiah 27:6). His prophecy pertains to the Egyptian Exile and all the subsequent exiles: Going into exile is likened to the sowing of seeds which later blossom. Going into exile is likened to the sowing of seeds which later blossom…

The verse also hints at the descent of souls, described by the Talmud as, "A fall from the highest peak into the deepest pit". The purpose of this is so that "Israel will blossom and bud", until, "On that day sing to her, a vineyard of frothing wine." (Isaiah 27:2)

"And the face of the world will be filled with wheat": at first like wheat and bread. Then afterwards Israel will be as the fruits of a vineyard and orchard: wine and oil, as Solomon prophesized, "Let my beloved come into his garden and eat its choicest fruits." (Song of Songs 5:1)

And specifically through the labor of, "Dwelling in the gardens of others, listening for Your voice." (Song of Songs 8:13) Here Solomon alluded to times of exile, when Jews occupy synagogues and rabbinical academies, even though they are located in the gardens of "others". By means of their spiritual toil, Jews cause G‑d to enter His "garden".

Then the essence of the Divine Presence will be revealed in this physical world as it originally was in the Garden of Eden. What's more, the future revelation will be with greater strength and vigor, until we will reach the revelation when "He will kiss me with the kisses of his mouth" (Song of Songs 1:2); these are the Secrets of the Torah which the Mashiach will teach.

Jeremiah prophesied this, "G‑d called your name, a young oil tree, beautiful with goodly fruit" (Jeremiah 11:16). Just as crushing an olive brings forth its oil, likewise Israel during the times of exile, gives forth "oil to illuminate" (Ex. 25:6). These are the mitzvot and Torah, as it is written, "For the mitzvot are as a lamp and the Torah is light" (Proverbs 6:23). Jews can effect this because G‑d's light shines in their souls, "The soul of man is the lamp of G‑d." (Proverbs 20:27)

Jews illuminate the darkness of the Exile, until, "The night will shine like the day" (Psalms 139:12), in the true and complete Redemption, through the Righteous Mashiach, which is about to happen.

Adapted by David Rothchild from a discourse on 15 Shevat 5732 (1972)

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