"A land of wheat and barley, vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil-olives and [date] honey." (Deut. 8:8)

The Land of Israel, as we have said, is the archetypal setting in which the Jewish people are to transform the world into God’s home. The seven plants enumerate here as the distinctive ones grown in the Land of Israel represent the diverse facets of this transformation process:

Wheat is used primarily for human food, barley primarily for animal food. These two grains therefore represent our methods for working with the Divine and animal sides of our personalities. Wine—the consummate product of the grape—which releases inhibitions and "gladdens man’s heart," represents the joy with which we should infuse our work with both our Divine and animal nature. Since Adam and Eve’s first clothes were made of fig leaves, figs represent our efforts to refine the "garments" of our souls, i.e., thought, speech, and action. The seed-laden pomegranate symbolizes the multitude of Divine commandments through which we refine the world around us. Thus, these five plants depict how we fulfill our task in the world, progressing from the easier work we have to do (manifesting our inner, Divine nature) to the hardest (refining the outside world).

This is the extra exertion we must invest in attaining our goal during the exile...

The repetition of the word "land"—emphasizing the setting in which all this work takes place—alludes to an intensified variation of the paradigm of work described by the first five plants. This is the extra exertion we must invest in attaining our goal during the exile, when the effort required of us is far greater than that required in the Holy Land during times of open Divine revelation.

This intensified process and its results are alluded to by the last two of the seven plants: Olives are bitter tasting and produce their oil only when pressed hard. Date trees take a very long time to grow, reflecting the great amount of work required during the exile to produce spiritual fruits. However, both the light-producing oil extracted from olives as well as the sweet honey produced from dates allude to the great revelations of the inner dimension of the Torah that will accompany the messianic redemption. The supreme efforts required of us during the exile call forth much deeper and profounder dimensions of our relationship with God and our devotion to Him, and therefore elicit commensurately deep revelations of the Torah.

Obviously, the same dynamic applies to each of us in our own individual journeys toward our personal "promised land": the greater the efforts we expend in attaining, sustaining, and promulgating Divine consciousness, the deeper we must dig into the core of our souls, and the more profound will be our resultant relationship with G‑d and the Torah.

Adapted from Sefer HaSichot 5752, vol. 1, pp. 324-328
© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org