Three Categories of Fruit - קדושים

Friday, 6 May, 2022 - 11:07 am

Three Categories of Fruit

Of the fifty-one commandments in this week's Torah portion, there is one subject that, according to Chassidic commentary, is a prototype for our entire mission here on earth. The Torah commands that when planting a tree, the fruit of the first three years is prohibited for consumption. The fourth year's fruit is considered holy and must be eaten exclusively in Jerusalem. Only in the fifth year may the fruit be eaten anywhere and for any purpose: 

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit {from use}; it shall be blocked from you {from use} for three years, not to be eaten.

And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord.

And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit; {do this, in order} to increase its produce for you. I am the Lord, your G-d. (Leviticus 19:23-25)

Our soul’s descent into the physical world is likened to a tree being planted in the soil. The experiences we engage in and the actions we produce are likened to the fruit of the tree. All of our “fruit” fall within one of three categories: (1) A prohibition, an act that is negative and therefore must be rejected, just like the fruit of the first three years. (2) A Mitzvah; an act that is holy and an obligation, similar to the fruits of the fourth year that must be eaten in Jerusalem. (3) A permissible act; an act that is "neutral," neither negative nor holy, just like the fruit of the fifth year that may be eaten anywhere.  

These three steps, according to Chassidic philosophy, are in ascending order. The first step is to separate from negative experiences, after the first step we then ascend to the step of engaging holiness by observing the commandments. But why does the third, and most sublime step correspond to the fruits of the fifth year, which are not holy but are merely neutral? 

The commandment of the first fruits indicates a profound message. In some ways, there is an advantage to a Jew engaging in "mundane" "neutral" activities, even over the performance of an actual Mitzvah commandment. The purpose of creation is to transform the entire world into a home for G-d, a place hospitable to holiness, goodness, and kindness. While the Mitzvah imparts intense holiness to a limited set of objects and activities, it is the "neutral" aspects and experiences of life that make up most of our day, and most of the physical objects in the world. When we engage in the neutral, mundane, with a higher purpose, to support our service of G-d, we are bringing the Divine not only to the realm of holiness but also to the entire world. 

Based on the teachings of the Rebbe, Ki Bayom Hazeh 5748


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