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Parsha Kedoshim

05/09/2019 08:42:05 PM



One of the mitzvos mentioned in Parshas Kedoshim is the laws of Orlah and Neta Reva’ai- that fruits produced from the first three years of a tree’s life are forbidden in benefit, and that the subsequent crop of the fourth year is to be eaten in Jerusalem before God.  After these mitzvos have been observed, the produce of the fifth year is now permitted to be used in any way.  Many commentators struggle with the concept behind the prohibition of Orlah, because it seems to run contrary to the Torah’s prohibition against wasting fruit trees.  What is the idea of abstaining from the first fruits, and completely wasting their usage and purpose until the 5th year?  

In his commentary on the Torah, the Ramban explains that the mitzvah of Orlah is the preface to the mitzvah of Neta Reva’ai, as the true objective of these mitzvos is to dedicate the first fruits to God, similar to the concept of Bikkuirm where one brings the first of the harvest to God.  However, given that fruits from the first three years are weak and underdeveloped, it would be inappropriate to dedicate inferior fruits as a gift to God, and we are therefore forced to wait under the fourth year to offer the first fruits before God.  During this waiting period when we are waiting for choice fruits to offer before God, we cannot benefit from the inferior fruits, because it would mean that the first fruits of the tree were not dedicated to God.  It emerges that according to this explanation, Orlah is really an inseparable prelude to the fulfillment of Rev’ai- a necessary restraint from the first three years’s produce that ensures that the fourth year’s produce will indeed be the first of fruits dedicated to God.  

We are familiar with the power of beginnings and the impact of “Reishis” in the Torah.  For example, we see that the mitzvah of Bikkurim, which is the dedication of “Reshishis” to God, is presented immediately after the law to remember how Amalek attacked us when we left Egypt.  Of the adversaries of the Jewish People, Amalek is singled out as the lone enemy that we seek to completely obliterate.  The difference between Amalek and other nations lies in the idea that Amalek is the “reishis” of attacks on the Jewish nation, and their ability to squash the high momentum of the Jews leaving Egypt makes them the toughest opponent.  As Billam describes Amalek, “The first of nations is Amalek, but its end will be eternal destruction”; because they capitalized on the power of “Reshihs,” they must be destroyed.  

There is a danger of mistaking the power of “reishis” for prematurely acting upon nascent ideas that are still developing.  Both Neta Rev’ai and Bikkurim are meant to be the “reishis to God,” but while Bikkurim is the very first fruits that grow of the new season, Reva’ai takes four years to produce its Reishis.  Three years of fruit may have been confused for the Reishis, but it took the ideas of Orlah to abstain and patiently wait for the right moment of “reishis” to finally come and properly inaugurate the tree.  The danger is that there is only one “reishis” in any project, and once the “reishis” has been used, the power is gone.  A premature Reishis can undermine its whole value, and as such, the all important value of Orlah leaves to grapple with finding the right moment of Reishis to capitalize upon.  

In the fifth chapter of Avos, the Bartenura compares Torah education to the laws of Orlah and Revai.  What is the perfect moment to “start” teaching a child Torah?  Before three years old, they are too young to appreciate the letters of Torah, and is preferable  to restrain from teaching the letters until the child turns 3 years old and the “reishis” moment can be better used.  It is a difficult struggle to ascertain when the “Reishis” moment comes in new projects, when the inferior fruits are gone and the timing is now right, but finding this moment is the key to maximizing its value.  

Thu, June 20 2024 14 Sivan 5784