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7 Shevat 5761 - January 31, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Tu BiShevat -- A Tikkun for Eating the Eitz Hadaas

by HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira

Part II

This is the second of a three-part essay that explains many important and deep concepts that underlie the "minor" holiday of Tu BiShevat.

The first part noted that the occurrence of Rosh Hashanah of the Trees in Shevat prevented the destruction of Klal Yisroel by Haman in that month. It also noted that the Chidushei Harim says, "During Shevat, Heaven allots a Jew the chidushei Torah that he will innovate during the whole year," and generally "even today the wellsprings of Torah open during that month for every Jew." These two points are explained in the third part.

Also, a connection was noted between the mitzvos of the arba minim on Succos and Tu BiShevat. Finally, it was noted that there is a din on trees in Shevat. These points are explained here.

HaRav Shapira then began an explanation of Odom Horishon's sin in eating from the Eitz Hadaas: Odom originally could not discern evil, but he ate from the tree to be able to do so. Thereby he hoped to exercise his free will more and create a greater kiddush Hashem. In fact, he should have just obeyed Hashem's command not to eat from that tree.

From our Sages' teaching (Shabbos 55b, Bereishis Rabbah 17) it can be inferred that if Odom Horishon had not sinned and defiled his soul with forbidden food, he would have lived forever. It is a matter of general knowledge that the powers of the neshomoh are parallel to the four elements of the body (as cited in the introduction to Shemiras Haloshon of the Chofetz Chaim, in the name of HaRav Chaim Vital zt'l from Sha'arei Kedushah).

If Odom Horishon had been careful only to eat from the trees of the Garden of Eden and not from the forbidden Eitz Hadaas, these powers of the neshomoh would have vitalized his body and his body's composition would have remained inviolable forever. Death is natural only because everything composed of various elements eventually separates.

As long as Odom Horishon did not sin he also was not dependent upon food. The fusion of his natural foundations was dependent upon the power of his soul because his body was vitalized by his nefesh. Since the nefesh was eternal the body's composition would not break apart either. His body would become increasingly purified until it reached the level of a nefesh, as will be in the World to Come after techiyas hameisim.

Odom Horishon, because he wanted to increase his power of free choice and serve Hashem by overcoming his physical inclinations, ate from the Eitz Hadaas and became aware of good and evil. By doing so he severed his natural makeup from the nourishment provided by the nefesh. (See also the Ramban, Bereishis 2:17).

Every food that Odom Horishon ate before sinning was chiefly spiritual -- supernatural nourishment from Hashem. In the Sinai desert the manna that bnei Yisroel ate did not sustain their bodies in the way that material food did, and therefore the Jews called it a lechem kelokeil (miserable food). "And He afflicted you and caused you to suffer hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that emerges out of the mouth of Hashem does man live" (Devorim 8:3).

By eating the manna, the "bread of the mighty" sent them by the angelic Minister of the Torah (see the Shev Shemaatsa in its introduction), food that the mal'ochim were nourished with, bnei Yisroel discerned that for a body to be really considered alive, what is needed is spiritual and not natural nourishment. By eating this food which, through Hashem's command, descended to them from Heaven, bnei Yisroel felt healthier than they would when eating natural food.

Odom Horishon, however, erred and followed his reasoning that he should cling to nature, for the explicit aim of increasing his free choice so that Heaven's honor would also increase. Odom afterwards ate from the fruit of the Eitz Hadaas, which was a natural food, as we see from the posuk, "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes . . . " The Torah's rule of "a measure for a measure" then decreed that Odom Horishon would have to die, since he had invalidated his sustenance by "the breath of life that Hashem breathed into his nostrils" (Bereishis 2:7).

From our Sages' teaching we distill the follow principles: 1] The basis for Odom's sin was his not accepting Hashem's will without making calculations or entertaining personal designs. Although he wanted to increase his amount of free will by descending to a lower level, and thereby increase Heaven's honor by withstanding temptation when good was deeply concealed, he did not act correctly. 2] Until then the yetzer could entice man only from outside his body, but after the sin man's inner material inclinations were tilted towards evil.

The Sin of the Earth

"Hashem said, `Let the earth put forth grass, herb-yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind" (Bereishis 1:11). Chazal (cited in Rashi) write, "The taste of the tree [was to have been] like the taste of the fruit, but [the earth] did not do so -- `it put forth . . . fruit-trees bearing fruit' and not a tree [that was itself] fruit. When Odom was punished for his sin [the earth] too was punished."

If Odom and the earth were punished simultaneously, there would seem to be a connection between the two sins. What exactly is that connection?

The Kli Yokor writes that Odom's sin resulted from the earth's sin. Because of that sin, Odom was inclined to material life, and therefore he sinned. We must illuminate the essence of the earth's sin and solve the mystery of the connection between the two.

Although in their nature Odom's sin and the earth's sin are essentially different, as I will explain, their root is identical, thus making Odom's sin an outcome of the earth's sin. After reflecting on the matter we reach a simple hypothesis: if the earth had produced "trees of fruit" whose roots and branches would have had the same gratifying taste as their fruit, in addition to which once a year this tree would also produce fruit, the production of fruit would not be such an innovation: there would not be so much of a kvod Shomayim in such an event. The possibility of being able to eat the tree's yearly fruit would merely be an example of yeish miyeish (a creation from something already existing). Nature's being subjugated to the Creator's will would not be so apparent.

If, on the other hand, the tree's roots, branches, and leaves were inedible but, nevertheless, the tree would annually yield tasty fruit, that would be an example of an ex nihilo creation. The kvod Shomayim in such a case would then be immeasurably greater.

The earth wanted to increase Hashem's honor, and therefore it did not accept Hashem's command as given. The earth was "overwise" and decided to commit a sin lishmoh so as to attain the objective of increasing kvod Shomayim. That was the earth's sin. Instead it should have accepted without any questions exactly what Hashem commanded it, with no philosophizing. As I explained earlier, this was Odom Horishon's sin too.

I was shown that this principle was written (in a different fashion) by the Chizkuni in his peirush on the posuk, "and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind." "But [the earth] did not do so, and also the grasses produced more kinds than they were commanded to." We can learn from here that the earth's intention was virtuous, since many trees would be eliminated if the tree itself tasted like a fruit. Nonetheless, when Odom sinned, the earth was punished for its sin too, since "Why should you probe into these Divine mysteries?" (Brochos 10b) and "Is Hashem's hand ever too short?" (Bamidbar 11:23).

Although the Chizkuni explained the matter differently we learn from him two principles: 1] The earth had a proper intention. 2] The root of its sin was its being overwise and trying to improve upon Hashem's will.

We should emphasize that although the root of these sins was the same, the ways that Odom and the earth carried out their intents were quite distinct. The earth wanted, because of its judgment about how to increase kvod Shomayim, to bring about an ex nihilo condition. Man, on the other hand, assessed that he could increase kvod Shomayim by having a more hidden presentation of Hashem's rule over the world.

At any rate, both sins were the result of wanting to perform a sin lishmoh and were equivalent in that way. Now we can fathom why the Creator punished the two together and how the earth's sin caused Odom's sin. After Odom saw how it was possible to rebel against Hashem's will by doing a sin lishmoh and escaping punishment, he tried to do the same. (See how the Kli Yokor goes on to explain earth's sin).

Odom's sin was rooted in the fact that "man is a tree of the field." Odom's entire sin of eating from the Eitz Hadaas was caused by his trying to be like a "tree" that deviated from precisely fulfilling Hashem's command and did a sin lishmoh in an attempt to increase kvod Shomayim.

Tu BiShevat was designated as a day fitting to correct Odom Horishon's sin since the essence of Tu BiShevat is that "man is a tree of the field." Because of this significance Tu BiShevat is considered a yom tov to a certain extent, although the other roshei shonim are not. This day is the proper time to atone the sin of the Eitz Hadaas since Odom wanted to be similar to the trees and do a sin lishmoh.

The Eitz Hadaas Was an Esrog

According to the above principles the connection between the esrog of Sukkos and Tu BiShevat is even stronger. Our Sages in the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 15:7) disagree over which kind of tree Odom Horishon ate from. R' Abba maintains, "The tree from which Odom Horishon ate from was an esrog. The Torah writes `And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food. . .' (Bereishis 3:6). The only tree whose wood is eaten like its fruit is an esrog."

What is the concealed meaning in the na'anu'im of the arbaas minim on Sukkos? Rabbenu Bechaye (Parshas Emor 23:40) explains that we, "push away [the arbaas minim] and pull [them] towards us for Him to Whom the directions [of the world] belong. We raise and lower them for Him to Whom the heaven and the earth belong. By doing so we arouse ourselves to think about Hashem's oneness. Because our first father sinned with an esrog alone, we therefore do not bring an esrog alone; instead we bring it together with other fruits and unite it with them and them with it. By doing so we rectify what Odom corrupted and appease Hashem."

The Moreh Nevuchim (3:46) teaches us: "The public always finds atonement through se'irim (goats) because the sin of the entire Adas Yisroel was with a so'ir. This alludes to the sale of Yosef Hatzaddik, about which the Torah writes `And they slaughtered a goat and dipped the coat in the blood' (Bereishis 37:31). This reason should not appear feeble to you, since the intent of all these acts is to impress upon the sinner and each defiant person that atonement is needed for the sin he commits. He and all his offspring need to atone by doing something similar to his rebellious act, i.e., if he rebelled [against Hashem] by the use of money he should disperse money for His service. If he defied Hashem by indulging in physical pleasures he should exert his body by self-denial . . . and if the rebellion was in his midos he should strengthen himself in the opposite of that middah.

"We see the same with Aharon. He sinned through the eigel and therefore his korbon and that of his offspring was a par and an eigel. When dissension against Hashem was with a so'ir the atonement must be by avodoh with a se'ir izim. When a person thinks about all this it will undoubtedly be difficult for him to rebel . . . . This benefit is obvious, and you should remember this intent [of the Torah's]."

According to the Rambam's teaching that the tikkun for a sin is through the same means as the original rebellion against Hashem, it is understood why the mitzvah of esrog atones for the sin of Odom Horishon, since that sin was done with the Eitz Hadaas which, according to R' Abba, was an esrog.

There is an even deeper significance. The Rosh, in his commentary on the Torah (Bereishis 1), writes; "HaKodosh Boruch Hu commanded [Odom not to eat from the Eitz Hadaas] so that Odom would see the tree and remember his Creator; so that the yoke of his Creator would lie upon him and he would not be arrogant." But why was this particular tree chosen for Odom to remember his Creator through it?

According to what we have explained, that the sin of Odom Horishon resulted from the earth's sin, that question is resolved. The mitzvah of Odom Horishon in Gan Eden was "to work it and guard it" (Bereishis 2:15). This meant that he was to be mindful not to sin as the earth did, by not accepting Hashem's command as given and doing differently from Hashem's will. The esrog tree, whose wood tastes like its fruit [Hashem's original intent], makes manifest the warning to fulfill the Creator's will as expressed and without being overwise. From the esrog one can "remember his Creator, so that the yoke of his Creator will lie upon him."

Now we understand more thoroughly Rabbenu Bechaye's teachings: that the mitzvah of esrog comes on Sukkos because Odom Horishon sinned with an esrog, and how the mitzvah of an esrog is a tikkun for sinning with an esrog [Eitz Hadaas]. The tikkun for this sin was accepting Hashem's command simply, without trying to improve on it. This is the entire secret of the esrog, whose wood tastes like its fruit, because the esrog accepted Hashem's command in a simple way, as given.

In addition, now we can grasp the connection between the esrog coming to atone for Odom Horishon's sin and Tu BiShevat, which is the time when a further tikkun for Odom Horishon's sin is done. This is the reason why on Tu BiShevat, the Rosh Hashanah for Trees, we eat jam made from an esrog on which a brocho was made during Sukkos. This is also the basis of the segulah whereby a pregnant woman or a woman having difficulty giving birth eats an esrog on Tu BiShevat. Woman, who sinned through the Eitz Hadaas and was cursed that "with pain you will bring forth children" (Bereishis 3:16), achieves a tikkun through the esrog.

Tu BiShevat was also selected as the proper time to pray for an esrog and the other minim, to fulfill the mitzvah of arbaas minim that atone for the sin of the Eitz Hadaas.

End of Part II

HaRav Aryeh Leib HaCohen Shapira is the author of Chazon LaMoed and mashgiach of Chevron Yeshiva, Geulah, Yerushalayim.

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