On Rosh Hashana, the first day of the New Year, we come home from Maariv prayers and sanctify the day with Kiddush. We then proceed as we normally do on a holiday and make a blessing of המוציא over two loaves of bread. This specific bracha reminds us that all of the bread in the world comes from the blessings of the Land of Israel. Then we have the opportunity to perform the very first mitzvah of the year, the blessing of העץ on the first fruit of the simanim, which are meant to empower our future with spiritual closeness to G-d and material happiness.
The First Blessing Is Made On A Fruit From a Tree
What is the first mitzvah of the year that we do in order to symbolize the desire for a good year? We make a blessing of “ha’etz” with the best of our fruits. The fruits of the simanim are not part of the meal and are therefore not covered under the bracha of the המוציא; subsequently, an independent blessing is required.
How do we know which fruit is the best? The best fruits are those that are identified as the seven species unique to Eretz Yisrael. These fruits are also the first fruits of the season that we bring to the Beit Hamikdash , בית ה’ , for the mitzvah of Bikurim on Shavuos. The Rabbis have taught us that we learn this halacha from the order of the seven species, שבעה מינים, listed in the Torah in relation to their proximity to the word “ארץ”, describing the Land of Israel.
דברים ח: ח-י פרשת עקב
אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן וּדְבָשׁ: אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר לֹא בְמִסְכֵּנֻת תֹּאכַל בָּהּ לֶחֶם לֹא תֶחְסַר כֹּל בָּהּ; אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אֲבָנֶיהָ בַרְזֶל וּמֵהֲרָרֶיהָ תַּחְצֹב נְחֹשֶׁת: וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ, וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת ה אֱלֹקיךָ, עַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָךְ:
A land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a land of oil-olives and honey [dates]; a land where you will eat bread without poverty, you will lack nothing there…You will eat and you will be satisfied and you will bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good land that he gave you. (Devarim 8:8-10)
By prioritizing a blessing over fruit of the seven species of Eretz Yisrael one also praises the Land of Israel. The sheva minim are: wheat , barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. These kinds of fruits have priority over others in making a blessing (Shulchan Aruch, Ohr Chaim 211). This seems to be a clear source to prioritize the blessing over a date not to start with an apple in honey; as is instructed by the Artscroll Machsor.
The lesson learned from this passuk is for us to desire to get close the Land. The fruits closer to the word ארץ have priority. We learn that when one has a choice between eating an apple or a date first, one should not only reject an apple but rather have a desire for the fruits of Israel. We must go first for the date honey (not bee honey) before a pomegranate or an apple. We learn our priorities by studying the laws of eating the fruits found in the Land of Israel.
ברכות מא עמוד א
דרבי יהודה סבר מין שבעה עדיף, ורבנן סברי מין חביב עדיף…כל המוקדם בפסוק זה מוקדם לברכה. שנאמר, ” ארץ חטה ושערה וגפן ותאנה ורימון; ארץ זית-שמן ודבש“.
For Rav Yehuda holds that the species that is one of the seven takes precedence, and the blessing is recited over it. Whereas, the Rabbis hold that the species favored by him takes precedence, and the blessing is recited over it…Whatever is mentioned first in this verse, is first with regard to the recital of a blessing. For it is stated: “A land of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates, a land of oil olives and [date] honey.” (Talmud Bavli Berachos 41a)
There is a disagreement between Rav Yehuda and the Rabbis on this topic. The Chachamim allow one prioritize their first fruit based on personal feelings; whereas Rav Yehuda states Israel is always first. Most poskim (Rabbis) rule according to Rav Yehuda, that personal preferences aside, the seven fruits of Israel are always given priority in blessings over fruits בה”ג, תר”י, תוס’) רא”ש, סמ”ג, ראב”ד, מרדכי, מהר”ם )
The next question is, if one must chose to eat from one of the seven fruits of Israel, which one has priority?
ברכות מא עמוד ב
רב חסדא ורב המנונא הוו יתבי בסעודתא אייתו לקמייהו תמרי ורמוני. שקל רב המנונא בריך אתמרי ברישא. אמר ליה רב חסדא: לא סבירא ליה מר להא דאמר רב יוסף ואיתימא ר’ יצחק: כל המוקדם בפסוק זה קודם לברכה? אמר ליה: זה שני לארץ וזה חמישי לארץ.
Rav Chisda and Rav Hamnuna were sitting at a meal in the course of which they brought before them dates and pomegranates. Rav Hamnuna took and recited the blessing on the dates first. Rav Chisda said to him: Does master not hold that which Rav Yosef and some say Rav Yitzchak said: Whatever is mentioned first in this verse is first with regard to the recital of a blessing? ]According to that teaching, the blessing should have been recited on the pomegranate, which is fifth in the verse, rather than on the date, which is seventh? Rav Hamnuna[ said to him: I indeed hold that teaching. However, this [the date] is the second fruit mentioned after the word land, while this [the pomegranate] is the fifth fruit mentioned after the word land. ]Dates, therefore, take precedence over pomegranates[. (Talmud Bavli Berachos 41b)
Summary of priorities for eating fruits of the שבעה מינים:
- Wheat – first after the first ארץ
- Olives – first after the second ארץ
- Barley – second after the first ארץ
- Dates – second after the second ארץ
- Grapes – third after the first ארץ
- Figs – fourth after the first ארץ
- Pomegranates – fifth after the first ארץ
The two times ארץ is mentioned in the verse refers to the two ways a Jew can get close to Eretz Yisrael. One is via a spiritual connection which is borne out of many years of prayer and studying Torah topics in depth. The other way, is through the natural and personal experiences one gains when visiting and living in the actual country of Israel.
The First type of spiritual connection is more important and sincere. For in this manner one’s commitment is to the spiritual source of the Land. This imbibes an unshakable love for the Land which will not change with politics or physical comforts. It is also more important for is refers to the majority (five of seven) of the sheva minim. However, the reality is most people are not so sophisticated and can only relate to what they see and feel. In our generation, most Jews need to visit Israel first to see if they agree with G-d, that this is a good place for them to live. Similarly, we have seen that secular Zionism is not longer committed to the settlement and growth of the state of Israel. This has gone to the extreme where a Jewish settler is no longer considered a hero, but is seen as a problem. As real Jews (from Judea), we are committed to the Land and the fruits of all of Eretz Yisrael. This is true because we appreciate our physical and spiritual connection to the Land.
Making the proper blessing on the proper fruit at the right time is a crucial decision. Rav Yehuda Zev Segal teaches us that saying a proper bracha is the key to acquiring yiras shamayim. This is how we connect to G-d דביקות- . We thank Him and show appreciation; in return He blesses us.
Another technical aspect has to do with one eating a whole date versus slices of an apple. The Shulchan Aruch rules that whole items are more chashuv (important) and thus a whole date takes priority to a half a date or even a slice of an apple. ( Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 168)
There is a sacred Jewish concept to preserve our Jewish customs – מנהג אבותינו בידינו. The Rema, based on the Tur mentions the Ashkenazik custom of using an apple dipped in honey on Rosh Hashana in the simanim. This in no way implies that if one of the שבעה מינים are present that the apple takes priority! One should therefore use the apple, keep the minhag, but follow the halacha of blessing the date first.
שולחן ערוך אורח חעעם תקפג: א
יהא אדם רגיל לאכול בראש השנה רוביא, דהיינו תלתן, כרתי, סילקא, תמרי, קרא. וכשיאכל רוביא, יאמר: יהי רצון שירבו זכיותינו. כרתי, יכרתו שונאינו. סלקא, יסתלקו אויבינו. תמרי, יתמו שונאינו. קרא, יקרע גזר דיננו ויקראו לפניך זכיותינו. הגה: ויש נוהגין לאכול תפוח מתוק בדבש (טור), ואומרים “שתחדש עלינו שנה מתוקה” (אבודרהם). וכן נוהגין. ויש אוכלים רימונים ואומרים: “נרבה זכיות כרימון”. ונוהגין לאכול בשר שמן וכל מיני מתיקה (מרדכי דיומא).
A person should accustom himself to eat on Rosh Ha-Shanah cowpeas, leek, spinach, dates and squash…Remah: There are people whose practice is to eat a sweet apple with honey…this is in fact our practice. There are people who eat pomegranates… )Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 583)
It is obvious to those who have knowledge of brachos that there is a proper order of the blessings. That is addressed in a previous siman in Shulchan Aruch (OC 211), not here. If a date is present then that takes priority. It seems that in the land of Ashkenaz the sweet items that they had available were apples and bee honey; not dates. Thank G-d, today we are free of the cruel galus of the land of Ashkenaz and we now have the option to partake of the select fruits of Israel.
What is the Final Halacha?
G-d is found and appreciated when one studies Jewish laws in depth.
מסכת ברכות ח עמוד ב
אין לו להקדוש נרוך הוא בעולמו אלא ארבע אמות של הלכה בלבד.
The Holy One Blessed is He, has nothing in His world but the four amos of halacha. (Talmud Bavli Berachos 8a)
The Shulchan Aruch discusses the priority of blessings over fruits when the seven species are present. He also addresses the issue if ones personal preference of a non-Israel fruit. One should give priority to the שבעה מינים.
שולחן ערוך אורך חיים ריא : א-ד
היו לפניו מיני פירות הרבה אם ברכותיהם שוות ויש ביניהם ממין שבעה מקדים מין שבעה אף על פי שאינו חביב כמו המין האחר ואם אין ביניהם ממין שבעה מקדים החביב…
If one has a number of kinds of fruit in front of him which require the identical blessings and among them there is a fruit of the seven species, he should give priority for the blessing to the fruit which is of the seven species, although he is not as fond of it as he is of another kind of fruit there. If there is no fruit of the seven species among them, he should give priority to the kind of which he is fonder…(SA OC 211:1)
ולהרמב”ם אם היה מין אחד חביב לו יותר בין שברכותיהם שוות בין שאינם שוות בין שיש בהם ממין שבעה בין שאין בהם ממין שבעה מקדים החביב לו אז באותה שעה ואם אינו רוצה בזה יותר מבזה אם יש ביניהם משבעת המינים מברך עליו תחלה.
According to the Rambam (Hilchos Berachos 8:13), if one is more fond of one of the kinds of fruit, then, irrespective of whether the fruits require the identical blessing of whether they do not require the identical blessing and regardless of whether there is a fruit of the seven species among them or whether there is no species among them, he should give priority to the kind of which he is fonder then, at that moment. However, if he has no more preference for one kind that for the other, then, if there is a fruit of the seven species among them he should make the blessing over that fruit first. (SA OC 211:2)
כל הקודם בפסוק ארץ חטה ושעורה קודם לברכה וארץ בתרא הפסיק הענין וכל הסמוך לו חשוב מהמאוחר ממנו לארץ קמא. הלכך תמרים קודמים לענבים שזה שני לארץ בתרא וזה ג’ לארץ קמא. הגה: ... כל הנאמר סמוך לארץ קמא קודם למה שנאמר סמוך לארץ בתרא לאחר ששוה לו בסמיכה לארץ:
Whichever species is mentioned earlier in the verse (Devarim 8:8), “A Land of wheat barley, etc.” has priority for the blessing. The second mention of the land in the verse is a discontinuation of the first statement. Any species whose mention closely follows it is of more consequence than a species which is mentioned correspondingly later than that species following the first mention of the Land. Consequently, dates have priority over grapes for the blessing, since dates are mentioned second after the second mention of the Land, whereas grapes are only mentioned third after the first mention of the Land. Rema:…Whatever is mentioned following the first mention of the Land, in the verse listing the species for which the Land of Israel is praised, has priority over what is mentioned following the second mention of the Land, if it is correspondingly close to the mention of the Land. (SA OC 211:4)
The Mishna Berura rules about prioritizing the bracha of an olive compared to a citron. But the same can be stated about a date vs. an apple. One should make a bracha over the date first and have the citron or apple in mind.
If one has a citron and an olive in front of him, then even if he is fonder of the citron than the olive it is ruled above in paragraph 1 that he should make the blessing over the olive, since it is of the seven species…the opinion of the Rambam…that the fruit of which one is fonder is even to be preferred over a fruit of the seven species…It is definitely preferred to act initially in accordance with the first opinion…and make the blessing over the olive and not over the citron. (Mishnah Berura 211:33)
Serve G-d With Happiness
When we deal with the fruits of Israel; they remind us to serve G-d with happiness שמחה. This is derived from the bikurim fruit. They remind us to say thank You to G-d and to serve Him with Joy. True simcha can only be found in Eretz Yisrael. Those who are worthy, get to pray for this while living in Eretz Yisrael.
דברים כו:יא, פרשת כי תבוא
ושמחת בכל הטוב אשר נתן לך ה’ אלקיך ולביתך.
You shall rejoice in all the good that Hashem your G-d has given you and your household. (Devarim 26:11)
The Ohr Hachayim teaches, that the place for us to rejoice is only in Eretz Yisrael. He bases this on a pasuk in Tehillim.
תהילים קכו: א-ב
שיר המעלות: בשוב ה’ את שיבת ציון היינו כחולמים. אז ימלא שחוק פינו ולשונינו רינה; אז יאמרו בגוים: הגדיל ה’ לעשות עם אלה.
When Hashem will return the captives of Zion, we will be like dreamers. Then our mouths will fill with laughter, and our tongue with glad song; then they will declare among the nations, greatly has Hashem done with these. (Tehillim 126:1-2)
The Sefer Chareidim takes this concept even further. He states that those of us who dwell in Eretz Yisrael must constantly be happy about our perpetual mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. The fruits of Israel remind us of where we belong and to celebrate real joy. This cannot be accomplished with an apple. The meraglim used the fruits of Israel (grapes, figs, and pomegranates) to discourage Aliyah and caused sadness for generations. Our job is to rectify this sin and to do just the opposite and side with Yehoshua and Calev. We therefore specifically use the fruit of Israel, the date, (which was not taken by the meraglim) to start off the New Year with true joy.
The Israeli Jew Starts the Simanim with The Date, The Diaspora Jew Starts With the Apple
It is obviously clear that we should not make a bracha on an apple first when there is an option to make a blessing on one of the fruits identified with Eretz Yisrael! The Chutz La’aretz Jew has been accustomed to being out of the Land for so long that many Jews, including the authors of the Artscroll Rosh Hasahna machsor, do not follow the Halacha of blessing Eretz Yisrael שבעה מינים fruit first. In this manner the Land of Israel is not given proper respect. All of the good that comes to the world and the Jewish people originates in Israel; we must always remember this, especially on Rosh Hashana when we are praying for a fruitful future.
The Land of Israel Blesses the Ground of the World
In the Sefer Imrei Noam (Vilna Gaon’s hilchos berachos, p.35a) the question is asked – Why do we say prior to eating bread, המוציא לחם מין הארץ“, The One who brings bread from the land”; we should rather say המוציא לחם מין האדמה, The One who brings bread from the ground”? He answers, that this blessing refers to the Land of Israel. The שבעה מינים that grow in Chutz LaAretz draw their sustenance from Eretz Yisrael. If there would be no bread in Eretz Yisrael, there would be no bread throughout the world. Therefore, we say the blessing over bread, “from the land”, because it refers to Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, the seven species throughout the world draw their sustenance from Israel. (Eretz Yisrael In the Parsha, pg. 347).
We must be knowledgeable of the laws of berachos because fear of Hashem, יראת שמים , comes from us saying berachos properly. Ironically, the meraglim who were and are against aliyah to Israel, used the actual fruits of the Land of Israel to disparage the Land and caused the 9th of Av to turn into a day of mourning for generations. It is therefore very appropriate to use the fruits of Israel to remind us every year of what we pray for at the end of every Hagadah, “Next year in Israel לשנה הבא בירושלים “. When we pray to be in Yerushaliyim, the implication is that every Jews desires to live in Israel. For some this is just a meaningless song, like chirping of the birds (Kuzari 2:24). For others it has been a 2,000 year prayer of yearning and waiting for the opportunity when any Jew can make Aliyah and serve G-d properly in Eretz Yisrael.
Now, at the beginning of every New Year, is our chance to rectify all our sins, including the sin of not making Aliyah by following the advice of the mergalim when they showed us the majestic fruits of Israel. Why would any observant Jew choose to make the first blessing of the New Year on an apple when we have better choice of one the fruits of Israel?
I asked this question to Rav Simcha HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot. He did not understand my question. He stated clearly, “Of course we make the first bracha of the simanim on the date! It is the first of the shiva minim. Who would choose to use an apple?”
Remember to Praise the Land of Israel
The Haftorah before Rosh Hashana for parshas Nizavim, reminds us to start off the New Year by remembering and praising the Land of Israel.
למען ציון לא אחשה ולמען ירושלים לא אשקוט…כי לך יקרא חפצי בה ולארצך בעולה, כי חפץ ה’ בך וארצך תבעל…ירושלים תהילה בארץ.
For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, and for Yerushaliyim’s sake I will not be still…you shall be called “My desire is her,” and your land “Settled,” for Hashem’s desire is in you and your land shall be impregnated (settled)…Yerushalayim is the praise of the land. (Yeshaya 62:1-7)
In the year 5777, right after Rosh Hashana, the United Nations declared that Yerushalayim has no Jewish connection. It could be that the UN is holding up a mirror for millions of Jews who are forgetting our connection to Israel; therefore we need to fight and reaffirm our connection to the Land of Israel. Ironically at the end of the same year a Jewish group claiming to represent 200,000 Jewish members in the USA proclaimed their “Jewish” rejection of the Land of Israel!
The Jewish Voice for Peace, far-left group based in Oakland, California which claims to have some 200,000 supporters…declares that Israel is not the birthright of Jews, and decries the nascent Israeli army’s efforts to defend against Arab invasion in 1948 as the “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs by “Zionist militias”.“As young Jews, we recognize that Israel is not our birthright…(Arutz 7 News, September 8, 2017)
This clearly demonstrates that the reincarnations גילגולים of the meraglim are still around, and many are living in the USA today. Our goal is to vocally stand up for the sake of Israel and not be silent. We need to proudly show that we desire the Land of Israel in words and actions.
Plant a Fruit Tree in Israel
The first mitzvah that we are supposed to perform after moving to Israel is the planting of a fruit tree. Just as a tree grows roots in the ground and then gives off fruits and offspring; so to we are supposed to be implanted in the Land of Israel and never leave. Once we are established in the Land, than we have the ability to also establish the source of Torah, כי מציון תצא תורה.
ויקרא יט:כג, פרשת קדושים
וכי תבואו אל הארץ ונטעתם כל עץ מאכל וערלתם ערלתו את פריו, שלש שנים יהיה לכם ערלים לא יאכל:
When you shall come to the land and you should plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years they shall be forbidden to you, they shall not be eaten. (Vayikra 19:23)
The first blessing on a fruit of the New Year is a “העץ”. We choose the date on Rosh Hashana to represent this prayer. We are supposed to emulate the tree. The tree in turn reminds us of our service to G-d through the Torah.
כי אם בתורת ה’ חפצו והתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה: והיה כעץ שתול על פלגי מים אשר פריו יתן בעתו יעלהו לא יבול וכל אשר יעשה יצליח:
But his desire is in the Torah of Hashem, and His Torah he meditates day night. He shall be like a tree deeply rooted alongside brooks of water that yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf never withers; and everything that he does will succeed. (Tehillim 1: 2-3)
We are to emulate the trees of Israel. This may be a reason that we are forbidden to destroy fruit trees. According to the Avnei Nezer (Yoreh De’ah 454) the Torah commands us to settle the Land of Israel in parshas Shoftim.
דברים כ:טז-יז, שופטים
רק מערי העמים האלה אשר ה אלקיך נתן לך נחלה לא תחיה כל נשמה: כי החרם תחרימם החיתי והאמרי הכנעני והפרזי החוי והיבוסי, כאשר צוך ה אלקיך:
But from the cities of these peoples that Hashem, your G-d gives you as an inheritance, you shall not allow any person to live. Rather you shall utterly destroy them : the Chiti, and the Emory, the kina’ani and the Perizi, the Chivi, and the Yevusi, as Hashem, your G-d, has commanded you. (Devarim20:16-17)
This topic is then followed by the rules forbidding the cutting down of trees in the Land of Israel.
דברים כ:יט, פרשת שופטים
כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ, לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת, כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר?
When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them, for from it you will eat, and you shall not cut it down; is, then, the tree of the field a man that it should enter the siege before you? (Devarim 20:19)
Why Do Many Jews Insist on Using an apple as the first Siman on Rosh Hashanah?
Rabbi Berel Wein (aish.com) is pro-apple proponent, just like the authors of the Artscroll Rosh Hashana machzor. In my opinion, the current justification for using the apple to make the first blessing “Ha’etz” of the new year, is forced and farfetched. He explains that the Jewish people are compared to an apple in Shir Ha’Shirim. In addition, he quotes the custom of dipping the apple in honey has been around since the 7th century, the era of the Geonim. By doing this, we symbolize that we want to have a sweet new year.
He continues that the Land of Israel is called that land of milk and honey. Rosh Hashana is an opportunity to remind us of our attachment to Eretz Yisrael. Dates are one of the seven species and the honey referring to Israel is honey from dates, not bees. Thus, Rabbi Wein concludes that this is why we dip the apple into the honey. We symbolize the sweetness of life and its connection to the Land of Israel.
The Artscroll machsor brings a very esoteric source for using the apple. When Yitzchak gave his famous blessing to Yaakov he refered to the “fragrance of a field which Hashem has blessed.” The Talmud (Taanis 29b) identifies this “fragrance” as that of a field of apple trees. My objection to this explanation is that this has no symbolic connection with Rosh Hashana; whereas the date does have a strong connection.
The Prayer “Shema Yisrael” is Referring to Eretz Yisrael
The Chassam Sofer comments on the juxtaposition of Israel being called the Land of milk and [date] honey, just prior to the prayer of the Shema. This teaches us that only once we are living in Israel can we truly show that we believe in G-d. Only by living in Israel, when we have the opportunity to do so, we actually demonstrate that we love G-d with our body and soul.
דברים ו:ג-ה, פרשת ואתחנן
וְשָׁמַעְתָּ יִשְׂרָאֵל וְשָׁמַרְתָּ לַעֲשׂוֹת אֲשֶׁר יִיטַב לְךָ וַאֲשֶׁר תִּרְבּוּן מְאֹד, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֶיךָ לָךְ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ:
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד: וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ וּבְכָל מְאֹדֶךָ:
You shall listen, Yisrael, and you shall beware to perform, so that it will be good for you, and so that you will increase very much, as Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, spoke to you – a land flowing with milk and honey. Listen, Yisrael: Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One. You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul. (Devarim 6:3-5)
I would argue that this is another justification to make the first bracha with a date and not an apple. Rabbi Wein does not make a very convincing argument for the custom using the apple or bee honey on Rosh Hashana. However, he inadvertently makes a solid case to start with the date. Interestingly, on Rosh Hashana we also proclaim G-d as the King of the World, just as we do in the Shema prayer.
Rav Nachman of Breslev, comments that all the brachos connect us to Eretz Yisrael. Israel is a special gift from G-d to the Jews who do His will. This also reminds us that all worldly enjoyments are really a beneficence provided by G-d to those who do his will.
Seek after Israel , Not the Apple. Our problem Is That Some Jews Run for the Apple!
Hashem is our Father our King אבינו מלכינוwho only wants to give us good. He wants to help us and give us the blessings of this world. However, this is can only be done once we care about serving G-d in Israel.
כי אעלה ארוכה לך, וממכותיך ארפאך, נאום ה’. כי נידחה קראו לך, ציון היא, דורש אין לה.
For I will make a cure for you, and I will heal you from your wounds, the word of Hashem; for the called you “Discarded” [saying], “She is Zion, no one cares about her!” (Yermiyahu 30:17)
We need to be a “doresh”, a seeker of ways to praise the Land of Israel and reconnect physically with Eretz Yisrael. We need to show that we care about the fruits of Israel. Hashem cares about Israel and is always occupied with it starting on Rosh Hashana; we must do the same. Eretz Yisrael is the ultimate conduit for Divine blessing (Rashi Devarim 11:12) and these blessings are determined on Rosh Hashana (Talmud Rosh Hashana 8a).
דברים יא:יב, פרשת עקב
ארץ אשר ה’ א-להיך דורש אותה. תמיד עיני ה’ א-להיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה.
A land that Hashem your G-d seeks out; the eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end. (Devarim 11:12)
Rav Volli teaches us that the Land of Israel is the spiritual body גוף of the Shechina. We get close to G-d through Eretz Israel. We need to seek after G-d Himself on Rosh Hashana.
דרשו ה’ בהמצאו קראוהו בהיותו קרוב.
Seek Hashem when He can be found, call upon Him when He is near. (Yeshaya 55:6)
On Rosh Hashana we pray to G-d for life.
(עמוס ה’, ד);
כי כה אמר ה’ לבית ישראל, דרשוני וחיו.
For thus said Hashem to the House of Israel: Seek Me and live! (Amos 5:4)
The searching starts by reminding us about Eretz Yisrael. We should use the fruits of Israel as a tool to remind us about Israel.
דברים ד:כט, פרשת ואתחנן
ובקשתם משם את ה’ א-להיך ומצאת, כי תדרשנו בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך”
From there [Land of Israel] you will seek Hashem, your G-d, and you will find Him with all your heart and all your soul. (Devarim 4:29)
דרשו ה’ ועוזו, בקשו פניו תמיד.
Search out Hashem and His might, seek His Presence always. (Tehillim 105:4)
We seek providence in our brachos with those fruits which characterize Eretz Yisrael. They are a conduit for divine blessing which can be realized in the material world (Likutei Halachot, blessings on fruit 2). Again, it seems more appropriate begin blessings on the New Year with a date and not an apple.
The Fruits of Israel Are A Sign of The Coming of Moshiach
There is no greater sign of the coming redemption than when the land of Israel produces fruits in abundance. I recently took a tour of Kibbutz Tzora. The secular farmer was bragging to me about the abundance of crops on his farm. They ship their cotton and pomegranates to the USA! He explained to me that his wheat yield per acre is seven times the average of a farm in the USA. We are taught that Eretz Yisrael will yield fruit in abundance shortly before the redemption. This is the clearest sign that the exile is about to end.
סנהדרין צח עמוד א
ואמר רבי אבא: אין לך “קץ” מגולה מזה, שנאמר: (יחזקאל לו:ח) ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל.
And Rav Abba said: There is no clearer indication of the “End” than this, as it is stated: But you, I mountains of Yisrael, you shall shoot forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Yisrael , etc. [when they are about to come]. (Yechezkiel 36:8). (Talmud Bavli Sandhedrin 98a)
Rosh Hashana reminds us of the ultimate Judgment Day יום הדין when we go to the next world of Olam Habah. We will be asked in heaven, what we personally did to bring and anticipate the Moshiach. The first realistic step that we can do nowadays in order to bring the Moshiach, is to live in Israel (Rav Teichtal, Eim Habonim Semeicha). Those who are already living here need to remember that the next step is to anticipate the Moshiach’s arrival by starting to build the Beis Hamikdash.
שבת לא עמוד א
אמר רבא: בשעה שמכניסין אדם לדין אומרים לו: נשאת ונתת באמונה? קבעת עתים לתורה ? עסקת בפריה ורביה? צפית לישועה?
Rava said: When they escort a person to his final Heavenly judgment after his death, they court says to him: Did you conduct your business transactions faithfully? Did you set aside fixed times for Torah study? Did you engage in procreation? Did you anticipate the Moshiach? (Talmud Bavli Shabbos 31a)
The Date Reminds us of The Beis Hamikdash and Moshiach
The date תמר reminds us of the lulav on succos , which is the branch of a date tree. The Lulav in turn, reminds us of the Beis Hamikdash.
המשנה ראש השנה ל עמוד א
מתני’ בראשונה היה הלולב ניטל במקדש שבעה ובמדינה יום אחד. משחרב בית המקדש התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי, שיהא לולב ניטל במדינה שבעה זכר למקדש… גמ’ ומנלן דעבדינן זכר למקדש? דאמר קרא: ‘כי אעלה ארוכה לך וממכותיך ארפאך, נאום ה’. כי נידחה קראו לך, ציון היא, דורש אין לה’ – מכלל דבעיא דרישה.
Mishna: Originally, during the time of the Beis Hamikdash, the lulav was taken in the Beis Hamikdash all seven days of succos, and in the provinces on only one day (the first day). When the second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, Rav Yochanan Ben Zakai instituted that the lulav be taken in the provinces all seven days of Succos in remembrance of the Beis Hamikdash… Gemara: From where in the Torah is it known that we are to make a remembrance for the Beis Hamikdash? For the pasuk states: “For I will make a cure for you, and from your wounds I will heal you, the word of Hashem; for they [the nations of the world] called you a “Discarded one” [saying] “She is Zion, there is none who seeks her.” From the words there is none who seeks her, it is implied that she requires seeking. (Talmud Bavli Rosh Hashana 30a)
We can see from the Gemara that we should look for ways to remember Israel. This is done by giving priority to the date and not the apple. We are now the “last generation” living in the birth pangs of the Moshiach. His arrival in anxiously being anticipated in “its time”. It is time.
ישעיה ס:כא-כב הפטרה כי תבוא
ועמך כלם צדיקים לעולם יירשו ארץ,נצר מטעי מעשה ידי להתפאר: הקטן יהיה לאלף והצעיר לגוי עצום, אני ה’ בעתה אחישנה:
And your people, they are righteous; forever shall they inherit the Land; a branch of My planting, My handiwork, for Me to glory in. The smallest shall increase a thousand fold, and the least into a mighty nation; I am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it. (Yeshaya 60:21-22)
Dates of the Palm Tree in Kabala
Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari z”l, attributes the spiritual energies of each fruit to one of the seven sefiros. The ten days of repentance start on Rosh Hashana and end on yom kippur. Corresponding with the ten sefiros we start with keter and end with malchus. On Rosh Hashana we crown G-d the King of the Universe and we blow the shofar. The ultimate goal is recognizing His malchus, אבינו מלכינו . We focus on G-d being crowned King by eating the date. The date represents the King מלכות. This is the channel that allows the spiritual from the heavenly world to manifest in our world below. By elevating physical fruits connecting us to the land of Eretz Yisrael we can deepen our relationship with G-d.
4.Chessed – wheat
5.Gevura – barley
6.Tiferes – grapes
7.Nezach – figs
- Hod – pomegranate
- Yesod – olives
- Malchus – dates
In the human body Malchus is the mouth. Kabala parallels Malchus to the personage of King David. Not coincidently, a woman named Tamar was the Great Grandmother of Dovid and Moshiach. (The “תמר” is mentioned in Torah 36 times and the Tamar story with Yehuda is always read before the Holiday of Chanuka on which we light 36 candles, representing Moshiach.)
We learn how to act like a Tzadik by emulation the date tree.
צַדִּיק כַּתָּמָר יִפְרָח, כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְּבָנוֹן יִשְׂגֶּה. שְׁתוּלִים בְּבֵית ה’; בְּחַצְרוֹת אֱלֹקינוּ יַפְרִיחוּ.
A Tzadik is like a date palm will flourish, like a cedar in Lebanon he will grow tall. Planted in the House of G-d [Israel], in the courtyards of our G-d they will flourish. (Tehilim 92:13-14 )
One may insists on blessing the apple first on Rosh Hashana and not they date; since they may prefer the taste of apples and they really do not like dates. The commonly quoted source for this is the Rambam. I suggest that when one quotes the Ramban as a source to justify their psak he should be honest and consistent and always respect the rulings of the Rambam. It is not intellectually honest to only quote the Rambam when it is convenient and at other times reject his rulings, especially regarding the laws of Israel.
The Rambam Dilemma
The Rambam states clearly that one should never leave Israel and that a Jew should put every effort not live in the USA (Chutz La’Aretz). He goes further and states that even if one uses the heter to leave Eretz Yisrael to learn Torah, this is discouraged. Because a true Chossid who desires closeness to G-d, does not act this way. For sure there is NO heter to every leave Eretz Yisrael for a vacation, just as there is no taking a vacation from G-d, Torah, or mitzvos.
On Rosh Hashana we want to have our sins forgiven. By living in Israel our sins are forgiven. Once we leave the Holy Land this does not occur. I am sure, the Rambam does not approve of the annual practice of 100,000 Jews, abandoning their families and leaving the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael on Rosh Hashana for Umman Ukraine.
רמב”ם שופטים חלכות מלאכים ומלחמות פרק ב הלכות ט-יב
אסור לצאת מארץ ישראל לחוצה לארץ לעולם אלא ללמוד תורה או לישא אשה או להציל מן העכו”ם ויחזור לארץ וכן יוצא הוא לסחורה אבל לשכון בחוצה לארץ אסור…ואף על פי שמותר לצאת אינה מדת חסידות שהרי מחלון וכליון שני גדולי הדור היו ומפני צרה גדולה יצאו ונתחייבו כלייה למקום:
It is forbidden to leave Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora at all times except:to study Torah;to marry; or to save one’s property from the gentiles. After accomplishing these objectives, one must return to Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, one may leave Eretz Yisrael to conduct commercial enterprises. However, it is forbidden to leave with the intent of settling permanently in the Diaspora unless the famine in Eretz Yisrael is so severe …Though it is permitted to leave Eretz Yisrael under these circumstances, it is not pious behavior. Behold, Machlon and Kilyon were two of the great men of the generation and they left Eretz Yisrael only out of great distress. Nevertheless, they were found worthy of death by God.
Especially on Rosh Hashana, we are looking to have our sins forgiven and our souls cleansed. The optimal place for this is only in Eretz Yisrael. Chasidus is loving the shechina, not running away from it.
אמרו חכמים כל השוכן בארץ ישראל עונותיו מחולין… אפילו הלך בה ארבע אמות זוכה לחיי העולם הבא וכן הקבור בה נתכפר לו וכאילו המקום שהוא בו מזבח כפרה…ואעפ”כ גדולי החכמים היו מוליכים מתיהם לשם צא ולמד מיעקב אבינו ויוסף הצדיק:
The Sages commented: ‘Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael will have his sins forgiven as (Isaiah 33:24) states: ‘The inhabitant shall not say ‘I am sick.’ The people who dwell there shall be forgiven their sins.’ Even one who walks four cubits there will merit the world to come and one who is buried there receives atonement as if the place in which he is buried is an altar of atonement as Deuteronomy 32:43 states: ‘His land will atone for His people.’ In contrast, the prophet, Amos [7:17, used the expression] ‘You shall die in an impure land’ as a prophecy of retribution. There is no comparison between the merit of a person who lives in Eretz Yisrael and ultimately, is buried there and one whose body is brought there after his death. Nevertheless, great Sages would bring their dead there. Take an example, from our Patriarch, Jacob, and Joseph, the righteous.
לעולם ידור אדם בארץ ישראל אפילו בעיר שרובה עכו”ם ואל ידור בחוצה לארץ ואפילו בעיר שרובה ישראל שכל היוצא לחוצה לארץ כאילו עובד ע”ז שנאמר כי גרשוני היום מהסתפח בנחלת ה’ לאמר לך עבוד אלהים אחרים ובפורעניות הוא אומר ואל אדמת ישראל לא יבאו …
At all times, a person should dwell in Eretz Yisrael even in a city whose population is primarily gentile, rather than dwell in the Diaspora, even in a city whose population is primarily Jewish. This applies because whoever leaves Eretz Yisrael for the Diaspora is considered as if he worships idols as (Shmuel I 26:19) states ‘They have driven me out today from dwelling in the heritage of God, saying ‘Go, serve other gods.’ Similarly, Ezekiel’s (13:9) prophecies of retribution state: ‘They shall not come to the land of Israel.’
חסד לאברהם מעין שלישי עין הארץ
וכל הדר בארץ ישראל נקרא צדיק
Whoever lives in Eretz Yisrael is called a Tzadik. (Chesed L’Avraham, third maayan)
כתובות קיא עמוד א
אמר רב אלעזר: כל הדר בארץ ישראל שרוי בלא עון. שנאמר “ובל יאמר שכן חליתי העם היושב בה נשא עון”.
Rav Elazar said: Whoever dwells in Eretz Yisrael lives without sin, as it says (Yishaya 33:24), “Let the neighbor [of Eretz Yisrael] not say, I am afflicted [on account of the Jewish people living next to me,” because] the people dwelling within [Eretz Yisrael] are forgiven of sin”. (Talmud Bavli, Kesubos 111a)
Rav Nachman of Breslev Wants The Jews To Stay In Israel
Rav Nachman of Breslev states that:
The air of Eretz Yisrael is filled with the divine inspiration of G-d. It is the spiritual center of the world.
There are Eretz Yisrael minds and Diaspora minds, but the Diaspora Jews receive all their inspiration from those in Eretz Yisrael.
Whoever truly wishes to be a Jew should move to Eretz Yisrael.
The exile of the Shechina and the Jewish people will only come to an end when all the Jews live in Eretz Yisrael.
All kedusha comes by way of Eretz Yisrael. Only there is it possible to ascend to the highest levels on the ladder of kedusha.
Prayers are more acceptable when offered in Eretz Yisrael!
These statements of Rav Nachman prove that he would not want the Jews of Eretz Yisrael to leave the Holy Land of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, for Umman; especially on Rosh Hashana.
Israel Represents The Jew
Rav Avraham of Kalisk knew that it is very hard to earn a living in Eretz Yisrael . He taught that, “If only wait a while, then everything will, G-d willing, improve.” This is based on Tehillim (87:5) “each man shall be born in it”.
וּלְצִיּוֹן, יֵאָמַר: אִישׁ וְאִישׁ יֻלַּד-בָּהּ; וְהוּא יְכוֹנְנֶהָ עֶלְיוֹן.
A Jew who moves to Eretz Yisrael is like an unborn child. Once he finally settles, he becomes like a newborn, and only after sufficient time has elapsed does he begin to feel his own strength. This can be compared to the growth of a tree and a Tzadik flourishing like a date in the Land of G-d.
Rav Avraham Chazan explains the meaning of the words “Eretz Yisrael”, is the land which makes people into “Yisrael”, that is “a Jew”.
What Can I Do? What should I Do?
All minhagim that can be honored and respected. The halacha is to show priority to Eretz Yisrael. On Rosh Hashana night there is an option to keep all of the fruits in the kitchen and only have the apple on the table. One must make a “haetz” on the apple since these raw fruits are not part of the meal. Cooked vegetables are considered part of a meal, therefore no “ha’adama” bracha is required. If one serves raw vegetables as part of the simanim then there is a question of whether and additional bracha is required. At this point one may then bring out the שבעה מינים, such as the date. In this manner one avoids the halachik issue of making a blessing over the fruits of Israel first and also avoids the possibility of praising the Land of Israel.
The better option is to bring out all the simanim and demonstrate our love of Eretz Yisrael. Those who have a Jewish mindset and see the importance חשיבות of Eretz Yisrael, will no doubt choose to make bracha on date first. We will choose to start with those things that are beloved חביב such as the date. Start out the year with the right fruit. Show the meraglim that they were wrong !
The Bracha Achrona teach us how to serve G-d for we say, “ and for the Land, desirable, good, and spacious, that You desired to give to us as a heritage to our forefathers, to eat from its fruits and to be satisfied with its goodness …” It is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of greater Divine service in Eretz Hakodesh (Rav Zev Leff).
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי, אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עַל הָעֵץ וְעַל פְּרִי הָעֵץ וְעַל תְּנוּבַת הַשָּׂדֶה וְעַל אֶרֶץ חֶמְדָּה טוֹבָה וּרְחָבָה שֶׁרָצִיתָ וְהִנְחַלְתָּ לַאֲבוֹתֵינוּ לֶאֱכוֹל מִפִּרְיָהּ וְלִשְׂבּוֹעַ מִטּוּבָהּ. רַחֵם ה אֱלֹקינוּ עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַמֶּךָ וְעַל יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עִירֶךָ וְעַל צִיּוֹן מִשְׁכַּן כְּבוֹדֶךָ. וְעַל מִזְבְּחֶךָ. וְעַל הֵיכָלֶךָ. וּבְנֵה יְרוּשָׁלַיִם עִיר הַקּדֶשׁ בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ. וְהַעֲלֵנוּ לְתוֹכָהּ. וְשַׂמְּחֵנוּ בְּבִנְיָנָהּ וְנֹאכַל מִפִּרְיָּהּ וְנִשְׂבַּע מִטּוּבָהּ וּנְבָרֶכְךָ עָלֶיהָ בִּקְדֻשָּׁה וּבְטָהֳרָה. וְזָכְרֵנוּ לְטוֹבָה בְּיוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן הַזֶּה:כִּי אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי טוֹב וּמֵטִיב לַכּל וְנוֹדֶה לְךָ עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל פֵּרוֹתֶיהָ בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה, עַל הָאָרֶץ וְעַל פֵּרוֹתֶיהָ.
The actual fruits of Israel have Kedusha
The spiritual manna that fell from heaven, for the Jews in the desert, is now to be found in the fruits of Eretz Yisrael. The fruits represent G-d’s direct connection to the Jewish people and Ertez Yisrael. There is no malach intermediary in Israel – the meraglim disparaged the fruits, they rejected Holiness
חסד לאברהם מעין שני נהר כא
בסוד המן ופירות ארץ ישראל: הנה יש להקשות למה בארץ ישראל יגרע ממנו המן הרוחניי? וי”ל כי הטעם לזה הוא כי במדבר כל הדברים שבו מן החיצונים והטעמאים הגדלים בארץ העמים שהם ממשלת השרים. על כן אין פירותיהם כדאי לקבל את רוחניותים של הקדושה, כי אין מגוף טמא נעשה כלי לקבל רוחניות הקדושה. ואם היתה הקדושה ההיא בפירותיהם ובמזונותיהם היה הכל ניתן על ידי השרי חלילה, וזה אינו ענין כלל. ועל כן נתן להם הקדוש ברוך הוא מן השמים המן אשר אין בו חלק אל השרים כלל. אמנם פירות ארץ ישראל הם על ידי הקדושה, ואותן הרוחניי שהיה ראוי אל המן נתלבש בפירות הקדושה ההם. ועל כרך לא היה מן בארץ ישראל כי אם במדבר:
The secret of the manna and the fruits of the Land of Israel: One can ask why once the Jews were in Israel did they lose the spiritual manna? There is an answer that in the desert all the things that exist there are from external powers and those things that grow in the lands of the nations are under the power of intermediaries. Therefore, their fruits are not worthy to have spiritual holiness, because an impure body cannot be a vessel for spiritual holiness. And if there was holiness in their fruits and foods, it would have been given over to the Jewish people in the desert via the intermediaries, G-d forbid. This could not happen. Therefore, G-d gave the Jew the manna directly from heaven with no intermediaries at all. Therefore, the fruits of Israel are holy and that specific holiness that was in the manna in now found in the holy fruits of Israel. Therefore, there was not need to continue the manna in the Land of Israel as it existed in the wilderness. (Chessed L’Avraham, Mayan 2 Nahar 21)
On Rosh Hashana night those of us in Israel make the first bracha ha’etz over the Date. This symbolizes for us that we should sprout like a tamar, .צדיק כתמר יפרח We invoke the prayer to G-d that we should be counted among the inhabitants of Israel who are called Tzadikim without sin. We start the bracha on the tree because a tree represents Torah עץ חיים היא , Torah is life and this is found in Israel כי מיציון תצא תורה. In addition, Israel is specifically called the Land of the Living ארץ החיים. On Rosh Hashana we pray for a meaningful life of service to G-d in the best possible manner, which can only be done here in Israel, the guf of the Shechina. The pray for life with the ultimate goal not just living to live, but to survive G-d in Eretz Yisrael. Here, all the mundane activities such as walking the land or merely making a blessing on date is a mizvah connecting us physically and spiritually G-d.
My this year be the year that all the Jewish people recognize that G-d is the King of the world the אדון and serve him in the Land that He has chosen. All we ask is to sit with G-d in His land and be close to Him (דביקות).
אַחַת, שָׁאַלְתִּי מֵאֵת ה’ אוֹתָהּ אֲבַקֵּשׁ, שִׁבְתִּי בְּבֵית ה’ כָּל-יְמֵי חַיַּי לַחֲזוֹת בְּנֹעַם ה’, וּלְבַקֵּר בְּהֵיכָלוֹ… לוּלֵא הֶאֱמַנְתִּי, לִרְאוֹת בְּטוּבָ ה’:בְּאֶרֶץ חַיִּים.
For this to happen on the national level, we pray to G-d to rid us of all of our enemies who say that we do not belong here. We start the New Year off sweetly and say to G-d that we are home with You and that we are not leaving You as we did in years past; we are here to stay. In this manner we can truly have a sweet new year.
Thank you G-d for blessing us with the privilege to live in Eretz Yisrael and perform Your mitzvos in the best possible manner. We can fulfill what is says in benching, “We thank You Hashem our G-d because You have given us as a heritage to our forefathers a land, desirable good and spacious…Blessed are you Hashem for the Land of Israel and its food”. We hold of the date on Rosh Hashana night and we joyously ring out:
ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם בורא פרי העץ.
Blessed are you Hashem our G-d King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the tree.
There are many nations who do not want us to exist or live in Eretz Yisrael. We have enemies on all our borders. The USA has helped Iran arm itself with nuclear weapons; it arms Egypt and other Arab nations. They question our legitimacy to the land of Israel, Yehuda, Shomron and the Har Habayis. Russia is currently arming Iran Hezbollah and Syria. Our ally, the USA has made recent statements that Hezbollah, who have sworn to wipe out the Jewish nation, are not terrorists. G-d has created a civil war in Syria where they have been killing their own people and fighting with Hezbollah; instead of us. We eat the תמר and ask G-d to destroy and consume all of our enemies.
יהי רצון מלפניך ה’ אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו, שיתמו שונאינו ואויבינו!
May it be your will, Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that our enemies are consumed.
לשנה טובה- תכתבו ותכתמו, לאלתר, לחיים טובים ולשלום.
For a “Good Year” – May you be inscribed and sealed, immediately, for a good life and peace.
Halachos of Brochos. Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner. Feldheim Publishers. 1994.
Eretz Yisrael In The Parashah. Moshe D. Lichtman. Kol Mevaser Publications. 2006.
Yearning for the Holy Land. Yoel Rappel. Adama Books. 1986.