In Parshat Yitro, B’nei Yisrael received the Torah as a community, yet each individual’s relationship with the Torah is personal and unique.
In the Talmud, Eruvin 54, Rabbi Yochanan asks why the words of the Torah are compared to a fig tree as it says in Mishlei (Proverbs) 27:18, “He who guards the fig tree shall eat its fruit.” Rabbi Yochanan’s answer is that in the case of the fig tree, every time a person handles it, they find a ripe fig, the same is true for the words of Torah: Every time a person studies them, they find flavour in them.
Every time that we study Torah, we can always find a new idea. We just need to know where to look. Some find new ideas by reading the text more closely, others study commentaries that they have not read before while others choose to study with a teacher with whom they have not yet studied, who can give them a whole new perspective.
While we celebrated Tu B’Shvat this past week, we were reminded to internalize the messages that the seven species of Israel, including the fig, teach us.
The compilation of midrashim, Yalkut Shimoni Yehoshua 2, presents a similar question to the one mentioned in Eruvin: Why is the Torah compared to a fig? Because most fruits contain something inedible- dates have a pit, grapes have hard seeds and pomegranates have a peel. But every part of a fig is good to eat. So too with the Torah- every part of it contains wisdom.
I have been writing a Dvar Torah (short sermon) about the weekly Torah portion each week for the past fifteen years and I have found the words of this midrash to be true. There is always something new to find and ideas that one may have overlooked in previous years can suddenly become relevant.
One idea about the fig that I especially find meaningful this year is in Micha 4:2-5:
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken it. For let all people walk everyone in the name of his god and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.
Just a few weeks ago, delegates from around the world came to Jerusalem to mark 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of the fulfilment of Micha’s words, hoping for a time when the nations of the world will be at peace with Israel and when members of all religions will have respect for one another while enjoying the beauty of Israel’s grape vines and fig trees.