Sharona Margolin Halickman

Why we must continue to plant in Israel

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

The third aliya of Parshat Kedoshim (Vayikra 19:23) begins with the following words:

When you enter the Land and plant any food bearing tree, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years it shall be forbidden to you, it must not be eaten.

Or HaChayim points out that this verse contains three commandments:

1) To come to the Land of Israel.

2) To plant fruit-bearing trees in order to enhance the stature of the land.

3) To observe the years of Orla before one is entitled to eat or use the fruit of these trees.

One’s migration to the Land of Israel should not only be motivated by self-gratification. It should be accompanied by a love for the Land that God has given us as an inheritance, the Land that God has chosen for His name to dwell in. The Torah commands us to plant trees so that we should not think that all we have to do in the Holy Land is to simply make it our home without civilizing the country. The words “when you enter the land…” imply that the Torah speaks about spiritual values connected with this Land.

Midrash Tanchuma Kedoshim 8:1 points out:

Even though you find the land full of all bounty, you shall not say, “Let us settle down and not plant.” Rather, be serious about planting. Just as you came in and found trees and plants which others had planted, so you shall plant for your children, lest someone say, “Since I am old and tomorrow I shall die, why should I toil for others.”

There is a story about the emperor Hadrian; He was going to war and traveling with his troops to fight with a certain country for having rebelled against him. He found an elderly man who was planting fig saplings. Hadrian said to him, “You are an old man. Why are you taking the trouble to toil for others?” He said to Hadrian, “My lord king, here I am planting. If I am worthy, I shall eat of the fruit of my saplings; but if not, my children will eat.” Hadrian spent three years at war, and after three years he returned. What did that elderly man do? He took a fruit basket, filled it with the first fruits of beautiful figs, and drew near to Hadrian. He said to him, “My lord king, take these figs, for I am the same old man whom you found when you were on your way to the war when you said, ‘You are an old man; why are you taking the trouble to toil for others?’ See, the Holy One, blessed be He, has already found me worthy to eat some fruit from my saplings. Now this fruit in my fruit basket is your portion from those saplings.” Hadrian said to his servants, “Take it from him and fill it with gold coins.” And so they did.

The end of the midrash teaches:

One should not cease from planting. Just as you found the land with trees and plants, so too should you still continue to plant even when you are older. God said to Israel, “Learn from Me. Do I need fruits?” And yet we read in Breisheet 2:8 “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east.”

Ever since October 7, volunteers have been coming to Israel from all over the world to plant. They understand that after the destruction which took place, they must help rebuild even if they will not be in Israel to personally benefit from the fruit.

The five year plan for rehabilitating Otef Azza (the Gaza Envelope) which was announced last month includes plans for housing, transportation, healthcare, security, culture and agriculture.

The five year plan for agriculture is to add 120 new farms. Not only do we want to replant the farms that were destroyed, we want to add 3500 more acres! This is the fulfillment of Kedoshim 19:23: “When you enter the Land and plant…”

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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