In Vayikra (19:23) we find the following commandment: "And when you will come
into the land and (you will) plant any tree for food...(for) three years it
(the fruit) shall be restricted to you, it shall not be eaten. This verse
describes the commandment known as "Orla," which forbids the consumption of a
tree's fruits during its first three years.
The Yalkut Shimoni explains that this verse is teaching us a lesson about
responsibility. The Yalkut explains that if each individual knew when his or
her life was going to end, the world would fall into a state of disarray.
People would not build. They would not plant. They would say "I am going to
die tomorrow. Why should I bother exerting any effort that is only for the
benefit of others!" For this reason, mankind was not given the knowledge of
their date of demise. Now, people will be willing to prepare for the future.
Being they might very well be part of that future, people will be ready to
exert effort on something which they assume they will be around to benefit
It was because of the dangers of a similar attitude that the commandment of
Orla was phrased in its particular fashion. G-d was telling the nation of
Israel "You will arrive at the land of Israel. You will find it filled with
beautiful fruits and abundant crops - all of the best. You should not be
satisfied with this. You can not just sit back and enjoy what others have
done in the past. Just as others have toiled in the past so that you can
presently enjoy the fruits of their labor, you must in turn plant for the
future, for your children and generations to come." For this reason, the
verse says "And when you will come into the land and _you will_ plant any
tree for food...." The part of the verse concerning the planting of trees is
not merely a preface to what should be done after planting; it is a
commandment itself - you will plant trees! G-d was concerned that the nation
might be swayed by a sense of egotism: "I have what I need, so why should I
work on that which only others will benefit from?" The planting of trees is a
perfect demonstration that egotism has not set in. Fruits do not appear
instantly, and effort is needed to assure that any tree bears good fruit.
Planting trees is an investment for the future.
On Tu B'Shvat, many have the custom to plant trees. The planting of trees
indeed beautifies our land. As we mentioned in the last post, our trees are a
valued gift from G-d. However, trees also provide us with an important
lesson: it is our responsibility to prepare for the future, and to assure
that generations to come can do the same. Whether we do or do not plant trees
on Tu B'Shvat, we should remember that we are responsible for the future of
the next generation. We must not allow ourselves to become blinded by our own
self-worth. We should merit to see our actions bear beautiful fruits for
years to come!