Click Here to Sponsor Daily Halacha
"Delivered to Over 6000 Registered Recipients Each Day"

Download print

Parashat Kedoshim- Understanding the Three Years of Orla

The Torah in Parashat Kedoshim presents the command of Orla, which forbids partaking of the fruit of a tree for the first three years after it is planted.

The Zohar explains that G-d forbade eating a tree’s fruit for the first three years because during this period, the fruit contains Tum’a (impurity). In G-d’s great love for the Jewish People, He wants to keep us away from impurity, and so He commanded us to refrain from fruits produced by a tree during its first three years, when the fruit is "contaminated" by Tum’a.

The Panim Yafot (Rav Pinchas Ha’levi Horowitz, 1731-1805) explains that the source of this impurity is the "sin" committed by the ground at the time of the world’s creation. The Midrash teaches that G-d intended for the ground to produce trees that were flavorful in their entirety – even in the bark. The ground violated G-d’s command by producing trees that bore tasty fruit, but were otherwise tasteless. The Panim Yafot adds that since the ground committed this sin, Adam – who was created from the ground – ended up violating G-d’s command, as well. And for this reason, in response to Adam’s sin of partaking of the forbidden fruit, G-d not only punished mankind, but also cursed the ground ("Arura Ha’adama" – Bereshit 3:17). The ground was cursed for its role in Adam’s sin – for having violated G-d’s command, which resulted in Adam’s violating G-d’s command. Due to this curse, the fruit of new trees are impure, and it takes three years for this impurity to be eliminated. Hence, as the Zohar writes, G-d forbade partaking of a tree’s fruit during its first three years, because the fruit during this time is contaminated as a result of the curse which G-d pronounced on the ground in the wake of Adam’s sin.

This concept has been explained further on the basis of a different passage of the Zohar, explaining the practice to recite each night before Arbit the verse, "Ve’hu Rahum Yechaper Avon Ve’lo Yash’hit…" This verse, the Zohar writes, includes the words "Yash’hit," "Apo" and "Hamato," which refer to three harmful spirits: "Mash’hit," "Af" and "Hema." We recite this verse each night in order to neutralize, as it were, these threatening forces so they do not cause us harm. This verse is not recited on Shabbat, as these forces are powerless on Shabbat. Now the Megaleh Amukot (Rav Natan Nata Shapiro, 1585-1633) writes (in Parashat Vayishlah) that these three forces – "Mash’hit," "Af" and "Hema" – are the spirits that take a person’s life when his time comes to depart from this world. It emerges, then, that these three forces came into being as a result of Adam’s sin, which introduced death into the world. If this is the case, then we can easily understand why, as the Zohar teaches, it takes three years for a tree to lose its impurity. The source of this impurity is Adam’s sin of the forbidden fruit, which brought the three harmful spirits into the world. The power of each spirit is overcome in one year, such that it takes three years for the impure forces to be entirely overcome.

This explains an otherwise baffling comment of the Midrash (Vayikra Rabba 25:2) relevant to the prohibition of Orla. The Midrash cites Rabbi Yehuda Ben Pazi as exclaiming, "Who will remove the earth from your eyes, Adam Ha’rishon – you were unable to obey your command one hour, and your children wait the three years of Orla!" It appears, at first glance, that Rabbi Yehuda Ben Pazi is taunting Adam, ridiculing him for failing to obey the command not to partake of the forbidden tree, noting that the Jewish People faithfully observe the command of Orla and refrain from a tree’s produce for its first three years. But why would Rabbi Yehuda Ben Pazi want to taunt Adam? Furthermore, the Midrash concludes that Rabbi Yehuda Ben Pazi’s uncle, Bar Kapara, heard this remark, whereupon he enthusiastically praised his nephew’s teaching. What was so profound about Rabbi Yehuda’s statement?

This question has been answered in light of the connection between the law of Orla and Adam’s sin in Gan Eden, developed above. The Midrash (Shemot Rabba 32:1) comments that Adam "did not withstand his test for three hours." The commentators explain this to mean that the command to refrain from the forbidden tree was intended to be only temporary. This command, as the Gemara (Sanhedrin 38b) teaches, was given at the ninth hour of the day of Adam’s creation, and, the commentators add, it was intended to apply only for the next three hours – until the onset of Shabbat. If so, then we understand the connection between Orla and Adam’s sin on a deeper level. In order to correct the mistake by Adam, who failed to abstain from the forbidden tree for three hours, we abstain from the fruit of a newly-planted tree for three years.

This, then, is the meaning of Rabbi Yehuda Ben Pazi’s proclamation. He was not expressing disdain for Adam, but rather drawing attention to the fact that Adam’s descendants are doing what they can to correct his mistake. He was expressing his wish that Adam could see how his descendants, the Jewish People, are bringing about the rectification of his grave mistake by refraining from a tree’s fruit for its first three years – thereby reversing the effects of his tragic failure to abstain from the forbidden tree for three hours.

Related Parasha
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees - 2023 Year
Kedoshim- The Reward for Honoring Parents - 2022 Year
Parashat Ahareh Mot- Feeling Hashem’s Presence - 2022 Year
Shevi'i Shel Pesah- Achieving True Freedom - 2022 Year
Pesah: Remembering the Root Cause of the Egyptian Exile - 2022 Year
Parashat Ahare Mot/Kedoshim: Keeping Hashem’s Presence Among Us - 2021 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Complementing One Another - 2020 Year
The Hafetz Haim’s Theory of Relativity - 2019 Year
The “Intoxication” of the Seder - 2019 Year
Kedoshim: Kedusha – A Group Effort - 2018 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: The Right Way to Criticize - 2017 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Modern-Day Idolatry - 2016 Year
Parashat Ahareh-Mot: The Impact of Our Actions - 2016 Year
Pesah: G-d’s Promise at the Shores of the Yam Suf - 2016 Year
Pesah- Reward for a Kiddush Hashem - 2016 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Giving Criticism - 2015 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: What Does “Holy” Mean? - 2014 Year
Parashat Ahare Mot- The Lesson of the White and Gold Garments - 2014 Year
Parashat Kedoshim: Paying Workers on Time - 2013 Year
Parashat Kedoshim- Parenting and Holiness - 2011 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Pesah - 2011 Year
Parashat Behaalotecha- Rectification is Always Possible
Parashat Naso- Emuna First
Shavuot- Celebrating the Eternal Torah
Shavuot- The Challenge – and Rewards – of Torah Commitment
Parashat Behar- Experiencing the Sweetness and Delight of Torah
Parashat Emor- Keter Shem Tob 'The Crown of Good Reputation'
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees
Parashat Shemini- Respect and Reverence in the Synagogue
Pesah: Redemption Then and Now
Pesah- Its A Mirage
Parashat Vayikra- The Triple Sin of Dishonesty
Parashat Pekudeh- Counting the Things That Matter
Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
Purim and the Sale of Yosef
Parashat Terumah- The Torah’s “Footsteps”
Page of 67
1002 Parashot found