SALT - Wednesday, 21 Iyar 5777 - May 17, 2017

  • Rav David Silverberg

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This week's SALT shiurim are dedicated in memory of
David Moshe ben Harav Yehuda Leib Silverberg z"l, 
whose yahrzeit is Sunday 18 Iyar, May 14.
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            The opening verses of Parashat Bechukotai describe the rewards that God promises Benei Yisrael for observing the mitzvot, including the promise of abundant fruit: “ve-eitz ha-sadeh yitein piryo” – “the tree in the field will produce its fruit” (26:4).  Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, surprisingly explains that this refers to ilanei serak – trees that do not ordinarily bear fruit.  When we properly observe the commands, Rashi explains, then even those trees which do not naturally produce fruit will do so.

            Sefat Emet offers an insight into the significance of this promise.  He writes that just as some trees naturally bear fruit and others do not, similarly, people are naturally inclined to bear “fruit,” to experience enthusiasm and display vigor, in regard to some areas of Torah study and observance, but not in regard to others.  Within ourselves, like in nature, there are “ilanei serak,” parts of our being that are emotionally “sterile” and incapable of feeling excitement and vitality.  Sefat Emet interprets Torat Kohanim’s comment to mean that if we overcome this natural “sterility,” and succeed in generating “fruit” of enthusiasm even for those areas of Torah and those mitzvot which do not at first arouse interest or evoke excitement, then God, in turn, will produce fruits even from trees that are naturally incapable of bearing fruit.

            According to Sefat Emet’s insight, Chazal here allude to the importance of devoting ourselves to, and even generating a degree of passion for, those areas of Torah scholarship and Torah life that are not naturally appealing.  There are numerous portions of the corpus of Torah which people tend to find uninteresting, and there are numerous mitzvot which we might have difficulty feeling passionate about.  Chazal, in this passage, urge and challenge us to approach the totality of Torah and the entire range of mitzvot with enthusiasm, to feel passionate about every bit of Torah knowledge that we can acquire, and every mitzva opportunity that comes our way.  Even when we naturally feel like an “ilan serak,” incapable of experiencing fervor for a given area of Torah or for a given mitzva, which must try to generate interest and excitement, recognizing the great privilege we have to serve our Creator each moment of our lives.