In a world that thrives on instant gratification, the Torah teaches us that patience is the key to a successful life.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week we read the double Torah portion of “Acharei Mot– Kedoshim” (Leviticus 16:1 – 20:27), and boy, is it packed with commandments (mitzvot)! In fact, over 10% of all the mitzvot in the entire Torah can be found in this week’s reading.
I want to discuss the lesser-known mitzvah of “orlah.” As the Torah says: “When you come into the Land and plant fruit trees, it’s fruit is ‘orlah’ – for three years it may not be eaten.” (Lev. 19:23)
Hence, “orlah” refers to the ban on eating fruits from trees under three years old.
This is a very mysterious mitzvah, and the commentators offer various interpretations.
For instance, Maimonides suggests that the ban on orlah fruit recalls the ancient pagans who would “bless” their newly planted trees so that they produce good fruit. When the tree produced fruits, the first fruits were offered to their pagan gods as an expression of thanks.
In order to distance ourselves from ancient pagan practices (indeed, there are many such mitzvot), we are forbidden from making use of the fruit for three years.
The Midrash (rabbinic literature) provides a different interpretation, noting that immediately following the mitzvah of orlah comes the mitzvah of “do not eat on blood.”
Unlike most mitzvot of the Torah, which only teach one mitzvah, this mitzvah is very unique as it is the source for many others. One application of “do not eat on blood” is the ban on eating meat that still has blood in it. Indeed, following kosher slaughter, meat does not become kosher until the blood is extracted either by salting or roasting.
The question is asked: Why do these two mitzvot appear back-to-back. Could they possibly have something in common?
According to the Midrash, the mitzvah of orlah teaches us a very important lesson about how to have a successful life: cultivate patience.
Today we live in the world of “instant,” “now” and “immediately.”
People expect things done quickly. This is especially true when it comes to food. Everything today is “fast food,” “drive-thru,” “ready-made” and “microwavable.” This is why the mitzvah of orlah and the prohibition on eating meat until the blood is removed are found back-to-back. They are two mitzvot that cause us to pause, to wait, and to realize that not everything in life is “instant.”
On a related note, God told Adam that he could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except for the Tree of Knowledge. Aren’t these two instructions contradictory? Was Adam allowed to eat from all of the trees, or was it all trees minus one?
It is explained that Adam was really allowed to eat from all the trees in the Garden of Eden. (It was the garden of eatin’!) However, God didn’t want Adam eating from the Tree of Knowledge right away. He was only allowed to eat from the Tree of Knowledge “from tomorrow,” the next day, which was Shabbat.
But Adam and Eve had no patience. Perhaps that’s why we generally don’t either. The lesson of orlah, the lesson of not eating meat immediately after slaughter until the blood is removed, is a lesson in patience. Good things come to those who wait!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s double Torah portion, click on the links below:
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