Drash on Parashat Acharei Mot Kedoshim
Rabbi Sam Zwarenstein
Emanuel Synagogue, Woollahra, NSW
The majority of the content, and subsequently mitzvot found in Parashat Kedoshim deal with treatment of fellow human beings, requiring us to apply decency and morality when we consider the needs of others, including not placing a stumbling block before the blind, not to commit injustice with scales and weights, and we should judge righteously. Other mitzvot deal with proper and kind treatment of animals, such as not crossbreeding animals, as well as laws dealing with the land.
One such teaching regards the treatment of fruit from trees. “When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit shall be set aside for jubilation before Adonai, and only in the fifth year may you use its fruit—that its yield to you may be increased: I Adonai am your God”. (Lev. 19:23-25)
As is the case with almost every agricultural reference in the Torah and later texts, this teaching refers to trees planted in the land of Israel, and there could be a tendency to limit its impact to those living there. After all, we are reminded that we were freed from slavery in Egypt in order to serve God, and the journey and that service led our ancestors to the land of Israel.
However, the lessons from these instructions are applicable far beyond that remit, and should apply to all of us, no matter where in the world we reside. Moreover, these lessons are as valid today as they were when first taught.
Through these lessons we learn about the importance of allowing nature to undergo its own growth and maturity process, strengthening the tree as it grows to be strong so that it can continue to bear fruit for many years, and ultimately making the fruit it bears the best it can be. This lesson can be applied to the way we view life and how we live it. Just as the trees require time to mature and produce quality fruit, so too do we need time and patience to realise our true potential.
We cannot expect the best results from ourselves and others by demanding immediate results. We all need time to allow ourselves to become strong and produce the best we have to offer. Patience and persistence has its rewards, but we need to put in the work to deliver, and later enjoy, the best possible outcomes.
There is another important step included in this teaching. Verse 24 in the above text is a reminder for us to show gratitude for the results that have been produced. While the fruit available in the fourth year would be perfect for consumption, it is set aside to show gratitude for the success that has been achieved. No matter where our source(s) of strength and support come from, we cannot achieve strong results without help. Showing appropriate gratitude for what we have and what has been achieved allows us to reflect, acknowledge, and strengthen our resolve to carry on.
The final part of the text reminds us that when we are patient, when we put in the hard work, and when we show gratitude, we allow ourselves to continue enjoying the fruits of our work and dedication for many years to come.