About a year after we moved to Sharon, my family planted a few very young fruit trees in our yard. We explained to our also very young children, at the time, 5 and 2, that it would be years before they would bear fruit, and that they would grow up together, with the trees, and eat the fruit in the years to come. It happened to be the week of the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. In our then five-year-old, Nani’s, kindergarten class, each child came home with pictures they had drawn of “dreams” they had. Nani’s was a full-grown apple tree, with the caption, “I have a dream that one day my children will pick apples from the trees I helped planted with my family in our yard.”
In this week’s parsha, God tells Moshe to tell the Jewish people that “when you enter the land and plant any tree for food…” (19:23), going on to detail the laws of new fruit trees. According to the midrash in Vayikra Rabba, this verse is an echo of God’s first act after creating the world. Just as the first thing that God did after creating the world was to plant the Garden of Eden, so too upon entering the Land of Israel our first task should be to plant for food.
Clearly, planting food is an important priority – obviously essential for physical survival, but also vital to sustaining a community. We are commanded to plant trees specifically, as these keep us rooted and sustain us for generations to come.
Chassidic commentators highlight how much we can learn from the parallel between Creation and entering the Land of Israel, and how we can apply this to our spiritual lives. Whenever we enter a new environment, whenever we create a new home or community for ourselves, we must plant the “trees” that will provide us with spiritual sustenance. Just as trees continue to bear fruit to sustain us, so too in our spiritual lives we must perform our avodah, our spiritual mission, such that it will “bear fruit” for ourselves and our communities in an ongoing way.
Our time at camp is when we plant the trees of avodah that will continue to bear fruit for our entire lives. All of the ways we grow at camp, as individuals and collectively, in ways big and small, put down roots that continue to sustain the Yavneh community, from summer to throughout the year and in each year to follow.
Questions for the Shabbat Table:
- What experiences have you had at camp that have helped sustain your connection with Judaism?
- What “trees” could you plant this summer that could help others in our camp community?