Last week was Tu B’Shvat, the Rosh Hashanah of the trees. This New Year pertains to the halachos of ma’aser, as one cannot take off ma’aser from one year’s fruit for fruits of another year. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 131:6) says that we do not recite tachanun on Tu B’Shvat. The Magen Avraham says people have a minhag to eat fruit on Tu B’Shvat. The Knesses Yisrael says that there is a minhag to eat fruit specifically from Eretz Yisrael, in order to be mechavev the mitzvos and the fruit of Eretz Yisrael.
Interestingly, eating from the fruits of Eretz Yisrael is mentioned twice in the bracha of Al Ha’michyah. The Bach (Orach Chaim siman 208) explains that the bracha mentions this because the fruit manifests the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael. By eating these fruits, we can bring kedusha into ourselves.
Additionally, the first thing that we thank Hashem for in the bracha of Nodeh Lecha in bentching is for giving us Eretz Yisrael. Why does this take precedence over giving us the Torah, bris milah, life, and food, which only come later in the bracha?
To answer these questions, we must understand why it is that Hashem created fruits in the first place and why He gave us Eretz Yisrael, a land with such spectacular fruit.
Based on the following fundamental idea from Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l, we can begin to understand: He explained that one only shows his love for another by doing extra, unnecessary, things for him. He explains that this is why Hashem arranged for the caravan transporting Yosef to Metzrayim to smell pleasantly instead of the usual foul stench.
Tosafos in Brachos 37a (d”h borei nefashos) explains the bracha of Borei Nefashos as follows: “Borei nefashos rabbos v’chesronan” gives thanks to Hashem for bread and water – the necessities of life. “Al kol ma shebarasa lihachayos…” thanks Hashem for the “extras” that He created. Tosafos explains that Hashem created things that are not necessities, such as apples, for the purpose of enjoyment.
Why did Hashem create extras? As Rav Chaim explained, it is the extras that show love. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (3:18) says, “Chaviv adam …chavivin Yisroel shenikri’u banim…” Hashem loves all of humanity, but He loves Bnei Yisrael more than the other nations.
Hashem created things for enjoyment to show that He loves us. The reason why Hashem gave us Eretz Yisrael, whose fruits were spectacular and enormous, and whose wines win awards etcetera is because He loves us more than the other nations. Therefore, he wanted to give us the land that would produce the most “extras.” In bentching we thank Hashem for everything that he has provided for us. We begin by thanking Him for the “extras” of “eretz chemda tova u’rechava” because that is where we see His special love for us. Only afterward do we thank Hashem for the necessities – redeeming us from Metzrayim, milah, Torah, and life.
Perhaps the reason why we eat fruit of Eretz Yisrael on Tu B’Shvat is because it is with those fruits that Hashem has shown us love.
Based on this we can explain why we mention eating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael in Al Ha’michyah. We want to show Hashem that we appreciate the things that He does for us which show His love for us.
The Gemara in Sanhedrin 98a says that the greatest siman that the ketz is imminent is when Eretz Yisrael will produce fruit in abundance. For nearly 2,000 years when Bnei Yisrael were not in Eretz Yisrael in a permanent manner, the land was desolate and could not produce. When the UN voted to give Eretz Yisrael to the Jews in 1948, an article appeared in the New York Times that questioned how millions of Jews were planning to settle in such a desolate and barren land. Today, fruits are growing in Eretz Yisrael in tremendous abundance. Without a doubt, we have witnessed the occurrence of this sign.
So, now what? What is the purpose of Hashem sending us a sign that the geulah is imminent? The answer is simple. Imagine if Eliyahu HaNavi would come and announce today that the geulah will come next week. It is safe to believe that everyone would know what to do, and what to do teshuvah for. The purpose of giving us a sign is for us to get ready and prepare ourselves.
Perhaps the reason why the greatest sign that the geulah is imminent is Eretz Yisrael producing fruit in abundance is because fruit is Hashem’s way of showing us love, and the fruits of Eretz Yisrael show His love for us over the nations of the world.
The message of the geulah that is portrayed by this sign is complemented with the expression of Hashem’s deep love for Klal Yisrael, which is embedded in the fruit. We should reciprocate with tremendous love for Hashem, and we should begin to prepare ourselves for the geulah!
As we eat fruit this year, let us think of the wonderful land that Hashem has given us, and remember that the fruit of Eretz Yisrael have begun growing in abundance, displaying the love Hashem has for us, and the sign of the imminent geulah they represent. May we be zocheh to see the coming of the geulah, amen.