Trees, Torah and Humanity: A Shiur for Tu Bishvat
1 א

(יט) כִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר. (כ) רַק עֵץ אֲשֶׁר תֵּדַע כִּי לֹא עֵץ מַאֲכָל הוּא אֹתוֹ תַשְׁחִית וְכָרָתָּ וּבָנִיתָ מָצוֹר עַל הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִוא עֹשָׂה עִמְּךָ מִלְחָמָה עַד רִדְתָּהּ.

(19) When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee? (20) Only the trees of which thou knowest that they are not trees for food, them thou mayest destroy and cut down, that thou mayest build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it fall.
2 ב
(ג) כי האדם עץ השדה. הרי כי משמש בלשון דלמא שמא האדם עץ השדה להכנס בתוך המצור מפניך להתיסר ביסורי רעב וצמא כאנשי העיר, למה תשחיתנו:

For a person is the tree of the field. Behold "ki" serves as a language of perhaps: is a tree a person such that one should enter to a siege to afflict it with famine and drought like city residents? Why should you destroy it?

3 ג

(א) כי האדם עץ השדה. ומדקדק גדול ספרדי אמר כי חסר ה''א וכן הוא הכי האדם עץ השדה וזה הטעם איננו נכון בעיני... ולפי דעתי שאין לנו צורך לכל זה וזה פירושו כי ממנו תאכל ואותו לא תכרות כי האדם עץ השדה והטעם כי חיי בן אדם הוא עץ השדה

A great Spanish grammarian said that a letter "hey" is missing, and it is rendered thus: Is a tree a human? This explanation is incorrect in my eyes... In my opinion there is no need for all of this, and the explanation is as follows: "for you shall eat of it and not cut it down for a person is the tree of the field" - the meaning is that a person's life depends on the tree of the field [for sustenance]...

4 ד

(א) אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַךְ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים וּבְדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב. (ב) כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת ה' חֶפְצוֹ וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה. (ג) וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל פַּלְגֵי מָיִם אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא יִבּוֹל וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ. (ד) לֹא כֵן הָרְשָׁעִים כִּי אִם כַּמֹּץ אֲ‍שֶׁר תִּדְּפֶנּוּ רוּחַ. (ה) עַל כֵּן לֹא יָקֻמוּ רְשָׁעִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט וְחַטָּאִים בַּעֲדַת צַדִּיקִים. (ו) כִּי יוֹדֵעַ ה' דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד.

(1) Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stood in the way of sinners, Nor sat in the seat of the scornful. (2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD; And in His law doth he meditate day and night. (3) And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, That bringeth forth its fruit in its season, And whose leaf doth not wither; And in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper. (4) Not so the wicked; But they are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. (5) Therefore the wicked shall not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. (6) For the LORD regardeth the way of the righteous; But the way of the wicked shall perish.
5 ה
(ח) וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל מַיִם וְעַל יוּבַל יְשַׁלַּח שָׁרָשָׁיו וְלֹא ירא [יִרְאֶה] כִּי יָבֹא חֹם וְהָיָה עָלֵהוּ רַעֲנָן וּבִשְׁנַת בַּצֹּרֶת לֹא יִדְאָג וְלֹא יָמִישׁ מֵעֲשׂוֹת פֶּרִי.
(8) For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, And that spreadeth out its roots by the river, And shall not see when heat cometh, But its foliage shall be luxuriant; And shall not be anxious in the year of drought, Neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
6 ו

כי הוו מיפטרי מהדדי א"ל ליברכן מר אמר ליה אמשול לך משל למה"ד לאדם שהיה הולך במדבר והיה רעב ועיף וצמא ומצא אילן שפירותיו מתוקין וצילו נאה ואמת המים עוברת תחתיו אכל מפירותיו ושתה ממימיו וישב בצילו וכשביקש לילך אמר אילן אילן במה אברכך אם אומר לך שיהו פירותיך מתוקין הרי פירותיך מתוקין שיהא צילך נאה הרי צילך נאה שתהא אמת המים עוברת תחתיך הרי אמת המים עוברת תחתיך אלא יהי רצון שכל נטיעות שנוטעין ממך יהיו כמותך.

When they were about to part, [R. Nahman] said: Pray Master, bless me. He replied: Let me tell you a parable — To what may this be compared? To a man who was journeying in the desert; he was hungry, weary and thirsty and he lighted upon a tree the fruits of which were sweet, its shade
pleasant, and a stream of water flowing beneath it; he ate of its fruits, drank of the water, and rested under its shade. When he was about to continue his journey, he said: Tree, O Tree, with what shall I bless thee? Shall I say to thee, ‘May thy fruits be sweet’? They are sweet already; that thy shade be pleasant? It is already pleasant; that a stream of water may flow beneath thee? Lo, a stream of water flows already beneath thee; therefore [I say], ‘May it be [God's] will that all the shoots taken from
thee shall be like you.

7 ז
(יח) עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר.
(18) She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, And happy is every one that holdest her fast.
8 ח

(קהלת יב, יא) דברי חכמים כדרבונות וכמסמרות נטועים בעלי אסופות נתנו מרועה אחד למה נמשלו דברי תורה לדרבן לומר לך מה דרבן זה מכוין את הפרה לתלמיה להוציא חיים לעולם אף דברי תורה מכוונין את לומדיהן מדרכי מיתה לדרכי חיים אי מה דרבן זה מטלטל אף דברי תורה מטלטלין ת"ל מסמרות אי מה מסמר זה חסר ולא יתר אף דברי תורה חסירין ולא יתירין ת"ל נטועים מה נטיעה זו פרה ורבה אף דברי תורה פרין ורבין בעלי אסופות אלו תלמידי חכמים שיושבין אסופות אסופות ועוסקין בתורה הללו מטמאין והללו מטהרין הללו אוסרין והללו מתירין הללו פוסלין והללו מכשירין שמא יאמר אדם היאך אני למד תורה מעתה תלמוד לומר כולם נתנו מרועה אחד אל אחד נתנן פרנס אחד אמרן מפי אדון כל המעשים ברוך הוא דכתיב (שמות כ, א) וידבר אלקים את כל הדברים האלה אף אתה עשה אזניך כאפרכסת וקנה לך לב מבין לשמוע את דברי מטמאים ואת דברי מטהרים את דברי אוסרין ואת דברי מתירין את דברי פוסלין ואת דברי מכשירין בלשון הזה

(Ecclesiastes 12:11) "The words of the wise are like staffs, and as nails planted are the words of the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd." Why are the words of the Torah likened to a staff? It is to tell you, Just as a staff is what direct the heifer in her furrows, so as to produce sustenance for the world, so too the words of the Torah direct the learners of them from paths of death to the paths of life. If you say, that just as a staff is what moves, so the words of the Torah will move; the text teaches "nails." If you say, that just as a nail is a thing which diminishes and does not add, so too the words of the Torah diminish and do not add, the text teaches "planted." Just as planting is a thing which is fruitful and multiplies, so too the words of the Torah are fruitful and multiply. ‘The masters of assemblies’: these are the disciples of the wise, who sit in manifold assemblies and occupy themselves with the Torah, some pronouncing unclean and others pronouncing clean, some prohibiting and others permitting, some disqualifying and others declaring fit. Should a man say: How in these circumstances shall I learn Torah? Therefore the text says: ‘All of them are given from one Shepherd’. One God gave them; one leader uttered them from the mouth of the Lord of all creation, blessed be He; for it is written: (Exodus 20:1) ‘And God spoke all these words’. Also make your ear as the upper millstone, and acquire for yourself an understanding heart to hear the words of those who declare unclean and the words of those who declare clean, the words of those who forbid and the words of those who permit, the words of those who disqualify and the words of those who pronounce ceremonially pure.

9 ט

א"ל ר' ירמיה לר' זירא ליתי מר ליתני א"ל חלש לבאי ולא יכילנא לימא מר מילתא דאגדתא א"ל הכי אמר ר' יוחנן מאי דכתיב (דברים כ, יט) כי האדם עץ השדה וכי אדם עץ שדה הוא אלא משום דכתיב (דברים כ, יט) כי ממנו תאכל ואותו לא תכרת וכתיב אותו תשחית וכרת הא כיצד אם ת"ח הגון הוא ממנו תאכל ואותו לא תכרת ואם לאו אותו תשחית וכרת

R. Jeremiah said to R. Zera: Pray, Master, come and teach. The latter replied: I do not feel well enough and am not able to do so. [Then said R. Jeremiah] Pray, Master, expound something of an aggadic character, and he replied: Thus said R. Johanan: What is the meaning of the verse, For is the tree of the field man? Is then man the tree of the field? [This can only be explained if we connect the verse with the words immediately before it] where it is written, For thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; but then again it is written, ‘It thou shalt destroy and cut down’? How is this to be explained?

If the scholar is a worthy person learn [eat] from him and do not shun [cut] him, but if he is not destroy him and cut him down.

10 י

(כב) לֹ֤א יִבְנוּ֙ וְאַחֵ֣ר יֵשֵׁ֔ב לֹ֥א יִטְּע֖וּ וְאַחֵ֣ר יֹאכֵ֑ל כִּֽי־כִימֵ֤י הָעֵץ֙ יְמֵ֣י עַמִּ֔י וּמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יְדֵיהֶ֖ם יְבַלּ֥וּ בְחִירָֽי׃

(22) They shall not build, and another inhabit, They shall not plant, and another eat; For as the days of a tree shall be the days of My people, And Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
11 יא
(טו) וַיְהִי דְבַר ה' אֵלַי לֵאמֹר. (טז) וְאַתָּה בֶן אָדָם קַח לְךָ עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתֹב עָלָיו לִיהוּדָה וְלִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל חברו [חֲבֵרָיו] וּלְקַח עֵץ אֶחָד וּכְתוֹב עָלָיו לְיוֹסֵף עֵץ אֶפְרַיִם וְכָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל חברו [חֲבֵרָיו]. (יז) וְקָרַב אֹתָם אֶחָד אֶל אֶחָד לְךָ לְעֵץ אֶחָד וְהָיוּ לַאֲחָדִים בְּיָדֶךָ. (יח) וְכַאֲשֶׁר יֹאמְרוּ אֵלֶיךָ בְּנֵי עַמְּךָ לֵאמֹר הֲלוֹא תַגִּיד לָנוּ מָה אֵלֶּה לָּךְ. (יט) דַּבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם כֹּה אָמַר אדושם ה' הִנֵּה אֲנִי לֹקֵחַ אֶת עֵץ יוֹסֵף אֲשֶׁר בְּיַד אֶפְרַיִם וְשִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל חברו [חֲבֵרָיו] וְנָתַתִּי אוֹתָם עָלָיו אֶת עֵץ יְהוּדָה וַעֲשִׂיתִם לְעֵץ אֶחָד וְהָיוּ אֶחָד בְּיָדִי. (כ) וְהָיוּ הָעֵצִים אֲ‍שֶׁר תִּכְתֹּב עֲלֵיהֶם בְּיָדְךָ לְעֵינֵיהֶם. (כא) וְדַבֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם כֹּה אָמַר אדושם ה' הִנֵּה אֲנִי לֹקֵחַ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִבֵּין הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הָלְכוּ שָׁם וְקִבַּצְתִּי אֹתָם מִסָּבִיב וְהֵבֵאתִי אוֹתָם אֶל אַדְמָתָם. (כב) וְעָשִׂיתִי אֹתָם לְגוֹי אֶחָד בָּאָרֶץ בְּהָרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּמֶלֶךְ אֶחָד יִהְיֶה לְכֻלָּם לְמֶלֶךְ וְלֹא יהיה [יִהְיוּ] עוֹד לִשְׁנֵי גוֹיִם וְלֹא יֵחָצוּ עוֹד לִשְׁתֵּי מַמְלָכוֹת עוֹד. (כג) וְלֹא יִטַמְּאוּ עוֹד בְּגִלּוּלֵיהֶם וּבְשִׁקּוּצֵיהֶם וּבְכֹל פִּשְׁעֵיהֶם וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּי אֹתָם מִכֹּל מוֹשְׁבֹתֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר חָטְאוּ בָהֶם וְטִהַרְתִּי אוֹתָם וְהָיוּ לִי לְעָם וַאֲנִי אֶהְיֶה לָהֶם לֵאלֹקִים. (כד) וְעַבְדִּי דָוִד מֶלֶךְ עֲלֵיהֶם וְרוֹעֶה אֶחָד יִהְיֶה לְכֻלָּם וּבְמִשְׁפָּטַי יֵלֵכוּ וְחֻקֹּתַי יִשְׁמְרוּ וְעָשׂוּ אוֹתָם. (כה) וְיָשְׁבוּ עַל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי לְעַבְדִּי לְיַעֲקֹב אֲשֶׁר יָשְׁבוּ בָהּ אֲבוֹתֵיכֶם וְיָשְׁבוּ עָלֶיהָ הֵמָּה וּבְנֵיהֶם וּבְנֵי בְנֵיהֶם עַד עוֹלָם וְדָוִד עַבְדִּי נָשִׂיא לָהֶם לְעוֹלָם. (כו) וְכָרַתִּי לָהֶם בְּרִית שָׁלוֹם בְּרִית עוֹלָם יִהְיֶה אוֹתָם וּנְתַתִּים וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אוֹתָם וְנָתַתִּי אֶת מִקְדָּשִׁי בְּתוֹכָם לְעוֹלָם. (כז) וְהָיָה מִשְׁכָּנִי עֲלֵיהֶם וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵאלֹקִים וְהֵמָּה יִהְיוּ לִי לְעָם. (כח) וְיָדְעוּ הַגּוֹיִם כִּי אֲנִי ה' מְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּהְיוֹת מִקְדָּשִׁי בְּתוֹכָם לְעוֹלָם.

(15) And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying: (16) ’And thou, son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it: For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it: For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and of all the house of Israel his companions; (17) and join them for thee one to another into one stick, that they may become one in thy hand. (18) And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying: Wilt thou not tell us what thou meanest by these? (19) say into them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them unto him together with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. (20) And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thy hand before their eyes. (21) And say unto them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; (22) and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; (23) neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them; so shall they be My people, and I will be their God. (24) And My servant David shall be king over them, and they all shall have one shepherd; they shall also walk in Mine ordinances, and observe My statutes, and do them. (25) And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob My servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and David My servant shall be their prince for ever. (26) Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them—it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will establish them, and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in the midst of them for ever. (27) My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (28) And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.’

12 יב
(ו) עשר נטיעות מפזרות בתוך בית סאה, חורשין כל בית סאה בשבילן, עד ראש השנה. היו עשויות שורה ומקפות עטרה, אין חורשין להם אלא לצרכן.
(6) Where ten saplings are scattered in a Beit Se'ah, one may plow the whole Beit Se'ah on their account up until Rosh HaShanah [New Year's festival]. If they are arranged into a row or surrounded by a border, then one may only plow on their account what is necessary for them.
13 יג
14 יד

Jerusalem Unity Prize established in memory of kidnapped Israeli teens

January 1, 2015 8:59am

JERUSALEM (JTA) —The Jerusalem Unity Prize has been established in memory of three Israeli teens who were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The prize, in memory of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah, and Naftali Fraenkel, a dual American and Israeli citizen, was announced Thursday by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

The prize was developed in partnership with the families of the three boys and Jerusalem-based organization Gesher as a way to perpetuate the spirit of unity which existed across Israel and around the world during the days following the boys’ kidnapping.

The boy’s mothers, who became a symbol of the unity during the nearly two-week ordeal from the kidnapping until the boys bodies were discovered, created a video announcing the prize in which they call on Jews “to take a deep breath (and) bridge the gaps that divide us.”

The award will be presented in three separate categories- Individuals or Organizations, Social Initiatives, and Israel and the Diaspora each with prizes of up to about $25,000. Winners will be chosen from a committee chaired by Barkat, the parents of the three boys and dignitaries from Israel and the Diaspora, prize organizers said in a statement.

“While grappling with the unknown question of the fate of their sons, the Yifrah, Shaer and Fraenkel families taught the entire world a remarkable lesson in courage and showed us that unity is a value that enables us to overcome even the greatest challenges,” Barkat said. “The Jerusalem Unity Prize will spread this message from Jerusalem across the world and become the eternal legacy of these three remarkable young men.”

In addition to the prize, a special Unity Day is being planned for June 3, 2015 in Jerusalem where the awards will be presented alongside programming to promote unity initiatives. The event is being held on the one-year anniversary of the boys’ deaths.